Kosmos 3M – Space Launch Report

Kosmos 3M - Space Launch Report

Kosmos 3M, a two-stage launcher capable of orbiting small payloads, was developed from the Soviet Union’s R-14 intermediate range ballistic missile. The rocket, developed by KB Yuzhnoe and manufactured by PO Polyot in Eastern Siberia, consists of an R-14 first stage topped by a purpose-built “S3” restartable second stage.

Kosmos 3M - Space Launch Report

Kosmos 3M is 2.4 meters in diameter, 32.4 meters tall, and weighs 109 metric tons at liftoff. Its first stage is powered by a 151.5 ton sea level thrust (178 ton vacuum thrust) Energomash RD-216 engine composed of two dual-thrust chamber RD-215 engines.

Four graphite vanes extend into the exhaust of the four fixed thrust chambers to provide steering.

The rocket uses an upgraded second stage with an RD-219 (11D49) fixed, restartable main engine and a secondary low-thrust on-orbit propulsion system consisting of four steerable thrusters. This feature allows the vehicle to maneuver while releasing multiple satellites during a single mission. The four steering thrusters are fed from two side tanks mounted on the exterior of the stage.

The first R-14-derived launch vehicles (Kosmos 1 or 65S3) flew from Baikonur Area 41 Pad 15 beginning in 1964. The upgraded developmental Kosmos 3 (11K65) version began launching from the same site in 1966. One year later, the operational Kosmos 3M (11K65M) variant began flying from Plesetsk Northern Cosmosdrome.

Baikonur developmental launches ended in 1968, but Kapustin Yar began hosting Kosmos 3M launches in 1973. By 1977, Kosmos 3M had entirely replaced the smaller R-12-based Kosmos 2 launch vehicle.

Kosmos 3M orbited Tselina-O electronic intelligence satellites; Strela 1M, 2M and Tsyklon military navigation and communications vehicles; Taifun-1 and 2 radar calibration spacecraft; anti-satellite weapon targets; and Tsikada navigation satellites.

Also read: Jupiter Legacy – Space Launch Report

Orbital and suborbital R-14 launches boosted BOR space plane tests during the 1980s for the Soviet space shuttle development effort. Other suborbital R-14 missions were performed for the “Vertikal” scientific research program during the 1970s and 1980s. The United Start consortium has marketed Soyuz 3M for commercial missions since the 1990s.

Kosmos 3 ranks third among world space launchers with nearly 450 orbital attempts, trailing only R-7 and Thor/Delta. From a peak of 29 launches in 1977, the Kosmos 3M flight rate has declined to an average of 2-3 per year since the mid-1990s. Launch vehicle production was stopped in 1995, but production capability was retained. Stockpiled rockets have reportedly performed subsequent launches.

Kosmos 3 is the only launch vehicle to have operated from all three of the former Soviet launch sites at Baikonur, Plesetsk, and Kapustin Yar. Kosmos 3M currently flies from one of two pads at Plestesk Site 132 and, less frequently, from Kapustin Yar Site 107. Kosmos 3M last flew from Plestesk Site 133 in 1994, a site now used for Rockot launches.

Kosmos 3M is integrated with its payload in a processing building and transported horizontally to its launch pad on a railroad carrier. The rocket and its carrier are erected at the pad about two days before launch.

Vehicle Configurations

(metric tons)
250 km x 90 deg
(metric tons)
Kosmos-3M1.4 t 2 Stg Kosmos-3M32 m109 t

Vehicle Components

 Stage 1Stage 2PL Fairing
Diameter (m)2.4 m2.4 m2.4 m
Length (m)21.5 m6.5 m4.5 m
Propellant Mass (tons)81.9 t18.7 t 
Total Mass (tons)87.2 t20.14 t0.5 t
Engine MfgrGlushko
OxidizerNitric Acid/
(SL tons)
151.5 t  
(Vac tons)
178 t16 tt
ISP (SL sec)248 s  
ISP (Vac sec)291.3 s303s+176ss
Burn Time (sec)131 s350s+350 ss
No. Engines1
1 fixed main
+ 4 steering

Vehicle Components Cont’d

Kosmos 3M Launch Sequence (Typical)

T-0 sLiftoff0 km0 km/s
T+131.6 sStage 1 Separation65.1 km2.6 km/s
T+146.5 sFairing Jettison83.3 km2.62 km/s
T+459.6 s2nd Stage Shutdown253.4 km7.69 km/s
T+1630 s2nd Stage Apogee Restart465 km7.48 km/s
T+1644.7 s2nd Stage Apogee Shutdown465 km7.63 km/s
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