45th Anniversary of the First Soyuz-U Launch

17 may 2018

May 18, 2018 sees the 45th anniversary of the maiden launch of the Soyuz-U launch-vehicle.

Soyuz-U is the most popular launch vehicle version of the Soyuz family. It was developed by the design bureau under the leadership of D. Kozlov and series-produced by the Progress plant. The maiden launch took place on May 18, 1973.

The unified medium lift launch vehicle Soyuz-U was designed to inject manned and cargo spacecraft of the Soyuz and Progress types, special-purpose spacecraft, technological and biomedical experimental satellites (of the Foton and Bion types), and foreign spacecraft into near-Earth orbits.

Developed on the basis of the preceding versions of the R-7A launch vehicle, Souyz-U had the same structure and components as all “7-Semyorkas” did. There was an analogous control system with redundancy installed on the launch vehicle. The difference of Soyuz-U from its predecessors was in engines with improved performance that were used for the first and second stages. The boosters were powered by the RD-108 engines (11D512, developed by NPO Energomash), the core module had RD-107 (11D511, developed by NPO Energomash), and the third stage used the RD 0110 engine (11Д55, developed by KBKhA). The rocket engines were powered by non-toxic liquid oxygen-kerosene propellants.

In 1975, the Soyuz-19 spacecraft was launched by a Soyuz-U launch vehicle under the ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz) program. It was the second launch of Soyuz-U with a manned spacecraft onboard.

Soyuz-U entered the world market of launch services in 1999. The American GLOBALSTAR satellites were launched by this launch vehicle.

Over the operational period, a total of 789 launch vehicles of the Soyuz-U type was launched and only 22 of them failed. The confirmed reliability-performance measure of this vehicle is over 0.98. The last launch was performed on February 22, 2017.

At present, cargo spacecraft are delivered to the International Space Station by launch vehicles of the Soyuz-2 type developed and built by RKTs-Progress.