Russia starts large-scale use of discarded strategic missiles RS-20 (SS-18 according to Western classification) for launching its satellites. This program was named Dnepr. It is financed by the Russian Defense Ministry mostly at the expense of ex-budget funds earned from launches of commercial spacecraft. For this purpose, Cosmotrans will use the positional area of the former missile division in Yasnoe (Orenburg Region). Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, announced that this place was not chosen by accident.
Solovtsov said, “The launch facility that remained at the Baikonur cosmodrome was not suitable for launching of the RS-20 missile of the latest modification RS-20V Voevoda. Hence it was decided to use the already existing launch facility in the missile division for launching of this type of rockets and not to conduct expensive modernization of the obsolete launch facility at Baikonur.” Two launches were already performed from the Orenburg Region in 2006 and in 2007. As a result, American satellites Genesis and Genesis-2 were delivered to orbit.
Specialists point out that the flight trajectory of RS-20 rockets passes through scarcely populated districts of the Orenburg and Tyumen regions. The field of dropping the separable first stage of the rocket is in an uninhabited area of the Tyumen Region. This circumstance provides for the safety of RS-20 launches for Russian citizens living in this region.
Solovtsov emphasized that a positive conclusion of the state ecological expert examination was obtained before making a decision on the creation of the Yasny launch base. The general said, “The planned nature conservation measures and technical solutions allow for the exclusion of negative impact on the environment during rocket launches.”
According to Solovtsov, the Federal Service of Ecological, Technical and Nuclear Supervision drew a conclusion that implementation of the program of rocket launches from Yasny base “will not lead to worsening of the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the region and will have practically no impact on the health of the population, definitely if all planned security measures are taken and measures are taken for liquidation of consequences of rocket launches.”
It was reported that Cosmotrans created a modern assembling and testing facility and other infrastructure objects not far from Yasny.
Solovtsov reports, “Special attention is paid to the regime security. Foreigners should be sure that their technical secrets would not be disclosed. The Russian party will take all measures for preserving our secrets. Foreigners will have no access to rockets, objects for their control. They will be practically permanently preset on the territory of the base for preparation of spacecraft.”
Intercontinental ballistic missile RS-20 (R-36M2) was designed in the 1970s. To date, it remains the most powerful vehicle for the delivery of nuclear weapons to targets in any point of the globe. The missile can carry ten MIRVs of 750 kilotons each, is equipped with an efficient system for penetration through antimissile defense and is invulnerable to electromagnetic pulse, which guarantees use of the missile even after the delivery of a nuclear blow by the enemy at the missile base. According to data from open sources, the Strategic Missile Forces have about 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles including about 80 RS-20 Voevoda heavy missiles.