TOPOL COMES TO THE MARKET OF SPACE LAUNCHES

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TOPOL COMES TO THE MARKET OF SPACE LAUNCHES
TOPOL COMES TO THE MARKET OF SPACE LAUNCHES

 

Ivan Cheberko, Alexei Ramm

Izvestia, September 13, 2016, pp. 1, 2

Manufacturer of combat missiles Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MIT) proposes use of Topol missile systems removed from combat duty for delivery of satellites to orbit.

INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES REMOVED FROM COMBAT DUTY WILL BE USED FOR DELIVERY OF SATELLITES TO ORBIT

Manufacturer of combat missiles Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MIT) proposes use of Topol missile systems removed from combat duty for delivery of satellites to orbit.

A mobile launcher for Topol missiles adapted for space activity was presented by MIT at Army-2016 show and demonstrated to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Ground missile systems Topol (SS-25 according to NATO classification) were developed in MIT and they were stationed between 1985 and 1992. The system includes thee-stage solid-propellant missile RT-2PM that carries one combat charge. The missiles were series-made by the Votkinsk machine-building plant.

Now Topol systems are gradually removed from combat duty due to expiry of the service life of the missiles. It is planned that all Topol systems will be excluded from the Strategic Missile Forces by 2021. This quite logically pushes MIT to search for rational liquidation of its missiles, moreover so that n the previous decade they have already earned reputation of space rockets (head of MIT Yury Solomonov actively promoted the idea of conversed use of intercontinental ballistic missiles since the end of the 1990s).

Seven launches of Start rockets (Topol missiles adapted for space launches) were performed since 1993 until 2006.

In 2006, the program was frozen because it was not easy to find customers for launches of such kind then: Start rocket can deliver about 500 kilograms of payload to a low near-Earth orbit and the heaviest satellite delivered with its assistance weighed 350 grams. Mostly scientific or educational spacecraft had such parameters then. Besides, launch services with use of other conversed missiles were also offered on the market in the middle of the 2000s. For example, these were services of Rokot rocket (conversed version of intercontinental ballistic missile RS-18B) and Dnepr (conversed version of intercontinental ballistic missile RS-20). The situation has changed now: Rokot rockets will be launched a few times more and at this point the launch campaign will end. Launches of Dnepr were frozen for more than a year already.

Along with this, demand for rockets of light and super light classes has grown significantly now against the background of decreasing weight of the spacecraft. There began mass delivery of micro satellites (from 10 to 100 kilograms) and nano satellites (from 1 to 10 kilograms) to a near-Earth orbit. CubeSat became nearly the most popular format of a satellite platform lately. These are spacecraft with a shape of cubes with volume of 1 liter and weight of up to 1.33 kilogram.

Price is the competitive advantage of conversion rockets. Naturally, a carrier is adapted to space launches, the head is changed, additional stages are mounted etc. but the main part made many years ago is taken in a ready-made form from a depot. And this provides an attractive price of the service. Operators of space launches do not always publish their prices but according to unofficial information at the beginning of the century a launch by Rokot rocket cost $11 million and this was possibly the lowest price for services of such kind.

An alternative for discarding of old missiles through space launches is destruction. However, in June of 2016 Dmitry Medvedev signed a government resolution that said, “Destruction of armament and military hardware is an exceptional measure and is used towards armament and military hardware use of which is economically inexpedient.” Thus, liquidation of intercontinental ballistic missiles through space launches becomes preferable on the level of state policy.

The press service of MIT abstained from comments.

According to Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautic Andrei Ionin, there is a market share for conversed intercontinental ballistic missiles now.

The expert explained:

– Quickness of services may be a big advantage of launch services of adapted Topol missiles: there are missiles, a launcher is deployed within hours, which means that it is possible to serve a potential client quickly and it will not need to wait for years unlike in case of other operators.

At the beginning of 2016, the Strategic Missile Forces had 72 Topol systems and 78 Topol-M systems (information about their quantity and bases is published according to START-3 treaty).

 

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