R-7 (rocket family)
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The R-7 family of rockets (Russian: Р-7) is a series of rockets, derived from the Soviet R-7 Semyorka, the world's first ICBM. More R-7 rockets have been launched than any other family of large rockets.
When Soviet nuclear warheads got lighter, the R-7 turned out to be impractical as a ballistic missile. It was not necessary to launch such heavy payloads in a military application. The rockets remained useful in the Soviet and then Russian space programmes with long term development. The R-7 family consists of both missiles and orbital carrier rockets. Derivatives include the Vostok, Voskhod and Soyuz rockets, which as of 2014 have been used for all Soviet, and later Russian manned spaceflights. The type has a unique configuration where four break-away liquid-fueled engines surround a central core. The core acts as, in effect, a "second stage" after the other four engines are jettisoned.
Later modifications were standardised around the Soyuz design. The Soyuz-U, Soyuz-FG and Soyuz-2 are currently in use. The Soyuz-U and FG are to be retired over the next few years, in favour of the Soyuz-2. R-7 rockets are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Plesetsk Cosmodrome and the Vostochny Cosmodrome (first launch 2016). A fourth launch site, at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, was to open in 2009 but the first Soyuz launch had been postponed several times. The first launch from Guiana Space centre took place on October 21, 2011. Guiana will be used primarily for commercial launches to geosynchronous orbit, taking advantage of the launch site's proximity to the equator.
After the R-7/Soyuz-U, the Kosmos (rocket family), namely Kosmos-3M is the launch vehicle that holds the 2nd to 3rd place record for number of successful orbital launch attempts, that is, of placing a satellite in orbit.
Summary of variants
All the R-7 family rockets are listed here by date of introduction. Most of the early R-7 variants have been retired. Active versions are shown in green.
|Maiden flight||Final flight||Launches[b]||Remarks|
|R-7 Semyorka||8K71||ICBM||1||15 May 1957||27 February 1961||27||18||9||World's first ICBM|
|Sputnik-PS||8K71PS||Carrier rocket||1||4 October 1957||3 November 1957||2||2||0||World's first carrier rocket
Launched Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2
|Sputnik||8A91||Carrier rocket||1||27 April 1958||15 May 1958||2||1||1||Launched Sputnik 3|
|Luna||8K72||Carrier rocket||2||23 September 1958||16 April 1960||9||2||7||Launched first Lunar probes|
|R-7A Semyorka||8K74||ICBM||1||23 December 1959||25 July 1967||21||18||3|
|Vostok-L||8K72L||Carrier rocket||2||15 May 1960||1 December 1960||4||3||1|
|Molniya||8K78||Carrier rocket||3||20 January 1960||3 December 1965||26||12||14|
|Vostok-K||8K72K||Carrier rocket||2||22 December 1960||10 July 1964||13||11||2||Used for manned Vostok missions
First rocket to launch a man into space
|Vostok-2||8A92||Carrier rocket||2||1 June 1962||12 May 1967||45||40||5|
|Polyot||11A59||Carrier rocket||1||1 November 1963||12 April 1964||2||2||0|
|Voskhod||11A57||Carrier rocket||2||16 November 1963||29 June 1976||300||277||23||Launched manned Voskhod 1 and Voskhod 2 missions|
|Molniya-M||8K78M||Carrier rocket||3||19 February 1964||30 September 2010||297||276||21|
|Vostok-2M||8A92M||Carrier rocket||2||28 August 1964||29 August 1991||94||92||2|
|Soyuz/Vostok||11A510||Carrier rocket||3||27 December 1965||20 July 1966||2||2||0|
|Soyuz||11A511||Carrier rocket||2||28 November 1966||24 May 1975||30||28||2||Launched several manned Soyuz missions|
|Soyuz-L||11A511L||Carrier rocket||2||24 November 1970||12 August 1971||3||3||0|
|Soyuz-M||11A511M||Carrier rocket||2||27 December 1971||31 March 1976||8||8||0|
|Soyuz-U||11A511U||Carrier rocket||2 or 3||18 May 1973||Active||784||764||21||Single most launched carrier rocket ever built
Used for a number of manned Soyuz launches
|Soyuz-U2||11A511U2||Carrier rocket||2||23 December 1982||3 September 1995||72||72||0||Used for a number of manned Soyuz launches|
|Soyuz-FG||11A511U-FG||Carrier rocket||2 or 3||20 May 2001||Active||56||56||0||Used for current manned Soyuz launches|
|Soyuz-2.1a / STA||14A14A||Carrier rocket||2 or 3||8 November 2004||Active||28||26||1+1p|
|Soyuz-2.1b / STB||14A14B||Carrier rocket||2 or 3||27 December 2006||Active||32||30||1+1p|
|Soyuz-2-1v||14A15||Carrier rocket||2||28 December 2013||Active||2||1||1p|
The Korolev cross is a visual effect observed in the smoke plumes of the R-7 series rockets during separation of the four liquid-fueled booster rockets attached to the core stage. As the boosters fall away from the rocket, they pitch over symmetrically due to aerodynamic forces acting on them, forming a cross shape behind the rocket. The effect is named after Sergey Korolev, who designed the R-7. When the rocket is launched into clear skies, the effect can be seen from the ground at the launch site.
- Kosmos 3 ranks third among world space launchers with nearly 450 orbital attempts, trailing only R-7 and Thor/Delta.
- Mu, Xuequan (1 October 2010). "Russia sends military satellite into space". Xinhua. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
- In 1983, flight Soyuz T-10a took fire on the launch pad before the end of the countdown, so it is not counted in the list of launches; this is why adding successes and failures yields 785 launches instead of 784.
- NASA TV coverage of Soyuz TMA-12 launch