CryoSats 8 October flight atop its Rockot launcher will be of historical significance in more ways than one. In a striking juxtaposition of new and old, the ESAs ice satellite mated to a newly-finished Breeze-KM upper stage will be hauled most of the way to orbit by a vintage SS-19 two-stage rocket, first assembled two decades ago to serve as a weapon of nuclear war.
ESA satellites have flown from Russias Plesetsk Cosmodrome before (as well as the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan) but this will be the first time one will be launched by Rockot – a design that consists of a Russian SS-19 two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) plus a Breeze-KM third stage to place the payload in its final orbit.
Codenamed Stiletto by NATO, around 300 SS-19s were manufactured between the mid 1970s and 80s to serve as a major part of the old Soviet Unions nuclear arsenal. The liquid-fuelled ICBMs were deployed in locations across Russia and the Ukraine until the START arms control treaties made them redundant. It was in the early 1990s that a new use for them was found.
Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
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