Modernized version of Soyuz rocket launched
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: November 8, 2004
An updated version of Russia's venerable Soyuz rocket took its first flight Monday, carrying a dummy satellite during a successful qualification launch.
The Soyuz 2 rocket lifted off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 1830 GMT (9:30 p.m. Moscow time; 1:30 p.m. EST) after several delays in recent weeks. It hauled a mock reconnaissance satellite, called Oblik, that reportedly was fitted with vibration and thermal sensors to gather data on the rocket during launch.
The rocket has taken the first step in modernizing the Soyuz vehicle, which has been in service since the 1960s. The Soyuz 2-1a configuration flown today featured a digital control system that enhances the guidance during ascent to reach more precise orbits and that will allow the vehicle to fly with a larger four-meter diameter nose cone payload fairing.
The Soyuz 2-1b rocket is slated for its inaugural launch in mid-2006 featuring a more powerful third stage engine package to improve the vehicle's performance and increase the cargo-lifting capacity.
The modernized rocket is being prepared for launches starting in 2007 from the European Space Agency complex in Kourou, French Guiana. European and Russian space teams are building the commercial Soyuz pad at the base where Ariane rockets are flown.
The Soyuz will be marketed for medium-class satellite payloads along with Arianespace's Ariane 5 heavy-lift booster.