Zenit (rocket family)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Zenit rocket)
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the orbital carrier rocket family. For other uses, see Zenit (disambiguation).
Zenit-2 rocket ready for launch.jpg
Zenit-2 rocket (Baikonur, 10 December 2001)
Function Medium expendable carrier rocket
Country of origin

Zenit-2: USSR

Zenit-3SL: USSR, Ukraine, Russia[1]
Height 57-59.6 m (187-195 ft)
Diameter 3.9 m (12.7 ft)
Mass 444,900 -462,200 kg (1,011,700 - 1,038,000 lb)
Stages 2 or 3
Payload to
Zenit 2 - 13,740 kg (30,290lb)
Payload to
Zenit 2 - 11,380 kg (11,000 lb)
Payload to
Zenit 3SL - 6,000 kg (11,570 lb)
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites LC-45, Baikonur Cosmodrome
Odyssey (launch platform)
Total launches 83
36 Zenit 2
36 Zenit 3SL
2 Zenit 2M
6 Zenit 3SLB
3 Zenit 3F
Successes 70
28 Zenit 2
32 Zenit 3SL
2 Zenit 2M
5 Zenit 3SLB
3 Zenit 3F
Failures 10
7 Zenit 2
3 Zenit 3SL
Partial failures 3
1 Zenit 2
1 Zenit 3SL
1 Zenit 3SLB[2]
First flight Zenit 2: 13 April 1985
Zenit 3SL: 28 March 1999
Zenit 2M: 29 June 2007
Zenit 3SLB: 28 April 2008
Zenit 3F: 20 January 2011
First stage
Engines 1 RD-171
Thrust 8,180 kilonewtons (1,840,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 337 seconds (3.30 km/s)
Burn time 150 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second stage
Engines 1 RD-120
1 RD-8
Thrust 912 kilonewtons (205,000 lbf)
79,500 newtons (17,900 lbf)
Specific impulse 349 seconds (3.42 km/s)
Burn time 315 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Third stage (Zenit-3SL/3SLB) - Block DM-SL
Engines 1 RD-58M
Thrust 84,900 newtons (19,100 lbf)
Specific impulse 352 seconds (3.45 km/s)
Burn time 650 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Third stage (Zenit-3F) - Fregat-SB
Engines 1 S5.92
Thrust 19,600 newtons (4,400 lbf)
Specific impulse 327 seconds (3.21 km/s)
Burn time 877 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH

Zenit (Ukrainian: Зеніт, Russian: Зени́т; meaning Zenith) is a family of space launch vehicles designed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau of Soviet Union, and since the early 1990s by the same design bureau but now a part of Ukraine. Zenit was built in the 1980s for two purposes: as a liquid rocket booster for the Energia rocket and, equipped with a second stage, as a stand-alone up-middle launcher greater than 7-ton payload Soyuz and smaller than 20-ton payload Proton. The last rocket family developed by the USSR, the Zenit was intended as an eventual replacement for the dated R-7 and Proton families, moreover it would employ propellants which were safer and less toxic than the Proton's nitrogen tetroxide/UDMH mix. Moreover, Zenit was planned to take over manned spaceship launches from Soyuz, but these plans were abandoned after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Zenit-3SL is launched by the Sea Launch consortium's floating launch platform in the Pacific Ocean and Zenit-2 is launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The engines of the Zenit's first and second stages as well as the upper stage of the Zenit-3SL rocket are supplied by Russia. There are plans to use an improved Zenit-3SLB rocket for commercial launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome beginning in April 2008. This service is marketed as "Land Launch."[3]

Zenit-3SL has launched 36 times with 32 successes, one partial success, and three failures. The first failure, the launch of a Hughes-built communications satellite owned by ICO Global Communications, occurred during the second commercial launch on March 12, 2000 and was blamed on a software error that failed to close a valve in the second stage of the rocket. The second failure occurred on January 30, 2007 when the rocket exploded on the Odyssey launch platform, seconds after engine ignition. The NSS-8 communication satellite on board was destroyed.[1]

On September 24, 2011 Zenit-3SL launched successfully from the Odyssey launch platform under a renewed Sea Launch project with RSC Energia as the majority stakeholder. The rocket delivered the European communication satellite Atlantic Bird 7 to its planned orbit. On February 1, 2013 another Zenit-3SL failed while launching the Intelsat 27 satellite.[4]


The Zenit-2 was the first Zenit to be designed for use as an orbital carrier rocket. It consists of two stages. The first uses an RD-171 engine, and an RD-120 engine powers the second stage. It first flew on 13 April 1985, two years before the Energia, due to delays relating to the Energia's development.[citation needed] Zenit-2 would be certified for manned launches and placed in specially built launch pad at Baykonur spaceport, carrying the new manned partially reusable Zarya spacecraft that developed in end of the 1980s but was canceled. Also in the 1980s Vladimir Chelomey's firm proposed never realised 15-ton Uragan spaceplane launched by Zenit-2.

Two launch facilities were constructed for the Zenit at Baikonour, however the second was only ever used twice. On October 4, 1990, an attempted launch of a Tselina-2 naval reconnaissance satellite ended in disaster as the booster suffered a first stage engine failure seconds into launch and fell back onto the pad, which was severely damaged in the ensuing explosion. The failure was traced to a leak in a LOX line that caused a fire in the thrust section of the booster. Estimated repair costs were about 45 million rubles, but the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that there were no funds available, so the pad was abandoned.

Following two failures in 1991-92 both caused by the second stage, the Zenit was on the verge of being cancelled entirely, but a successful flight in November 1992 saved the program.

The rate of Zenit launches slowed to a trickle during the 1990s due to the severely cash-strapped Russian Federation, and also because of Russia's reluctance to fly military payloads on a booster manufactured in now-independent Ukraine. On May 20, 1997, a launch of a Tselina-2 satellite failed when the first stage shut down 48 seconds into launch. The booster crashed downrange.

During the 2000s, Zenit would find a new lease on life as the basis of the international Sea Launch project whereby commercial flights would be undertaken from an offshore launch platform. The basic Zenit booster received several upgrades to the propulsion and avionics systems for Sea Launch as well as a third stage, and the first test with a dummy payload was carried out on March 27, 1999. In October, a Direct TV 1-R satellite was orbited successfully. An ICO F-1 comsat was lost in March 2000 due to a second stage guidance malfunction. There followed eight consecutive successful launches until Apstar 5 in 2004 suffered a premature third stage shutdown that left it in an incorrect orbit, but the satellite's onboard engines corrected it.

After nine successful launches, the Zenit produced a repeat performance of the 1990 disaster when on January 30, 2007, the first stage lost thrust and exploded. The flame deflector on the Sea Launch platform broke off and sunk into the water. Loose debris had gotten sucked into a turbopump, resulting in engine failure.

By the late 2000s, the Zenit program at Baikonour was reviving and would see considerable success.

On February 1, 2013, an Intelsat satellite launched from the Sea Launch Odyssey platform in the equatorial Pacific. The nighttime launch performed nominally for about 20 seconds when the first stage abruptly lost thrust. Approximately 40 seconds after liftoff, all telemetry data ceased. Subsequent investigation showed that the Zenit had begun deviating from its flight path when the pitch and roll maneuver started. The onboard computer sensed an abnormal situation and sent an automatic shutdown command to the first stage at T+23 seconds, and impact with the ocean occurred about one minute after liftoff. Ultimately, the failure was traced to a defective hydraulic pump that controlled gimbaling of the first stage engines. This resulted in the booster starting an uncontrolled rolling motion which caused the computer system to terminate all thrust. Although anomalous conditions began around T+11 seconds, the Zenit's flight computer was "locked" to prevent engine shutdown until at least 20 seconds after liftoff so the booster would not come down on or near the launch complex. Impact occurred about two miles downrange, but attempts to recover booster debris were unsuccessful.

In February 2015, following a year of strained relations as a result of a Russian military intervention into Ukraine, Russia announced that it would discontinue its "joint program with Ukraine to launch Dnepr rockets and [was] no longer interested in buying Ukrainian Zenit boosters, deepening problems for [Ukraine's] space program and its struggling Yuzhmash factory."[5]

Strained relations between Ukraine and Russia after 2014 have led to Russian Federal Space Agency intending to purchase no more of the Zenit first-stage boosters made by Yuzhmash (powered by Russian engines). However 2 Zenit rockets that have been delivered to Russia for Russian Federal Space Agency missions will still be used; another Zenit rocket for launching a Ukrainian satellite has been completed but without engines due to lack of funding for payments.[6]


The first and the second stages of the Zenit were designed by Yuzhnoye and are manufactured by Yuzhmash.[7]



Main article: Zenit-2

The Zenit-2 was the first member of the rocket family. It consists of two stages. The first uses an RD-171 engine, and an RD-120 engine powers the second stage. It first flew on 13 April 1985, carrying a Tselina-2 mass simulator. However the test flight was unsuccessful. The first successful flight occurred on 22 October 1985.

Energia booster[edit]

Main article: Energia

The Zenit first stage was used as a strap-on booster rocket for the Energia carrier rocket.[8] Four Zenit first stages were attached to the core vehicle to produce extra thrust at lift-off, in the same way that Solid Rocket Boosters are used on the US Space Shuttle. Energia made two flights before the programme was abandoned.


Main article: Zenit-3SL

Zenit-3SL is a three-stage carrier rocket developed for and used by the Sea Launch consortium.

It combines:[9]

Rockets used by Sea Launch are assembled in Long Beach, California. Launches occur from the Ocean Odyssey offshore launch platform, situated at the equator. Ocean Odyssey is also used to transport rockets to the launch site. The 25th launch of a Zenit-3SL occurred on January 15, 2008.[7]

Zenit 2M and 2SLB[edit]

Main article: Zenit-2M

Zenit 2M is a new version of the Zenit 2 with an upgraded control system and modernized engines.[10] The first Zenit 2M was launched on June 29, 2007, carrying a classified Russian military Tselina-2 satellite. The Zenit-2SLB designation applies to commercial launches through the Land Launch subsidiary of Sea Launch, which began satellite launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2008.[3]

Zenit 3M and 3SLB[edit]

Main article: Zenit-3SLB

The Zenit-3M is a Zenit-2M with the Block-DM upper stage used on the Zenit-3SL. It is launched from Baikonur. The maiden flight was launched on 28 April 2008. Land Launch commercially market the Zenit-3M under the designation Zenit 3SLB.[3]


Main article: Zenit-3F

The Zenit-3F, also known as the Zenit-2SB/Fregat, is a 3-stage derivative of the Zenit-2M, using a Fregat upper stage, as already used on the Soyuz, to propel spacecraft to higher orbits. It made its maiden flight in January 2011, with the Elektro-L No.1 spacecraft for the Russian government. Later the same year, another launch carried Spektr-R, a 5,000-kilogram (11,000 lb) space telescope, into an orbit with a perigee of 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) and an apogee of 390,000 kilometres (240,000 mi).[11]



Zenit-2 Zenit-3SL
Stages 2 3
Total length 57 m 59.6 m
Total empty mass 37,600 kg 40,320 kg
Total gross mass 444,900 kg 462,200 kg
Payload 13.74 tonne to LEO ≈6 tonne to GTO
Launch site Baikonur Cosmodrome Sea Launch ocean platform
Launches 21 (6 failed) as of 10 June 2004 31 (3 failed, 1 partial success)
as of 1 February 2013
Success ratio 71.4% 91.1%
Price per launch ~$45 million ~$90 million

Payload capacities[edit]

Two stage version (Zenit-2)[edit]

Payload to LEO 13,740 kg
Payload to PEO 5,000 kg
Payload to GEO Not designed for GEO

Three stage version (Zenit-3SL)[edit]

Payload to LEO 6,100 kg, 3rd stage structural limitation
Payload to MEO 3,965 kg (10,000 km, 45°)
Payload to GEO 1,840 kg
Payload to GTO 5,250 kg (upgraded to 6,000+ kg)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harvey, Brian (2007). The Rebirth of the Russian Space Program. Chichester, UK: Praxis. pp. 167–175. 
  2. ^ Израиль корит Роскосмос за невыполненные обязательства (in Russian). Izvestia. 2008-05-06. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  3. ^ a b c "Land Launch User's Guide Revision B" (PDF). Space International Services. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Bergin, Chris (1 February 2013). "Sea Launch Zenit 3SL with Intelsat 27 fails during first stage flight". NASASpaceflight.com. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Messier, Doug (6 February 2015). "Russia Severing Ties With Ukraine on Dnepr, Zenit Launch Programs". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Russia No Longer Interested In Ukrainian Built Launch Vehicles". SatNews. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Sea Launch: the Twenty-Fifth Launch of Zenit-3SL". Yuzhnoye. 2008-01-21. 
  8. ^ Bart Hendrickx and Bert Vis (2007). "Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle". Springer Praxis Books. 
  9. ^ "Sea Launch Receives Zenit-3SL Hardware for Next Launches". Sea Launch. 
  10. ^ "Ukrainian Zenit rocket makes its return to flight". Spaceflight Now. 
  11. ^ "Spacecraft Design". Astro Space Center of Lebedev Physical Institute. 

External links[edit]