Energia super-heavy rocket

After canceling the development of the N1 Moon rocket in 1974, the USSR did not give up the goal of building a super-heavy rocket. But, starting with a clean sheet of paper, it took more than a decade for the Soviet engineers to field the Energia rocket, which made the two largely successful flights in 1987 and 1988. The nearly 60-meter vehicle was almost universally acclaimed as the most advanced and powerful rocket of our time. However the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 left Energia to rust in hangars of Baikonur Cosmodrome in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Its army of workers and engineers melted away and key technologies, such as super-complex hydrogen engines, went out of production.

A fully assembled Energia rocket with a flight-worthy Buran orbiter (in background) and components of its first stage (in foreground) were mothballed in Baikonur, until the roof collapse of the assembly building destroyed this unique hardware.


Different versions of the Energia rocket:

Manufacturer name
US designation
Sheldon designation
NPO Energia
NPO Energia
Buran, Polus
NPO Energia
NPO Energia


Base Energia rocket (two booster stages) tech dossier:

Number of stages
Length of the vehicle

58.765 meters

Up to 20 meters
Weight (fueled)
2,400 tons
First launch 1987
Launch sites Baikonur (three pads: Site 110, 250)
Stage I, Block A, 11S25 Four strap-on boosters
Oxidizer Liquid oxygen
Stage I fuel weight

340 tons (on each of four boosters)

Stage I booster dry weight

25 tons (on each of four boosters)

Stage I booster length

40 meters

Stage I booster diameter 3.9 meters
Stage I burn time 156 seconds from takeoff
Stage I booster propulsion

1 (one) four-chamber RD-170 engine (on each of four boosters)

Stage II, Block Ts Central (core stage)
Liquid hydrogen
Oxidizer Liquid oxygen
Stage II fuel weight

797 tons

Stage II dry weight

50 tons

Stage II length

59 meters

Stage II diameter 7.750 meters
Stage II burn time 470 seconds from takeoff
Stage II propulsion

4 one-chamber RD-0120 (11D122) engines

Launch system

ground-based: (11P825)

Payload from Baikonur
  • 95-100 tons to 51-degree LEO
  • 18 tons to geostationary orbit
  • 32 tons to the lunar transfer
  • 28 tons to Venus and Mars


Energia development cooperation:

Developer Chief-designer Location
Overall design
NPO Energia
V. Glushko
Podlipki (Korolev)
1st stage developement
KB Yuzhnoe
2nd (core) stage production
Kuibyshev (Samara)
Propulsion system (1st stage)
V. Glushko
Propulsion system (2nd stage)

Energia development chronology:

1976 Feb. 17: Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR issued a combined decree No. 132-51, officially launching the development of the Energia-Buran system. (52)

1976 Dec. 12: The Chief Designer at NPO Energia approves the preliminary design concept of the Energia-Buran system.

1976 Dec. 18: The Military Industrial Commission of the Soviet of Ministers of the USSR finalised the industrial team involved in Energia-Buran development.

1977 July: Concil of Chief Designers and Scientific-Technical Council of the Ministry of the General Mashine Building (NTS MOM) approved the addendum to the prelimanry design of the Energia-Buran system.

1977 Nov. 21: The Soviet government issued a decree detailing major stages and activities in the development of the Energia-Buran system.

1978 March: The industry completed the techninical project for the Energia-Buran development.

1979: A full-scale mockup, designated EUK13, of the Energia rocket is was assembled in the processing building at Site 112 in Baikonur. It included a core stage, a strap-on booster stage and an interface launching platform.

1982 January: Minister of General Mashine Building appointed B. I. Gubanov as a head of Energia-Buran development.

1982 Jan. 6: The first test flight of the VM-T aircraft carrying Energia rocket's hydrogen tank externally.

1982 December: The processing personell in Baikonur conducted experimental assembly of the test version of the Energia rocket designated 4M.

1987 May 15, 21:30 Moscow Time: The first Energia super booster (No. 6SL) lifts off from Site-250 in Baikonur carrying the Polyus/Skif-DM military payload. The rocket performed flawlessly, however, the Polyus spacecraft fired its engines in opposite direction due to a control system problem causing the payload to fall into the ocean.


1988 November 15, 06:00:02 Moscow Time: The Energia super booster carrying an unmanned Buran reusable shuttle blasts off from Baikonur. Two orbits and 206 minutes later, the Buran automatically lands at the Yubileiniy airfield at Site 251 in Baikonur.

1993: The Energia project is discontinued with five vehicles still available, including two at the launch site and remaining at TsSKB Progress in Samara.

2002: Components of the Energia rocket are destroyed in the roof collapse at Site 112 in Baikonur.


Next chapter: Energia-M rocket


Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 7, 2024

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insider content


Energia's core stage.


The Energia rocket with the Polus "battle station" is being loaded on its transporter-erector in preparation for the launch in May 1987. Copyright © 2001 RussianSpaceWeb.com

The Energia rocket with the Polus is being installed on the launch pad at Site 250 in preparation for the launch in May 1987. Copyright © 2001 RussianSpaceWeb.com

A fully-assembled Energia booster with the Buran reusable spacecraft sits mothballed in the assembly building Number 112 in Baikonur. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

View of the tail section of the Energia's core stage with four main engines. Copyright © 2001 by Anatoly Zak

A fully-assembled Energia-Buran system is rolled out from the assembly building integrated with a platform, which provides all interfaces between the vehicle and the launch complex. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

The main engines of the Energia's core stage. Four engines were powering the Energia rocket. A single engine would be sued in Energia-M version of the vehicle. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

The RD-170 engine powered the first stage of the Energia rocket. Click to enlarge: 300 by 400 pixels / 56K Copyright © 2005 Anatoly Zak

A scale model of VM-T Atlant aircraft designed to transport the elements of the Energia-Buran system. The aircraft was converted from Myasishev's 3M startegic bomber. In shown configuration the aircraft carries hydrogen tank of the Energia's core stage. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak