Rokot is going to be retired, Proton-M next in line !

Roscosmos decided about canceling conversion program of SS-19 ICBM into space launch vehicle Rokot. It seems that next venture based on cooperation between West and Russia is finished.

According to TASS news agency, Russian space corporation (former space agency) Roscosmos decided to launch only two more Rokot launch vehicles during following years. In draft document describing Federal Space Program only two additional launches of Rokot are planned, both with Gonets-M satellites. Both launches will be performed from Plesetsk Cosmodrome placed in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast (800 km north from Moscow). In two launches three Gonets-M satellites will be launched, first mission is scheduled for 2016 and second is planned for 2018. According to previous statements of Russian Ministry of Defense, Rokot system will be withdrawn and replaced with modern Angara rocket in version 1.2. It is worth to remind that another launch vehicle which is under consideration as Rokot successor - it is Soyuz-2.1v launch vehicle, which remains in service since maiden launch performed from Plesetsk on 25 December 2013. Roscosmos also announced that Proton-M rocket is next to be retired after Rokot also in favor to Angara rocket family. Launch calendar of missions ordered by government for Proton is shrinking, with only one mission scheduled for 2016. Following years are only consisting 2two launches in 2017, three in 2018 and four in 2019. According to draft plans in 2020 we can expect one launch, three in 2012 and four in 2024. In further years (draft program is announced for years until 2026) no Proton-M missions are mentioned. Of course, if Proton-M will still meet demands of customers, it is possible that additional launches will be performed, but after taking under consideration strong marketing support for Angara it is not rather likely that Proton-M will be commercially available longer until the end of state service.

Rokot rocket is orbital carrier designed in former Soviet Union in  Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center as a modification of existing ICBM missile UR-100N (SS-19 Stiletto). UR-100N is construction with origins in early seventies, became operational in 1975 and until now there is still around 30 UR-100N missiles.

After modifications performed on UR-100N by Khrunichev Center engineers, ICBM missile was transformed into orbital carrier able to lift on 200 km orbit almost 2 metric tons of payload (1950 kg accurately). Rokot weighs 107000 kg with length of 29 m and diameter at 2.5 m. It is built with three stages, all liquid fueled with N2O4/UDMH. First stage is powered with 3 RD-0233 and 1 RD-0234 engines with sum thrust at 2080 kN. Second stage is equipped with two engines: RD-0235 and RD-0236 with total thrust at 255.76 kN. Third stage is Briz-KM which is powered by one S5.98M engine providing thrust at 19.6 kN.

Maiden launch of Rokot was performed on 20 November 1990 in Baikonur Cosmodrome with utilization of conventional silo launcher. First satellite was launched with Rokot on 1994 (Radio-ROSTO satellite) and shortly after that, in 1995, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center established company with DaimlerBenz Space for introducing Rokot into commercial market. Company was called Eurockot Launch Services (49% of shares are possessed now by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and 51% by EADS Astrium) and thanks to DaimlerBenz Space was able to buy from Russian army 45 UR-100N missiles. Company operates with utilization of launch towers in Plesetsk cosmodrome due the danger of damaging payload by high level of noise in case launching from conventional silo in Baikonur. First launched was performed on 16 May 2000 from Plesetsk with two SimSat satellites. In this same year share belonging to DaimlerBenz Space were bought by Astrium GmbH which was also shareholder of Arianespace. Until now, Rokot was used successfully 21 times since 2000 with only two failed launches.