Space Launch ReportDnepr Data Sheet
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dneprls.jpg (5165 bytes)Dnepr

Vehicle Configurations

Vehicle Components

Dnepr Launch History

The Dnepr space launch vehicle, offered by the Russian/Ukrainian Kosmotras consortium, is a modified three-stage R-36MU intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Known as SS-18 “Satan” missiles in the West, R-36MUs were developed during the late 1970s to supplant previous R-36M missile designs.   R-36MU added an upgraded multiple warhead third stage dispenser bus, along with other improvements.  The Start 2 treaty allowed up to 150 missiles of the R-36M series to be converted for use as space launchers.

More than 162 R-36MUs were deployed in missile silos beginning in 1980.  Dozens remained on combat duty through the mid-2000s with the Russian Strategic Missile Forces.   

Russia also planned to keep about 50 of the more powerful R-36M2 missiles, a variant developed during the late 1980s after R-36MU was deployed, in service until at least 2016.  R-36M2 missiles may also end up being used for space launch purposes.

Developed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the hypergolic fueled R-36MU, like the R-36M before it, was derived from earlier R-36 “Tsyklon” type rockets that dated from the late 1960s.

The missile’s first two stages were fitted with higher thrust engines than the R-36 and the old third stage was replaced with an all-new third stage that served as a dispenser “bus” for multiple warheads. Previous “Tsyklon” first stages had been powered by three sets of two-chamber RD-251 fixed nozzle engines augmented by four steering chambers. The new “Satan” first stage was powered by a single four-chamber RD-264 engine that produced 461 metric tons of thrust. All four chambers of the engine could gimbal to steer the rocket.

The missiles are “mortar launched” from underground silos. The process ejects the 211 metric ton missile straight up out of the silo where, appoximately 20 meters above the ground, the first stage engine ignites.

Prior to launch, the rocket is packaged in a "transport and launch canister" with a "tray" protecting the base of the missile. A solid propellant gas generator fires to pressurize the canister, pushing the "tray" and missile up out of the silo. After exiting the silo, motors fire to jettison the "tray" sideways. The Dnepr main engines ignite immediately after the "tray" moves aside.

dneprdwgs.jpg (5651 bytes)Dnepr Cutaway Diagram

The end of the Cold War and the signing of Start 2 meant that the missiles either had to be used for space launches or destroyed. Kosmotras was begun in 1997 to market the missiles under the Dnepr name, after the famous river. Ukraine’s NPO YuzhnoyeNPO, descendant of the Yangel Design Bureau, was contracted to modify the R-36MU missiles. To minimize costs, to maximize reliability, and to allow continued flight testing of the missile system, few changes were made to the ICBM or the launch system.

After a 1998 suborbital test of Dnepr modifications on an ICBM, the first orbital Dnepr launch took place in 1999 from an underground silo at Baikonur’s LC 109/95. The first several launches were used to orbit clusters of experimental microsatellites provided by organizations in several countries. In 2004, Kosmotras won a contract to orbit experimental inflatable modules for Bigalow Aerospace of the U.S

A typical Dnepr flight consists of a silo launch, a 109 second first stage burn, a 161 second burn of the second stage, and an extended (up to 1000 second) low-thrust third stage burn. The third stage engine actually ignites with its forward-facing engine firing forward, then rotates 180 degrees to complete the remaining, lower-thrust portion of its burn "backward" to provide positive thrust. Multiple payloads can be deployed. Spacecraft separation occurs during, and near the end of, the low-thrust third stage burn. Dnepr can put up to 4.5 metric tons into a 200 km x 46 deg orbit from Baikonur.

Upgrade plans included a Dnepr-M with a third stage modified to perform in a more conventional manner. Plans also included Dnepr-ST ("Space-Tug") variants with various combinations of solid or liquid 4th/5th stages added. 

Launch Sites

Dnepr initially flew only from Baikonur LC 109/95 in Kazakhstan, but a new launch site at an operational Russian R-36M2 silo field at Dombarovskiy near the city of Orenburg, Russia was inaugurated in 2006. The July 12, 2006 launch from the renamed "Yasny Launch Base" orbited the Genesis 1 inflatable test satellite for Bigelow Aerospace, a private U.S. company. A precursor test from Dombarovskiy occured In December 2004 when the Strategic Missile Forces performed an R-36M2 training launch from an operational silo at the site. This launch of a missile that had been on combat duty since 1992 tested the combat readiness of the system, but it was also advertised as a test of future Dnepr launches from Russian soil.


Kosmotras is a consortium of Russian and Ukrainian organizations that include the Russian Space Agency and NPO Yuzhnoye, among others.

Vehicle Configurations

(metric tons)
300 km x 65 deg
300 km x 98 deg
[1] Yasny
[2] Baikonur
Configuration Liftoff
(metric tons)
Dnepr 3.2 t [1] 1.8 t [1]
1.5 t [2]
3 Stage R-36MU 34 m 211 t

Vehicle Components

1st Stage
2nd Stage
3rd Stage
Diameter (m) 3 m 3 m 3 m
Length (m) 22 m 5.7 m 1 m
Propellant Mass (tons) 147.9 t 37.74 t 1.91 t
Total Mass (tons) 161.52 t 41.11 t 4.27 t
Engine RD-264 RD-0228 RD-869
Engine Mfgr Glushko    
Oxidizer N2O4 N2O4 N2O4
(SL tons)
424.8 t    
(Vac tons)
461.2 t 77.5 t 1.9/0.8 t
ISP (SL sec) 293 s    
ISP (Vac sec) 318 s 340 s 317 s
Burn Time (sec) 130 s 190 s 1000 s
No. Engines 4xRD-263 1+4steer 1
Dnepr Launch History 


DATE     VEHICLE           ID      PAYLOAD                 MASS(t) SITE*      ORBIT*
04/21/99 Dnepr             01      UoSat 12                        TB 109/95  LEO   
09/26/00 Dnepr             02      Saudisat 1A/B ..                TB 109/95  LEO
12/20/02 Dnepr             03      6xmicrosats                     TB 109/95  LEO
06/29/04 Dnepr             04      8xmicrosats              0.2    TB 109/95  LEO
08/23/05 Dnepr             05      OICETS/INDEX             0.6    TB 109/95  LEO/S
07/12/06 Dnepr             06      Genesis 1                1.36   DO 370/11  LEO  
07/26/06 Dnepr             07      BelKA + microsats        0.46   TB 109/95 [FTO][1]
04/17/07 Dnepr             08      EgyptSat, et al          0.21   TB 109/95  LEO/S
06/15/07 Dnepr             09      TerraSAR-X               1.346  TB 109/95  LEO/S
06/28/07 Dnepr             10      Genesis 2                1.36   DO 370/11  LEO
08/29/08 Dnepr             11      5xRapidEye               0.75   TB 109/95  LEO/S
10/01/08 Dnepr             12      THEOS                    0.715  DO 370/13  LEO/S
07/29/09 Dnepr             13      6 sats (Dubaisat 1, etc) 0.423  TB 109/95  LEO/S
04/08/10 Dnepr             14      CryoSat 2                0.72   TB 109/95  LEO/P
06/15/10 Dnepr             15      Prisma/Picard                   DO 370/13  LEO
06/21/10 Dnepr             16      TanDEM-X                 1.35   TB 109/95  LEO/S
08/17/11 Dnepr             17      Multipayload                    DO 370/13  LEO/S
08/22/13 Dnepr             18      Kompsat 5                1.40   DO 370/13  LEO/S
11/21/13 Dnepr             19      Multipayload                    DO 370/13  LEO/S
06/19/14 Dnepr             20      Deimos 2 (37usats)              DO 370/13  LEO/S
11/06/14 Dnepr             21      ASNARO 1                 0.708  DO 370/13  LEO/S
03/25/15 Dnepr             22      Kompsat 3A                      DO 370/13  LEO/S


[1] Dnepr first stage gimbal hydrodrive failed at T+69 to T+73 sec.  First stage 
     burn planned to end at T+98 seconds.  Rocket was heading south toward a planned 
     near-polar orbit with a 97.43 deg inclination.  Crashed 189.6 kilometers 
     downrange (south) from the launch site near the Uzbekistan border.  Hydraulic 
     gimbaling system failed on one of four main engines.  Cause was failure of 
     thermal protection system for hydraulic system, which caused hydrazine being 
     fed to system to overheat.  


 DO = Dombarovsky, Russia 
 TB = Tyuratam/Baikonur, Kazakstahn


[FTO] = Failed to Orbit
 LEO = Low Earth Orbit
 LEO/S = Sun Synchronous Low Earth Orbit
 LEO/P = Polar Low Earth Orbit


Last Update: March 25, 2015