This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at www.astronautix.com

astronautix.com UR

Universal Rockets
Universal Rockets
Chelomei's Universal Rocket Family. From left to right: UR-200. Original UR-500 configuration, composed of clustered UR-200's. Conventional UR-500 monoblock configuration. Selected UR-500 polyblock configuration. UR-500 two-stage configuration as flown. UR-500K configuration with Block D upper stage.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 36,031 bytes. 630 x 351 pixels.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomei was an ambitious Chief Designer who was Korolev's constant competitor. His OKB-52 was formed in 1953 to develop winged rockets, and by the end of the 1950ís had produced some complex cruise missiles for the Soviet navy. Chelomei, partially through employment of Khrushchevís son, had convinced the Soviet leader that he could meet the countryís missile and space requirements Ďfaster, cheaper, betterí than Korolev or Yangel. In order to provide the resources to work on new space projects, Chelomei obtained the agreement of Khrushchev to absorb several other aerospace organisations in the military complex downsizing of 1960. By decree of the Central Committee of the USSR on 3 October 1960 Chelomei acquired the OKB-23 of Vladimir Mikhailovich Myasishchev, (which had formerly designed heavy bombers), as well as the M K Khrunichev heavy aviation factory. Both of these organisations had a very high level of technical and manufacturing expertise, and assisted Chelomei in quickly moving ahead on his new space projects.

Chelomeiís ambitious plan was the creation of a series of related 'Universal Rockets' - UR's - which would serve equally well in the missile and space launch role. The UR-100 (called by the West SS-11 Sego) was a light ICBM bought in huge numbers as a counter to America's Minuteman. The UR-200 was a heavier ICBM / space launcher. It was designed to have launched a series of military spacecraft - maneuvering nuclear warheads, anti-satellite combat spacecraft, nuclear-powered radar reconnaisance satellites, and raketoplan manned spaceplanes.

The UR-500 was designed for the role of ultimate heavy ICBM and as a launch vehicle for military space stations and manned circumlunar flights.

The final UR-500 design itself was such that the tooling could be used for construction of the UR-700, which was to launch massive manned missions to the moon or Mars. Developed during the 1960's in competition with Korolev's N1, it never reached fabrication stage. (The UR-300, UR-400, and UR-600 designations reportedly were not used).

With the ouster of Khrushchev Chelomei lost his main patron. The UR-200 was cancelled and the Yangel R-36 selected in its place. Korolevís OKB obtained control of the manned circumlunar and space station programs. The UR-700 and raketoplan programs were cancelled. But Chelomeiís ASAT and radar reconnaisance satellites continued in development. And the UR-500 went into production as the Proton. It became Russia's heavy-duty space workhorse, launching planetary probes and geosynchronous satellites and Salyut and Mir space stations. It is still a commercial success on the international market.


Launch Vehicle: UR-100.

The UR-100 lightweight ICBM was deployed in larger numbers than any other in history. It was the smallest of the 10,000 km range ICBM's. It was the first Soviet ICBM with a 3 minute reaction time - from key turn to lift-off - a huge accomplishment for a liquid propellant launch vehicle. To make this reaction time possible the vehicle stayed fuelled throughout its service lifetime of 10 years. This was achieved by encapsulation of the missile in a container in which this missile stayed from production until launch. The missile, with a basic diameter of 1.6 meters and a length of 16.689 meters, was stored inside a sealed container with a diameter of 2 meters and a length of 20 meters. The missile was mounted on rails within the container and internal plumbing necessary for start-up of the missile was sealed within the container.

Terminal velocity at the end of second stage burn was only 7.12 km/sec so it was never adapted for space launches. The missile was produced in three optional configurations (not modifications - only the payload was changed to convert from one configuration to another):

  • ICBM with range up to 11,000 km with a light (770 kg) payload
  • MRBM (up to 4000 km) with a heavy (1750 kg) payload
  • ABM vehicle with range not less than 2000 km

The guidance system was designed to work with any of these configurations and the vehicle could be converted from one configuration to another within 24 hours. However for use as an ABM the launch complex need some additional equipment. The rocket was normally painted white, and the light warhead version had a strict conic shape. The heavy warhead was longer, but with the same base diameter. First units of the type had radio-inertial guidance with a radio-command correction system. Later, when the military had confidence that the pure inertial guidance was precise enough, the radio was removed.

Orevo has a complete sectioned missile. Total mass, sea level thrust accurate; Isp, empty mass and burn time estimated.


Launch Vehicle: Initial UR-500.

While Chelomei's OKB was still preparing the UR-200 draft project, it was proposed to use this as the basis for the UR-500 heavy universal rocket, with five times the payload capacity. These initial 1961 UR-500 studies for the GR-2 requirement at first consisted simply of 4 two-stage UR-200 rockets lashed together, the first and second stages working in parallel in clusters. A third stage would be modified from the UR-200 second stage. (Yangel proposed a similar solution, his R-56 rockets being composed of R-46ís clustered together). However study of this configuration, which included manufacturing of a dynamic test article (now in the Tsniimash museum), indicated that the payload capacity could not meet the militaryís requirements. The payload of this configuration is said to be five times that of the UR-200 (ie around 10,000 kg) as opposed to the 12,000 kg payload calculated for the selected UR-500 polyblock configuration. The echo of this configuration in the final Proton design was in the upper stage engines, which were direct descendants of those on the UR-200.


Launch Vehicle: Monoblock UR-500.

During UR-500 design studies, two variants of the first stage were considered: polyblock and monoblock. The monoblock approach was that the first stage be assembled from two separate modules with the same diameter: an upper oxidiser module and a lower fuel and engine block. In assembly trials of this design it proved difficult, because of the height of the first stage, to obtain access to the upper stages and payload atop the rocket. Although there was a payload advantage compared to the more compact polyblock design, this was relatively small and outweighed by the operational difficulties. This variant was studied by Chelomeiís Filial Number 1, Chief Designer V N Bugayskiy, under the lead engineer M S Mishetyan.

The design mass and engine performance figures for this version have been given; the calculated payload is 12,000 kg.


Launch Vehicle: Polyblock UR-500.

UR-500 design studies considered two variants of the first stage: polyblock and monoblock. The polyblock variant consisted of a centre large diameter oxidiser tank surrounded by several smaller diameter fuel tanks. This version could be assembled in a special rig with the lateral blocks being sequentially mounted on the centre. This had the advantage of easier installation of the upper stages and payload due to the smaller length of the first stage. This variant was studied in Filial 1 under the lead engineer E. T. Radchenko. In January 1962 this design was chosen as most advantageous, following studies that indicated improved wind loads and bending moment characteristics compared to the monoblock design. The polyblock design received patent number 36616 in 26 July 1966. Named on the patent were V N Chelomei, V N Bugayckiy, V A Birodov, G D Dermichev, N I Yegorov, V K Karrask, Yu P Kolesnikov, Ya B Nodelman, and E T Radchenko.

The design mass and engine performance figures for this version have been given; the calculated payload is 12,000 kg. This is coincidentally very close to the 12,200 kg payload mass given (incorrectly) at the time of the launch of the two-stage variant of the launch vehicle, Proton 1.


Launch Vehicle: UR-200.

On 16 March and 1 August 1961 the Central Committee and Politburo approved development of the UR-200 (8K81) universal rocket. The UR-200 was designed not only to send a thermonuclear warhead over a range of 12,000 km, but also to orbit the IS (Istrebitel Sputnik) ASAT; the US (Upravlenniye Sputnik) nuclear-powered naval intelligence satellite; and the Raketoplan combat re-entry vehicle, which would use aerodynamic horizontal and vertical manoeuvring to penetrate enemy space defences and be practically invulnerable. The UR-200 draft project was completed in July 1962. It technical characteristics would be similar to those of Korolevís R-9 and Yangelís R-16. Trial flights of the ICBM version ran from 4 November 1963 to 20 October 1964.

On October 13, 1964, Khrushchev was ousted from power. The new leadership, under Brezhnev, was adverse to all projects Khrushchev had supported. These included those of Chelomei and his OKB-52. An expert commission under M V Keldysh was directed to examine all of Chelomeiís projects and make recommendations as to which should be cancelled. Keldysh found that Yangelís R-36 universal rocket was superior to Chelomeiís UR-200. The UR-200 and Raketoplan were accordingly cancelled, while the IS and US satellites were redesigned for launch by the R-36.

UR-200 artefacts may be found at the following museums: Tsniimash has a 1:10 structural simulation model; Orevo has a complete sectioned missile; Baikonur has launch photographs. All launch vehicle data are accurate (except empty mass prorated between first and second stages).


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82.

The Proton launch vehicle has been the workhorse of the Soviet and Russian space programs, and will continue in use into the next century. Although constantly criticised within the Soviet Union for its use of toxic and ecologically-damaging storable liquid propellants, it has out-lasted all challengers and replacements, and will continue in use into the next century, launching Russian elements of the International Space Station.

The Proton had its origin in the early 1960ís, as a heavy two-stage rocket that could be used to launch large military payloads into space as well as act as a ballistic missile for nuclear warheads up to 100 MT in yield. Approval to proceed with the UR-500 8K82 was provided on 24 April 1962. The selected design solution was a conventional tandem vehicle. The upper stages would be modified versions of the UR-200 first and second stages. The first stage consisted of a centre large diameter oxidiser tank surrounded by several smaller diameter fuel tanks. The 4.15 diameter of the stages and their lengths were dictated by the requirement for rail transport of the completed stages from the factory to the launch site.

The draft project UR-500 was completed in 1963. On 16 July 1965 the first UR-500 successfully launched the Proton 1 satellite. The payload of the two-stage version was only 8.4 tonnes, only 24% more than Korolevís Soyuz rocket, although the UR-500 was 75% larger. This would be rectified in the three-stage version, development of which had begun on 3 August 1964.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S824.

This four stage version of the Proton was originally designed to send manned circumlunar spacecraft into translunar trajectory. Guidance to the Block D stage must be supplied by spacecraft. The design was proposed on 8 September 1965 by Korolev as an alternate to Chelomei's LK-1 circumlunar mission. It combined the Proton 8K82K booster for the LK-1 with the N1 lunar Block D stage to boost a stripped-down Soyuz 7K-L1 spacecraft around the moon. The Korolev design was selected, and first flight came on 10 March 1967. The crash lunar program lead to a poor launch record. Following a protracted ten year test period, the booster finally reached level of launch reliability comparable to that of other world launch vehicles.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K.

Development of a three-stage version of the UR-500 was authorised in the decree of 3 August 1964. Decrees of 12 October and 11 November 1964 authorised development of the Almaz manned military space station and the manned circumlunar spacecraft LK-1 as payloads for the UR-500K. Remarkably, due to continuing failures, the 8K82K did not satisfactorily complete its state trials until its 61st launch (Salyut 6 / serial number 29501 / 29 September 1977). Thereafter it reached a level of launch reliability comparable to that of other world launch vehicles.


Launch Vehicle: UR-700.

The UR-700 was the member of Vladimir Chelomei's Universal Rocket family designed to allow direct manned flight by the LK-700 spacecraft to the surface of the moon. The basic configuration of the UR-700 was established in January 1962 as part of the UR-500 Proton draft project. However Korolevís N1 was the selected Soviet super-booster design. Only when the N1 ran into schedule problems in 1967 was work on the UR-700 resumed. The draft project foresaw first launch in May 1972. But no financing for full scale development was forthcoming; it was apparent that the moon race was lost.

The complete UR-700 / LK-700 system would have had a height of 76 m, a diameter of 17.6 m, and a gross lift-off mass of 4,823 tonnes. The payload capability was 151 tonnes into a 200 km earth orbit or 50 tonnes on a translunar trajectory. The UR-700 consisted of first and second stages mounted to the core in parallel, while the upper stages, based on the UR-500 Proton, were arranged in tandem in the core. The first stage consisted of six 4.15 m diameter modules in pairs; and the second stage of three modules. A single RD-270 engine was used in all nine modules.


Launch Vehicle: UR-700 / 11D54. UR-700 with high energy upper stage consisting of 9 x RD-54 / 11D54 Lox/LH2 engines with a total thrust of 360 tonnes. Usable third stage propellant 300 tonnes, payload to a 200 km, 51.5 degree orbit increased to 185 tonnes

Launch Vehicle: UR-700 / RD-350. UR-700 with high energy upper stage consisting of 3 x RD-350 LF2/LH2 engines with a total thrust of 450 tonnes. Usable third stage propellant 350 tonnes, payload increased to 215 tonnes

Launch Vehicle: UR-700 / RO-31. UR-700 with high energy upper stage consisting of 7 x RO-31 Nuclear A engines using LH2+Methane propellants with a total thrust of 280 tonnes. Usable third stage propellant 196 tonnes, payload increased to 230 to 250 tonnes

Launch Vehicle: UR-900.

In 1962 Vladimir Chelomei proposed a family of modular launch vehicles. In January 1969, Chelomei was proposing the UR-900 for the Mars expedition. A garbled description of this launch vehicle appears in Chertok's memoirs. This would seem to be a version of the UR-700 moon rocket using 15 RD-270 modules in the first and second stages in place as opposed to the nine modules of the UR-700. The third and fourth stages were derived from the UR-500. The booster could deliver 240 tonnes to low earth orbit.


Launch Vehicle: UR-700M.

By the middle of 1969, NASA was pressing for funding for a manned expedition to Mars. On 30 June 1969 he Soviet Ministry of Defence authorised preparation of Soviet draft projects for a manned Mars expedition. Code named Aelita, the TTZ specification called for a launch vehicle with a low earth orbit payload of 200 to 250 tonnes to be available by 1976. Chelomeiís response used a modular approach to the launch vehicle design in order to achieve payloads of 300 to 800 tonnes. This would allow an expedition to Mars using a single docking in low earth orbit.

The proposed UR-700M launch vehicle had a gross lift-off mass of 16,000 tonnes and could deliver 750 tonnes to a 250 km, 51.6 degree orbit. It consisted of three stages: Stage 1 and 2 used Lox/Kerosene propellants, and stage 3 Lox/LH2. As in the UR-700, all the engines of Stage 1 and Stage 2 operated at lift-off, but the engines of the second stage were fed from propellant tanks in the first stage. The vehicle consisted of five 9 m diameter first stage blocks with a dry mass of 750 tonnes, three second stage blocks (two of 9 m diameter flanking a 12.5 m diameter core block) with a dry mass of 500 tonnes, and a 12.5 m diameter, 200 tonne empty mass third stage. Each of the outer blocks had 4 x 600 tf engines by KBEM (two 300 tf chambers per engine), while the 12.5 m diameter core block had a total of 6 x 600 tf engines. The third stage had 6 x NK-35 engines of 200 tf each.

The UR-700M/LK-700 advanced project was reviewed by the expert commission in 1972. The commission concluded the Mars project - and the UR-700M booster - were beyond the technical and economical capabilities of the Soviet Union and should be shelved indefinitely.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S86.

The original four stage Proton / Block D configuration was used until 1976, at which time it was replaced by a modernised version equipped with N2O4/UDMH verniers for precise placement of payloads in geosynchronous orbit and its own self-contained guidance unit. This was accepted into military service in 1978 with the first Raduga launch. The stage was first developed for launch of gesynchronous military communications and early warning satellites (Raduga, Ekran, Gorizont, Potok, SPRN). Its later versions continue in use for launch of MEO and geosynchronous comsats, and is Russia's most successful commercial launcher.


Launch Vehicle: UR-500MK.

In response to the Ministry of Defence's guidelines for third generation launch vehicles, the Ministry of General Machine Building issued on 29 April 1975 instructions for Chelomei to study boosters meeting the military's requirements. These included Lox/Kerosene propellants in place of the toxic N2O4/UDMH favoured previously. Chelomei's competitor in the design, Glushko, was then head of NPO Energia which included Glushko's former OKB-456 engine design bureau. Therefore Chelomei was forced to propose using Kuznetsov Lox/Kerosene engines from the cancelled N1 moon program.

The UR-500MK was proposed in two configurations, the 11K98 and 11K99. In keeping with the mandated modular approach, the UR-500MK consisted of a core stage with a single modified NK-43 engine with a vacuum thrust of 190 tonnes. This was boosted by three (11K98) or six (11K99) lateral stages, each with a single modified NK-33 engine of 150 tonnes thrust. All engines ignited at lift-off, throttled to over 100% of their rated thrust. The core engine was apparently fed from the lateral stages or throttled back early in the ascent to conserve propellant for the second stage burn. The use of existing Proton tankage tooling for the stages and the Kuznetsov engines would allow a high-performance vehicle to be developed at minimum cost. However Chelomei was out of favour, Kuznetsov was discredited after the N1 fiasco, and Glushko was ascendant. The proposal stood no chance. Glushko's Zenit launch vehicle became the accepted solution.

The two variants had the following characteristics:

  • 11K99 (six lateral stages) :
    • Launch mass : 1000 t
    • Dry mass : 68 t
    • Propellant mass : 915 t (Kerosene : 250 t - Lox : 665 t)
    • Payload to 200 km, 51.6 deg orbit : 30 - 31.5 tonnes
    • Payload to 200 km, 97deg sun-synchronous orbit: 25.5 - 26.8 tonnes
    • Payload to geostationary orbit :
      • with Lox/Kerosene upper stage : 3.5 tonnes
      • with Lox/LH2 upper stage : 5.2 tonnes
  • 11K98 (three lateral stages) :
    • Launch mass : 590 t
    • Payload to 200 km, 51.6 deg orbit : up to 15 tonnes
    • Payload to 200 km, 97deg sun-synchronous orbit: 11 - 12.5 tonnes

Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S824M.

This derivative of the original four stage Block D / 11S824 version of the Proton was used from 1978 to launch Lavochkin OKB planetary probes (Mars, Venera) and high earth orbit astronomical observatories (Astron, Granat). Guidance to the Block D-1 stage must be supplied by spacecraft. Equipped with N2O4/UDMH verniers for precise placement of payloads in high orbits or planetary trajectories.


Launch Vehicle: UR-100N.

The UR-100N was designed as a replacement for the UR-100 at the end of its 10 year storage life. Although it could be installed in the same silos, it was 50% heavier. The competing design of Yangel, the MR-UR-100, was also put into production when the Soviet hierarchy deadlocked and could not pick one design over the other. The missile, 18.8 m in length and 2.5 m in diameter, was encapsulated in a 24.3 m long, 2.9 m diameter canister. The UR-100N could deliver six 375 kg / 750 kt MIRV's to a range of 9075 km with a CEP of 550 m. Missile system reliability was estimated to be 85%, and with a warhead reliability of 95% and force readiness of 90%, total system reliability was estimated as 75%.

The UR-100N was deployed from 1975. Accuracy problems associated with first stage oscillations only became apparent during tests of in-service missiles in 1979. Interim fixes were made, but the UR-100N was replaced before the end of its 10 year service life by the UR-100NU, beginning in 1979, with all UR-100N's retired by 1983. Surplus UR-100N's are marketed to the West as the 'Rokot' launch vehicle.


Launch Vehicle: UR-530.

Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S861.

This improved four stage version uses the Block DM-2 / 11S861 fourth stage, which has its own guidance unit. This reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Replaced the original Block DM / 11S86 version from 1982 to 1995. Used for launch of Glonass navigation satellites into medium earth orbit; and launch of Luch, Ekran-M, Potok, Raduga, Gorizont, Raduga-1, Elektro, and Gals communications satellites into geosynchronous orbit.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S824F.

This four stage version of the Proton was a modification of the original Block D / 11S824 for launch of late 1980's Lavochkin OKB probes on missions to Mars. Guidance to the Block D-2 stage must be supplied by spacecraft. Unknown differences with original 11S824.


Launch Vehicle: Rokot. Launch vehicle based decommissioned Chelomei ICBMs. 106 tonne liftoff mass.

Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 11S861-01.

This four stage version uses the Block DM-2M / 11S861-01 upper stage, which has its own self-contained guidance unit. This reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Used for launches of Russian geosynchronous satellites from 1994 on.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / DM1.

This four stage version has a guidance unit in the fourth stage, which reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Fourth stage is a 'Block DM-2' / 11S861 modified for insertion of Lockheed Martin AS 4000 bus spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / DM3.

This four stage version has a guidance unit in the fourth stage, which reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Fourth stage is a 'Block DM-2M' / 11S861-01 modified for insertion of Hughes HS-601 bus spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit.


Launch Vehicle: Strela. Launch vehicle based decommissioned Ukrainian ICBMs, but built by Russia's NPO MASH. 106 tonne liftoff mass.

Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / 17S40.

Version of Proton using Block DM-5 / 17S40 fourth stage. This stage has a new payload adapter for use with heavier paylods launched into sub-synchronous orbits. Used for launch of Arkon reconnaisance satellite. Equipped with Iridium payload dispenser, commercial version is designated Block DM2 and is used to launch multiple LM700 Iridium spacecraft.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / DM2.

This four stage version has a guidance unit in the fourth stage, which reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Fourth stage is a 'Block DM-5' / 17S40 modified for insertion of multiple LM 700 (Iridium) spacecraft into medium earth orbit.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K / DM4.

This four stage version has a guidance unit in the fourth stage, which reduces payload but does not require the spacecraft's guidance system to provide steering commands to booster. Fourth stage is a 'Block DM-2M' / 11S861-01 modified for insertion of FS-1300 bus spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit.


Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82KM. Improved Proton. Minor improvements in lower stages to fully utilize propellants, reducing release of toxic chemicals in stage impact areas. Briz M storable propellant upper stage replaces Block D cyrogenic stage.

Back to Index
Last update 3 May 2001.
Contact Mark Wade with any corrections or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
© Mark Wade, 2001 .