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Proton (rocket family)

Proton 8K82K
Launch of a Proton-K rocket
Function Orbital launch vehicle
Manufacturer Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center
Country of origin Soviet Union; Russia
Height 53 metres (174 ft)
Diameter 7.4 metres (24 ft)
Mass 693.81 metric tons (1,529,600 lb) (3 stage)
Stages 3 or 4
Payload to LEO 22.8 metric tons (50,000 lb)[1]
Payload to
6.3 metric tons (14,000 lb)
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites BaikonurLC-200 & LC-81
Total launches

  • M: 102
  • K: 311
  • Proton: 4

  • M: 92
  • K: 275
  • Proton: 3

  • M: 9
  • K: 24
  • Proton: 1
Partial failures

  • M: 1
  • K: 12
First flight Proton: 16 July 1965
Proton-K: 10 March 1967
Proton-M: 7 April 2001
Last flight Proton: 6 July 1966
Proton-K: 30 March 2012
Proton-M: 11 September 2017
Notable payloads
First stage
Engines RD-275
Thrust 10.47 MN (1.9 million pounds)
Burn time 126 s
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Second stage
Engines RD-0210 & 1 RD-0211
Thrust 2.399 MN (539,000 lbf)[2]
Specific impulse 327 s
Burn time 208 s
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Third stage
Engines RD-0212
Thrust 630 kN (140,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 325 s
Burn time 238 s
Fuel N2O4/UDMH
Fourth stage – Blok-D/DM
Engines RD-58M
Thrust 83.4 kN (18,700 lbf)
Specific impulse 349 s
Burn time 770 s
Fuel LOX/RP-1

Proton (Russian: Протон) (formal designation: UR-500) is an expendable launch system used for both commercial and Russian government space launches. The first Proton rocketwas launched in 1965. Modern versions of the launch system are still in use as of 2017, making it one of the most successful heavy boosters in the history of spaceflight. All Protons are built at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center plant in Moscow, transported to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, brought to the launch pad horizontally, and raised into vertical position for launch.[3][4]

As with many Soviet rockets, the names of recurring payloads became associated with the Proton. The moniker “Proton” originates from a series of similarly named scientific satellites, which were among the rocket’s first payloads. During the Cold War, it was designated the D-1/D-1e or SL-12/SL-13 by Western intelligence agencies.

Launch capacity to low Earth orbit is about 22.8 tonnes(50,000 lb).[1] Geostationary transfer capacity is about 6.3 tonnes (14,000 lb).[5] Commercial launches are marketed by International Launch Services (ILS).[6] The rocket is intended to be retired before 2030.[7]

In January 2017, the Proton was temporarily grounded due to the manufacturer, Voronezh Mechanical Plant, having substituted a heat-resistant alloy in the engines with a cheaper metal.[8][9]


Proton[10] initially started its life as a “super heavy ICBM“. It was designed to launch a 100-megaton (or larger) thermonuclear weapon over a distance of 13,000 km. It was hugely oversized for an ICBM and was never deployed in such a capacity. It was eventually used as a space launch vehicle. It was the brainchild of Vladimir Chelomei‘s design bureau as a foil to Sergei Korolev‘s N1 rocket, whose purpose was to send a two-man Zond spacecraft around the Moon; Korolev openly opposed Proton and Chelomei’s other designs for their use of toxic propellants.

A rushed development program led to dozens of failures between 1965 and 1972. Proton did not complete its State Trials until 1977, at which point it was judged to have a higher than 90% reliability.

Proton’s design was kept secret until 1986, with the public being only shown the upper stages in film clips and photographs, and the first time the complete vehicle was shown to the outside world happened during the televised launch of Mir.

Proton launched the unmanned Soviet circumlunar flights and was intended to have launched the first Soviet circumlunar spaceflights, before the United States flew the Apollo 8 mission. Proton launched the Salyut space stations, the Mir core segment and expansion modules, and both the Zarya and Zvezdamodules of the ISS.

Proton also launches commercial satellites, most of them being managed by International Launch Services. The first ILS Proton launch was on 9 April 1996 with the launch of the SES Astra 1F communications satellite.[11]

Since 1994, Proton has earned $4.3 billion for the Russian space industry, and by 2011 this figure is expected to rise to $6 billion.[12]

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Falcon 9

Falcon 9
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-4E with the first ten Iridium NEXT communication satellites (January 2017).
Function Orbital launch vehicle
Manufacturer SpaceX
Country of origin United States
Cost per launch FT: $62M[1]
  • FT: 70 m (230 ft)[2]
  • v1.1: 68.4 m (224 ft)[3]
  • v1.0: 54.9 m (180 ft)[4]
Diameter 3.7 m (12 ft)[2]
  • FT: 549,054 kg (1,210,457 lb)[2]
  • v1.1: 505,846 kg (1,115,200 lb)[3]
  • v1.0: 333,400 kg (735,000 lb)[4]
Stages 2
Payload to LEO(28.5°)
  • FT: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)[1]expendable
  • v1.1: 13,150 kg (28,990 lb)[3]
  • v1.0: 10,450 kg (23,040 lb)[4]
Payload to GTO(27°)
  • FT: 8,300 kg (18,300 lb) expendable,
    5,500 kg (12,100 lb) reusable[1]
  • v1.1: 4,850 kg (10,690 lb)[3]
  • v1.0: 4,540 kg (10,010 lb)[4]
Payload to Mars FT: 4,020 kg (8,860 lb)[1]
Associated rockets
Derivatives Falcon Heavy
Launch history
  • FT Block 4: Active
  • FT Block 5: In development[5]
  • FT Block 3: Retired
  • v1.1: Retired
  • v1.0: Retired
Launch sites
Total launches
  • 52
    • FT: 32
    • v1.1: 15
    • v1.0: 5
  • 50
    • FT: 32
    • v1.1: 14
    • v1.0: 4
Failures 1 (v1.1CRS-7)
Partial failures 1 (v1.0CRS-1)[6]
Other 1 (FTAmos-6[a])
Landings 21 / 26 attempts
First flight
Last flight
First stage
  • FT (late 2016): 7,607 kN (1,710,000 lbf)[10]
  • FT: 6,806 kN (1,530,000 lbf)[2]
  • v1.1: 5,885 kN (1,323,000 lbf)[3]
  • v1.0: 4,940 kN (1,110,000 lbf)[4]
Specific impulse
  • v1.1
    • Sea level: 282 seconds[11]
    • Vacuum: 311 seconds[11]
  • v1.0
    • Sea level: 275 seconds[4]
    • Vacuum: 304 seconds[4]
Burn time
  • FT: 162 seconds[2]
  • v1.1: 180 seconds[3]
  • v1.0: 170 seconds
Fuel LOX / RP-1
Second stage
  • FT: 934 kN (210,000 lbf)[2]
  • v1.1: 801 kN (180,000 lbf)[3]
  • v1.0: 617 kN (139,000 lbf)[4]
Specific impulse
  • FT: 348 seconds[2]
  • v1.1: 340 seconds[3]
  • v1.0: 342 seconds[12]
Burn time
  • FT: 397 seconds[2]
  • v1.1: 375 seconds[3]
  • v1.0: 345 seconds[4]
Fuel LOX / RP-1

Falcon 9 is a family of two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicles, named for its use of nine Merlin first-stage engines, designed and manufactured by SpaceX. Variants include the initial v1.0 (expendable), v1.1 (partially-reusable), and current “Full Thrust” v1.2 (partially-reusable). Falcon 9 is powered by rocket engines utilizing liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.

The current “Full Thrust” version can lift payloads of up to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) to low Earth orbit, and up to 8,300 kg (18,300 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), when flying in expendable mode.[1] The first stage can be recovered and reused for GTO payloads up to 5,500 kg (12,100 lb), automatically landing after disconnection of the second stage.[13][1][14][15]

In 2008, SpaceX won a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract NASA‘s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services(COTS) program to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) using the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule. The first mission under this contract launched in October 2012.

The initial Falcon 9 version 1.0 flew five times from June 2010 to March 2013 and version 1.1 flew fifteen times from September 2013 to January 2016. The current “Full Thrust” version has been in service since December 2015. The Falcon Heavy derivative groups three Falcon 9 first stages together side by side. SpaceX intends to certify the Falcon 9 to be human-rated for transporting NASA astronauts to the ISS as part of the Commercial Crew Development program. In October 2016, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced an upcoming “final upgrade” called Falcon 9 Block 5, which will feature increased engine thrust, improved landing legs, and other minor improvements to help recovery and reuse.[5] The maiden flight is planned for April 2018.[16]