|Function||Orbital carrier rocket|
|Country of origin||Soviet Union (original build),|
Ukraine (commercial launches after 1999)
|Cost per launch||US$29 million |
|Height||34.3 m (113 ft)|
|Diameter||3 m (9.8 ft)|
|Mass||211,000 kg (465,000 lb)|
|Payload to LEO|
|Mass||4,500 kilograms (9,900 lb)|
|Payload to the ISS|
|Mass||3,200 kilograms (7,100 lb)|
|Payload to SSO|
|Mass||2,300 kilograms (5,100 lb)|
|Payload to TLI|
|Mass||550 kilograms (1,210 lb) (with ST-1)|
|Launch sites||Site 109/95, Baikonur|
|First flight||21 April 1999|
|Last flight||25 March 2015|
|Powered by||1 RD-264 module|
(four RD-263 engines)
|Maximum thrust||4,520 kN (1,020,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||318 s (3.12 km/s)|
|Burn time||130 seconds|
|Propellant||N2O4 / UDMH|
|Powered by||1 RD-0255 module|
(one RD-0256 main engine and one RD-0257 vernier)
|Maximum thrust||755 kN (170,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||340 s (3.3 km/s)|
|Burn time||190 seconds|
|Propellant||N2O4 / UDMH|
|Powered by||1 RD-864|
|Maximum thrust||20.2 kN (4,500 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||309 s (3.03 km/s)|
|Burn time||1,000 seconds|
|Propellant||N2O4 / UDMH|
The Dnepr rocket (Russian: Днепр, romanized: Dnepr; Ukrainian: Дніпро, romanized: Dnipró) was a space launch vehicle named after the Dnieper River. It was a converted ICBM used for launching artificial satellites into orbit, operated by launch service provider ISC Kosmotras. The first launch, on April 21, 1999, successfully placed UoSAT-12, a 350 kg demonstration mini-satellite, into a 650 km circular Low Earth orbit.
The Dnepr was based on the R-36MUTTH Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – called the SS-18 Satan by NATO – designed in the 1970s by the Yuzhnoe Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukrainian SSR.
The Dnepr control system was developed and produced by the JSC "Khartron", Kharkiv. The Dnepr was a three-stage rocket using storable hypergolic liquid propellants. The launch vehicles used for satellite launches have been withdrawn from ballistic missile service with the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces and stored for commercial use. A group of a total of 150 ICBMs were allowed under certain geopolitical disarmament protocols to be converted for use, and can be launched through 2020. The Dnepr was launched from the Russian-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Dombarovsky launch base, near Yasny, in the Orenburg region of Russia.
In February 2015, following a year of strained relations including the Euromaidan and the Russo-Ukrainian war, Russia announced that it would sever its "joint program with Ukraine to launch Dnepr rockets and [was] no longer interested in buying Ukrainian Zenit boosters, deepening problems for [Ukraine's] space program and its struggling Yuzhmash factory." However ISC Kosmotras reported that they would continue to fulfill their obligations for three Dnepr launches in 2015, of which only one took place.
By the end of 2016, no further launch had materialized and the remaining customers had switched to alternative launch providers.
Billionaire Elon Musk tried to purchase refurbished Dnepr rockets for a low price from Russia but returned empty-handed after failing to find any that were affordable. This led him to the creation of a successful private rocket launch company called SpaceX.
The Dnepr launch vehicle had only a small number of modifications compared to the R-36M ICBM in service. The main difference was the payload adapter located in the space head module and modified flight-control unit. This baseline version could lift 3,600 kg into a 300 km low Earth orbit at an inclination of 50.6°, or 2,300 kg to a 300 km Sun-synchronous orbit at an inclination of 98.0°. On a typical mission the Dnepr deployed a larger main payload and a secondary payload of Miniaturized satellites and CubeSats.
Before the Dnepr entered commercial service it was in service with the Strategic Rocket Forces which launched the ICBM version over 160 times with a reliability of 97%. The rocket had been used several times for commercial purposes with a single failure.
The Dnepr has at two points held the record for the most satellites orbited in a single launch; the April 2007 launch with 14 payloads held the record until 20 November 2013, when an American Minotaur I placed 29 satellites and two experiment packages into orbit. The next day a Dnepr re-took the record, placing 32 satellites and an experiment package bolted to the upper stage into low Earth orbit. This record was broken by an Antares launch in January 2014 which carried 34 spacecraft.
|1||April 21, 1999
|UoSAT-12||LEO 650 km / 65˚||Baikonur|
|2||September 26, 2000
||LEO 650 km / 65˚||Baikonur|
|3||December 20, 2002
|LEO 650 km / 65˚||Baikonur|
|4||June 29, 2004
|SSO 700 × 850 km / 98˚||Baikonur|
|5||August 23, 2005
|SSO 600 × 550 km / 98˚||Baikonur|
|6||July 12, 2006
|Genesis I (USA)||LEO 560 km / 65˚||Yasny|
|7||July 26, 2006
|failed to reach orbit||Baikonur|
|8||April 17, 2007
|SSO 692 × 665 km / 98˚||Baikonur|
|9||June 15, 2007
|TerraSAR-X||LEO 514 km / 97˚||Baikonur|
|10||June 28, 2007
|Genesis II||LEO 560 km / 65˚||Yasny|
|11||August 29, 2008
|12||October 1, 2008
|13||July 29, 2009
|14||April 8, 2010
|15||June 15, 2010
|16||June 21, 2010
|17||August 17, 2011
|18||August 22, 2013
|19||November 21, 2013
|20||June 19, 2014
|21||November 6, 2014
|22||March 25, 2015
The committee investigating the failed launch on July 26, 2006, concluded that the failure was caused by a malfunctioning of the pumping hydraulic drive of combustion chamber #4. The control malfunctioning brought about the disturbances, which led to the roll instability, excessive dispersions of the yaw and pitch angles. Thrust termination occurred at 74 seconds after lift-off. The crash site was located 150 km from the launch pad in an unpopulated area of Kazakhstan. Toxic propellants polluted the crash site, forcing Russia to pay US$1.1m in compensation. The rocket used for this launch was more than twenty years old. Procedures for launch have been changed to prevent future malfunctions of this kind.
Russian officials have said they plan to discontinue Dnepr launches.
Kosmotras has received a contract to provide supplemental launch services on Dnepr launch vehicles. Dnepr can carry two satellites on each launch. One Dnepr launch, carrying the first two satellites, was planned, but it was delayed and finally canceled due to bureaucratic hurdles.
Originally a launch on a Dnepr rocket from Baikonur in 2017 was planned, but with Dnepr becoming unavailable, the launch was switched to a Falcon-9 v1.2 subcontracted from Iridium, flying together with five Iridium-NEXT satellites in December 2017.
Originally Kosmotras was contracted to provide the Dnepr launch vehicle for a launch from Dombarovsky (Yasny) in 2015. After an 18 months delay, Hisdesat canceled the launch contract in July 2016. Launch on a not yet disclosed vehicle is planned for 2017.