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Soyuz-2 rockets for Vostochny Cosmodrome
Following the 2011 decision to bring the Soyuz-2 rocket to Russia's new spaceport in Vostochny, its manufacturer formulated a new variant of the vehicle designated 372RN16. To emphasize the political importance of Russia's new space port, the very first rocket departing Vostochny was expected to provide spectacular "selfies" of its ascent into orbit.
Soyuz-2 rocket on the launch pad in Vostochny during testing in March 2016.
Specifically for its use in Vostochny, the Soyuz-2 rocket was expected to get modest internal upgrades to enable the fueled vehicle to remain on the launch pad for up to 100 hours and to withstand the rigors of transportation of up to 10,000 kilometers. The rocket stages were expected travel by rail for around 6,600 kilometers from their manufacturing plant in Samara in Southern Russia to the Russian Far East.
Unlike other variants in the Soyuz-2 family, the 372RN16 version would not be intended or certified for carrying manned Soyuz spacecraft.
Soyuz rockets built for launches from Vostochny would also be equipped with special valves to drain excess propellant to the outside of the Mobile Service Tower, MBO, to prevent dangerous concentration of oxygen vapors in its interior.
Deputy Designer General at RKTs Progress Dmitry Baranov demonstrates drainage outlets added to Soyuz rockets operating from Vostochny.
Vostochny-based Soyuz-2 was expected to carry TV cameras in hardened cases on the exterior of the rocket, known as rocketcams. Looking down from the top of the vehicle, the cameras could shoot spectacular live videos of the launch from a unique vantage point of the ascending vehicle. It became known as Onboard Video Control System, BSVK. During Moscow Air and Space Show in August 2015, the NPO IT corporation demonstrated a BSVK network, which included four cameras. It was expected to be installed on Soyuz-ST rockets flying from Kourou, French Guiana, and on "regular" Soyuz rockets launched from Baikonur and Plesetsk.
However, soon after the first launch from Vostochny, Izhevsk Radio Plant, IRZ, released specifications for a similar three-camera system that was apparently employed during that ascent. With a total mass of 9.5 kilograms, including associated cabling, the BSVK network had a built-in radio-system to transmit live images as large as 2048 by 1536 pixels at a rate of up to 3.14 megabits per second. The cameras were designed to withstand temperatures from minus 40 to plus 50 degrees C.
Known specifications of the BSVK system:
Flight control computers
In 2015, RKTs Progress also announced that in the anticipation of the first launch from Vostochny, Soyuz-2.1a rockets had also received more compact and more efficient flight control computers. The same upgrades also enabled to reduce the onboard cabling within the vehicle's flight control system. Finally, new long-functioning non-rechargeable chemical batteries had been installed, TsSKB Progress said.
The 2011 decision to bring the Soyuz rocket to Vostochny politically "tied" the first launch from the new space center to 2015, because it was the original date specified by the Kremlin back in 2007. According to the original plans, which remained on paper as late as July 2012, the first mission from Vostochny would carry the politically significant Luna-Glob spacecraft to the Moon, marking the revival of the Russian lunar exploration program. However by 2014, as the lunar projects fell hopelessly behind schedule, plans were made to launch a Soyuz-2-1a/Volga rocket with the Mikhailo Lomonosov as the primary payload. The launch date was pushed to the very end of 2015 to fulfill the political requirement.
As of beginning of 2015, the manufacturing testing of the first Soyuz-2 rocket for Vostochny had to be completed in May 2015 to enable the shipment of the vehicle to the launch site at the beginning of the following month. The June delivery date was re-confirmed during a chief designer meeting at RKTs Progress in Samara on April 16, 2015.
However, in reality, even if the rocket had been ready on time, there was no place to put it in Vostochny, because the construction of processing facilities in Vostochny lagged behind frivolous deadlines. The first rocket was finally prepared for shipment to Vostochny on Sept. 6, 2015. The 6,600-kilometer journey was expected to take 21 days. As of August, the politically sensitive launch date for the first mission still remained fixed to Dec. 25, 2015.
The first rocket was reported arriving at the Uglegorsk train station, the main railway hub at Vostochny, on Sept. 24, 2015. On the same day, TsSKB Progress in Samara, Soyuz developer, held a meeting of the Chief Designer Council on the readiness of launch vehicles and spacecraft for the first launch from Vostochny "within directive schedule," the company announced the next day, but no longer mentioned the actual launch date.
According to the same press-release, the Volga upper stage and the Kontakt-Nanosputnik secondary payload for the mission were ready for shipment. The Aist-2D satellite was undergoing electric and radio tests and the Lomonosov primary payload completed all tests and was being prepared for delivery to the launch site.
Tellingly, the company's press-release concluded with a carefully worded statement hinting about the lack of readiness of Vostochny facilities for the mission. "Participants of the Chief Designer Council paid a considerable attention to providing the conditions required for autonomous tests of technical hardware, stressing the need to meet documented specifications, quality and safety of the planned work," TsSKB Progress said.
The rocket was delivered to the processing complex in Vostochny on October 9, 2015, but the components of the vehicle remained in its storage containers until the beginning of 2016.
First assembly of the launch vehicle in Vostochny began around January 19, 2016.
Two lower stages of the Soyuz rocket were integrated inside a processing facility in Vostochny on Jan. 26, 2016.
On January 18, 2016, a team of specialists from RKTs Progress, who are responsible for the assembly and testing of the Soyuz rocket in Baikonur, arrived at Russia's future space port in Vostochny to support the first launch campaign at the new site. The Soyuz-2-1a rocket intended for the maiden flight from Vostochny was finally unloaded from its transport containers on January 20, after its assembly building at the center's processing facility had received power via a permanent supply line, Roskosmos announced.
At the time, autonomous tests of the new launch facilities were scheduled to be completed by March 26, 2016, when the rocket would be rolled out to the launch pad for integrated tests.
Contingent on the success of all tests, the first launch from the new Russian space center could take place as early as the second half of April, the head of Roskosmos Igor Komarov said upon his inspection of the site on January 20.
Also on January 19, the Volga upper stage, the Aist-2D experimental remote-sensing satellite and the SamSat-218 educational nano-satellite were scheduled to depart the airfield at the Aviakor plant near the city of Samara onboard an Il-76 transport plane bound to Blagoveshensk, south of Vostochny. Following its landing in Blagoveshensk on January 21, the hardware was expected to reach its future spaceport by rail on January 22 and be delivered for processing a day later. The primary payload on the first flight from Vostochny -- the Lomonosov satellite -- was expected to arrive at the launch site on February 1.
By January 26, four boosters of the first stage were integrated with the core booster of the second stage, which was to follow with pneumatic and electric tests and would be concluded with the final assembly of the rocket, Roskosmos said. According to the agency, engineers from RKTs Progress planned to complete all operations with the first launch vehicle in Vostochny on March 15, 2016.
The final assembly of the payload section, which would be carried into orbit during the first mission from Vostochny, began at the new Russian spaceport in the middle of April 2016.
Engineers at various Roskosmos entities including the TsENKI ground processing company, the VNIEEM satellite manufacturer and Moscow State University, which was responsible for scientific instruments, began the integration of three satellites with their Volga upper stage, Roskosmos announced on April 15. All three spacecraft -- Mikhailo Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 -- were integrated with the upper stage.
According to Roskosmos, the fully assembled payload section was rolled inside its protective fairing on April 18. The resulting upper composite was then transferred from the spacecraft processing building, MIK KA, to the vehicle assembly building, MIK RN, for the final integration with its Soyuz-2-1a rocket.
On April 19, inside the vehicle processing building, the payload section was integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket. Next day, the resulting composite was integrated with the first and second booster stages, completing the assembly of the launch vehicle.
The upper composite with the Lomonosov satellite is integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket on April 19, 2016.
According to Roskosmos, the final preparations for the rollout of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket to the launch pad were to be completed on April 21, followed by a meeting of the State Commission overseeing the launch on April 22.
The actual rollout operations were to begin around 22:00 Moscow Time on April 22 and conclude with the arrival of the rocket at the pad, its installation into vertical position and the move of the Mobile Service Tower into position around the rocket at 04:00 Moscow Time on April 23, Roskosmos said.
The agency's statement on April 23 had confirmed that the rollout of the vehicle to the launch pad had been completed.
A Soyuz-2 rocket shortly after rollout to the launch pad for the first mission from Vostochny.
Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Artist rendering of the Soyuz-2 rocket on the launch pad in Vostochny.
Four exterior TV cameras and associated avionics developed for Soyuz rockets based in Vostochny. Credit: NPO IT
Click to enlarge. Credit: RKTs Progress
The first stage booster and and a second-stage tank for the first Soyuz-2 rocket bound for Vostochny are being prepared for transportation in Samara at the end of August 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKTs Progress
On Sept. 24, 2015, the first Soyuz-2 rocket to be launched from Vostochny arrived at the site on a 13-car train. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The Volga upper stage, Aist-2D, and Samsat-218 satellites arrive at Blagoveshensk on January 21, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Integration of the core stage for the first Soyuz-2-1a rocket in Vostochny around Jan. 20, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Two lower stages of the Soyuz rocket were integrated for first time in Vostochny by Jan. 26, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The rollout of the first Soyuz-2 rocket and its installation on the launch pad in Vostochny for a series of tests on March 21, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The Aist-2D satellite is being integrated with its Volga upper stage around April 15, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The upper composite with the Lomonosov satellite is integrated with the third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket on April 19, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Final integration of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket on April 20, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz-2-1a rolls out of the assembly building on April 23, 2016, in preparation for the first liftoff from Vostochny. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The Soyuz-2-1a rocket arrives at the launch pad on April 23, 2016, in preparation for the first liftoff from Vostochny. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
A Soyuz-2-1a rocket is being erected on the launch pad on April 23, 2016, in preparation for the first liftoff from Vostochny. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
The Mobile Service Tower takes the position around the Soyuz rocket on April 23, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
First Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from Vostochny on April 28, 2016. Credit: Roskosmos