Space Launch Report:  Start-1
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start.jpg (6206 bytes)Start-1

Vehicle Configurations

Vehicle Components

Start-1 is a small four-stage solid fuel space launch vehicle based on Russia's RT-2PM Topol (SS-25) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  The launcher, marketed by ZAO Puskovie Uslugi of Russia, can boost up to 600 kg into low earth orbit from Svobodny Cosmodrome, a Topol missile site, in Western Siberia.

The Moscow Institute of Heat Technology (MIHT) developed the three-stage Topol ICBM, a missle with approximately the same characteristics as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM, during the 1980s.  The missile was designed from the outset to be a mobile system, launched from a container carried by a mobile transporter erector launcher (TEL).  

At the end of the Cold War, surplus Topol missiles were offered for use as space launchers.  With a new fourth stage added to provide the final orbital kick, the launcher was named "Start-1".  A second "Start" model, which used two Topol second stages (5 stages total) was also offered.  The first Start-1 orbital test launch, a success, took place from Plestesk in 1993.  A single "Start" test flight attempt failed the following year.   No subsequent 5-stage "Start" attempts had been made as of mid-2006.

Operational Start-1 launches began from Svobodny in 1997.   Six orbital flights, all successful, had taken place by mid-2006.

Start-1 is 22.7 meters tall and 1.8 meters in diameter. It weighs about 47 tonnes at liftoff.   Start-1 is ejected from its erected transporter canister by gas pressure developed by a solid propellant gas generator.   Its first stage motor ignites shortly after the vehicle clears the canister. 

The first stage is controlled by four jet vanes in the exhaust and by four fold-out, grid-type air vanes at the base of the vehicle.  The vehicle coasts for about 21 seconds after first stage burn-out before the second stage ignites and separates.  Flight control during the second and third stage burns is provided by gas injection into the fixed nozzle exhaust. 

The Start-1 fourth stage coasts for several minutes after the third stage falls away.  During the coast, flight control is provided by a gas-dynamic reaction control system (GRACS).  During the fourth stage burn, the GRACS provides roll control.  Yaw and pitch control is provided by main nozzle gimballing.   After the fourth stage burn, a cold-nitrogen gas post-boost propulsion system works for up to 200 seconds to provide the final orbital insertion fine-tuning. 

Vehicle Configurations

(metric tons)
200 km x 52 deg
200 km
Sun Synchronous
Earth Orbit
(metric tons)
Configuration LIftoff
(metric tons)
Start-1 0.6 t  0.46 t
3 stage RT-2PM Topol
+ Start-1 4th stage
22.7 m 47 t

Vehicle Components

  Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Payload
Diameter (m) 1.8 m 1.55 m 1.34 m 1.4 m 1.24 m
Length (m) 8.1 m 4.6 m 3.9 m 1.4 m 2.5 m
Empty Mass
(metric tons)
4.8 t 1.5 t 1 t 0.3 t  
Propellant Mass
(metric tons)
23 t 11.5 t 5 t 0.7 t  
Total Mass
(metric tons)
27.8 t 13 t 6 t 1 t ~0.4 t
Motor MIHT-1 MIHT-2 MIHT-3 MIHT-4  
Fuel Solid Solid Solid Solid  
Oxidizer Solid Solid Solid Solid  
(SL metric tons)
(Vac metric tons)
100 t 50 t 25 t 10.43 t  
ISP (SL sec)          
ISP (Vac sec) 263 s 280 s 280 s 295 s  
Burn Time (sec) 63 s 60s 63 s 53 s  
No. Motors 1 1 1 1 1

Example Ascent Profile to 481 km Sun Synchronous Orbit from Svobodny

Time Event Altitude Velocity
T+0 s Liftoff 0 km 0 m/s
T+63 s Stage 1 Burnout    
T+87 s Staging/Stage 2 Ignition 39 km 1283 m/s
T+148 s Staging/Stage 3 Ignition 86 km 3347 m/s
T+211 s Stage 3 Burnout/Staging 211 km 5535 m/s
T+488 s Stage 4 Ignition 478 km 5012 m/s
T+538 s Stage 4 Burnout/PBPS Start 478 km 7704 m/s
T+763 s PBPS Cutoff 480 km 7703 m/s


Start-1 User's Guide, United Start, 2002

 Last Update:  June 10, 2006