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Beating Swords Into Plowshares
Converting Military Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to Peaceful Space Launchers
Tsyklon is Converted Soviet-Era ICBM
A converted Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missile, a Russian Tsyklon-2 booster rocket, ferried a military satellite up to Earth orbit on December 26, 1999, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Upwardbound Tsyklon Leaves Earth
It was the last Russian launch of the old millennium. Tsyklon, sometimes spelled Tsiklon in English, is Russian for Cyclone.
The December 1999 payload was one of the Kosmos series of satellites launched and tracked by Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces. The name Kosmos or Cosmos is used by the Russian military to obscure the kind of satellite launched.
The Tsyklon Rocket
A powerful liquid-fuel ballistic missile known as R-36 was conceived in the 1960s at the Soviet Union's OKB-586 design bureau. R-36 evolved into a series of powerful ICBM's and the Tsyklon space launcher series still in use.
The Tsyklon booster was converted from the SS-9 missile. All Tsyklon space rockets were launched from Baikonur until 1977 when new launch facilities were opened at Plesetsk.
Tsyklon can be built as a two-stage or three-stage rocket. For most Tsyklon space flights the second stage was modified and made a part of the payload satellite. This was similar to many U.S. military satellites which were built on the Lockheed Agena upper stage.
One kind of satellite launched on a Tsyklon rocket was RORSAT (Radar Ocean Reconnaissance). The payload, which searches the oceans for U.S. Navy task forces and other shipping, was built onto the Tsyklon upper stage. When the RORSAT's mission was over, its nuclear power source was boosted to a higher orbit by a small solid-fuel rocket built into the satellite.
A similar kind of satellite launched on Tsyklon has been EORSAT (Electronic Ocean Reconnaissance), which is used to detect electronic counter measures (ECM) signals from U.S. Navy task forces and shipping. Ships might use ECM to defeat a RORSAT's radar detection equipment.
The 120-ft.-tall Tsyklon also has ferried many Elint, Meteor and other civilian satellites to Earth orbit. More than 100 Tsyklon boosters have been launched over three decades with a 98 percent success rate.
Russian Space Launch Woes
Due to a shortage of funds since the collapse of the Soviet Union, three-quarters of the Russian military satellite fleet has become obsolete.
Russia's space program also has been disrupted by crashes of Proton rockets in which several multi-million dollar satellites were lost. The crashes complicated relations with the independent nation of Kazakhstan where Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome is located. Formerly part of the Soviet Union (USSR), Kazakhstan has said that the rocket crashes caused local ecological damage.
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