Russian Soyuz booster prepares for launch

Russian Soyuz booster prepares for launch with space station cargo freighter.The launch crews stood up a Soyuz rocket Sunday on its launch mount in Kazakhstan for a scheduled liftoff Wednesday with approximately 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of supplies, experiments, fuel and several small satellites to be released by spacewalking cosmonauts at the International Space Station later this year.

According to spacenews, The Soyuz-2.1a rocket emerged from an assembly building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome around sunrise Sunday, then trekked on a specialized train car to Launch Pad No. 31 at the historic space base, where technicians hydraulically hoisted the booster vertical. Access platforms raised into position around the Soyuz rocket for final launch preparations.The launcher is topped with the Progress MS-06 supply ship, an unpiloted logistics freighter heading on a two-day voyage to the International Space Station.Liftoff is set for 0920:13 GMT (5:20:13 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, or 3:20 p.m. local time at Baikonur.

With the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, developers of the Soyuz rocket, along with the rest of the nation’s space industry, wanted to consolidate its subcontractor network inside the Russian Federation. To accomplish the goal, TsSKB Progress in the city of Samara, developed a new version of its workhorse Soyuz launcher, under research and development plan dubbed Rus. In addition to a fully domestic production, the project envisioned a number of technical improvements to the rocket which became known as Soyuz-2. The future three-stage, 313-ton base vehicle could be used in combination with Ikar and Fregat upper stages.

The modernized Soyuz-2.1a booster, featuring redesigned third stage propellant tanks and a digital flight control computer, will deliver the Progress MS-06 spaceship to orbit less than nine minutes later. Immediately after separating from the Soyuz third stage, the resupply craft will extend its power-generating solar arrays and navigation antennas, kicking off a series of thruster burns to rendezvous with the space station.

Docking with the space station’s Zvezda service module is scheduled for 1142 GMT (7:42 a.m. EDT) Friday after a radar-guided automated final approach.The initial version of the upgraded vehicle, known as Soyuz-2-1a, featured a four-meter payload fairing. It was capable of carrying 300 kilograms more payload thanks to the replacement of an old analog flight control system with a digital computer and the use of a more flexible launch trajectory. In 2012, KBKhA design bureau promised to develop the 11D55 steering engine specifically for the Soyuz-2-1a rocket.

New flight control system

The work on the digital flight control system for the Soyuz-2 rocket started at NPO Avtomatika of Yekaterinburg as early as 1993. The system included three independent processing units and two gyroscopes, which drastically improved the reliability of the flight control system.

In 2006, Lef Belskiy, Deputy Director of NPO Avtomatika for rocket and space systems told ITAR-TASS news agency that the work on the flight control system for the Soyuz-2 became a lifesaver for his organization. At the time, 400 employees of NPO Avtomatika have been involved in this development. Modest federal funding for the project started coming during 1994-1995 and the money flow increased substantially at the beginning of the following decade.

According to the original plan, the Soyuz-2 (military designation – 14A14, industrial designation – 131KS), also known as Soyuz-2K and Soyuz-M) would sport a brand-new RD-0124 (14D23) closed-cycle engine on its third stage and all-digital flight control system with terminal guidance system. The first and second stage would be equipped with 14D21 and 14D22 engines with improved injection system.All the upgrades combined would increase the payload of the vehicle by 1,200 kilogram in comparison with the base launcher.


Prospective payloads

If launched from Baikonur, the Soyuz-2 would be capable of delivering 8,500 kilograms into the low-Earth orbit and 2,350 kilograms toward the Moon. The Soyuz-2 could also fly from slightly upgraded launch pad in Plesetsk and from newly developed launch complex in Kourou, French Guiana. Launches from French Guiana could deliver as much as 9,000-9,200 kilograms to the low orbit.

The Soyuz-2 could be employed to launch a variety of traditional payloads of the Soyuz family, including reconnaissance satellites. Before the rocket could be “man-rated,” it was considered as a carrier of the enlarged version of the Progress M1 cargo ships equipped with the assembly and protective block SZB (11S517A2), with the total mass of 8,350 kilograms and maximum diameter of 3,000 millimeters.

The Soyuz-2 could also launch prospective modules for the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, with the total mass of 8,100 kilograms, maximum diameter of 3,700 millimeters and the length of 14,100 millimeters.

Soyuz-2 development

To enable launches of the Soyuz-2 rocket toward the ISS, plans were made to upgrade processing facilities at Site 2 in Baikonur by the year 2000. However, collapsing funding of the Russian space industry during 1999 and 2000 forced Russian space officials to freeze the plans to launch Soyuz-2 from Baikonur as well as the development of its space station payloads. (164)

Financial problems of the industry also pushed the rest of the Rus program nearly a decade behind schedule, forcing developers to introduce upgrades in several phases. Since the development of the new RD-0124 engine was the most expensive and time-consuming part of the upgrade, it was deferred to a later time. At the time of the first Soyuz-2-1a launch in November 2004, Russian space officials said that the next upgrade — Soyuz-2-1b launch vehicle with the RD-0124 engine — could fly in 2006.

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