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Energia-class ELV (USSR/Russian Federation)


Alternate Designations: SL-16, Type K
Major Contractors: NPO-Energia
Nation of Origin: USSR
Used By: USSR; never used by the Russian Federation
Number in Use: N/A
Launch Sites: Baikonur, Tyuratam
Project Status: Cancelled in 1993


Length (overall): 61.3 meters
Width (overall): approximately 8 meters
Width: 16.0 meters
Gross lift-off weight: 2.4 million kilograms
Number of engines (Central section): 4 Maximum number of strap-on boosters: 4 (modified Zenit first-stage booster rockets) Thrust (Strap-On Boosters): maximum of 806,000 kg of thrust each
Thrust (Central section Engines): maximum of 200,000 kg of thrust each


Maximum payload weight: 100,000 kg
Orbital Range: 180 kilometers


Development of the Energia-class expendable launch vehicle (ELV) began in 1976 with the primary goal of serving as the heavy-lift booster stage of the Buran space shuttle. Unlike the SRBs and External Fuel Tank used by the American STS, however, the Energia was designed to accommodate either an STS-style orbiter or a non-reusable cargo canister, not unlike the American Shuttle-C design derived from the STS. Also, the Energia uses four strap-on rockets, based closely on the Zenit expendable launch vehicle, rather than the two specially designed SRBs employed by the American STS. No part of the Energia is intended to be reusable, although some engineers at NPO-Energia believed that it may be possible to reuse the strap-on boosters, which were recoverable and had been fitted with parachutes.

Development of the Energia continued at the same pace as that of the Buran, until both it and the Buran were formally unveiled in 1986. In December of that year, the Buran orbiter was attatched to an Energia ELV, tested briefly and then removed. The first launch of the Energia did not occur until May 11, 1987. Its payload was the Polyus/Skif-DM satellite -- a prototype laser battlestation.

The second flight of the Energia occurred on November 15, 1988 and carried the Buran into orbit for its one and only flight. The Energia has not been used since, and the program was cancelled with the Buran in 1993 due to the end of the Cold War and the failing Russian economy.

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