Russia to Discard Soyuz-U Rockets

PHOTO by Grigory Sysoev / RIA Novosti

Roscosmos will abandon the use of Soyuz-U rockets. The last launch of the Soviet rocket is planned for February 2017, according to Interfax with reference to a source in the space industry.

“Roscosmos plans to use the Soyuz-U rocket one last time – to launch a Progress MS-05 cargo ship in February 2017. There are no plans to order more Soyuz-U launch vehicles in the future,” said the source.

According to the source, cargo spacecraft will be launched to the International Space Station using the Soyuz-2-1A rocket, and manned spacecraft will continue to use the Soyuz-FG carrier.

Earlier, the Director of Progress State Research and Production Rocket Space Centre Alexander Kirilin reported that the company has stopped its production of Soyuz-U rockets.

During the launch of a Soyuz-U on Dec. 1, the Progress MS-04 cargo ship failed to reach the calculated orbit. Most of the rocket burned up in the atmosphere over the Republic of Tuva. The reason behind the failure was most likely related to the rocket, not the cargo ship.

The middle-class Soyuz-U carrier rocket was developed on the basis of the Soyuz rocket and has been in operation since 1973. The Soyuz-U differed from its predecessors based on the engines of the first and second stages with increased power characteristics. The Soyuz-FG rocket has even more powerful engines, therefore making its load capacity higher than that of the Soyuz-U.