The Soyuz series of rockets is famously hardy due to its descent from the R-7 ICBM; the last launch of a Soyuz-U took place "on a launch pad covered in several inches of snow...with a launch time temperature near 15 degrees Fahrenheit / -9 degrees Celsius". (source) As I understand it, Soyuz 2.1v, is pretty much a clean-sheet redesign of the Soyuz launcher; will it retain the same ability to launch in adverse conditions?

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    $\begingroup$ It'll have to be, as it will be launched from Baikonour, which often has those conditions. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ Replacing the engine with a 40 year old N-33, no boosters, slightly wider core stage to accommodate the engine? I wouldn't exactly call this a "clean-sheet redesign" $\endgroup$
    – oefe
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ clean-sheet might be overstating things, but it's definitely different enough to not be an R-7 derivative. $\endgroup$
    – DylanSp
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 20:54

2 Answers 2


It has been launched from Plesetsk at 62°46′N, a latitude higher than Anchorage.

The two launches happened so far on December 28 2013 and December 5 2015. Right in the middle of the northern winter.

Soyuz 2.1v in Plesetsk Photo from the Defence Ministry of Russian Federation website.

Redesign or not, there are lots of launches from Plesetsk all year round. That includes all kinds of Soyuz, Rokot, Angara and other rockets.


TL;DR: All the Russian rockets are obviously made to withstand the common winter weather conditions up to -20C/-4F at least. So speaking to "...as hardy as...", the simple answer should be "Yes".

But let's review in more detail:

2.1a is basically the good old Soyuz but the digital guidance system replacing the analog one

2.1b is basically 2.1a with a better 3rd stage engine

2.1v (v being third letter in Cyrillic alphabet а,б,в) has the main engine replaced on top of that

Soyuz 2.1v has a few issues:

NK-33 engine on the 1st stage. It has a very high performance, on par with RD-180, allowing to get rid of the side boosters. However, being developed for the Soviet moon mission in the 60s, it has a very bad reputation.

If you noticed, Russian engines are usually called RD but this one has prefix NK being developed by the maker of the turbojet engines, but not jet engines. It's a long story, but in short, making a jet engine is not the same as making a turbojet engine even though they are both have words "engine" and "jet" in it. It's like a maker of golf balls was asked to develop a ball for the football, they are both round, both called "ball" and used to play a game but that's about it what they have in common.

For instance, NK-33 relabeled as Aerojet AJ26 it is considered responsible for the 2014 Antares crash. There is a well-known meme how Mr Glushkov, (the developer of the original RD-107 Soyuz engine as well as RD-170/180 family) used to call NK-33 as "the rotten engine".

So having the main engine replaced, it does not really allow to apply the R7 ~2000-and-counting successful launch stats to 2.1v version. Which was kind of "confirmed" during 2016 "Canopus" 2.1v crash. It is not human-rated and will never be.

Also, the supply for NK-33 is limited, the engine is no longer in production, the leftovers from the Soviet moon program is about 20 engines are kept at the warehouse, after using all of them, the engine is supposed to be replaced with RD-193 which will mean, basically, starting over.

So in my opinion, 2.1v does not have much of a bright future in its current shape. The rocket will be used to utilize the NK-33 free leftovers. Thanks to the "rotten engine", most likely, the only consumers who are brave enough to use 2.1v is going to be Russian military/govt-related who don't care much about the insurance cost etc.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't actually answer my question. $\endgroup$
    – DylanSp
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ The temperature question? This is not an issue at all. 2.1v flies from the far north, the Plesetsk cosmodrome Archangel region where -20C/-4F is a winter average. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ It's a really interesting answer, but it is necessary to include at least a section that directly addresses the question "Is Soyuz-2.1v as hardy as previous Soyuz launchers?" and gives an answer like "yes" or "no", or "it is hard to tell because...". Put it at the top where readers can find it easily. Then you can add any additional supporting information, but please directly address the question as asked first. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ About the number on NK-33 in storage, I read in Moscow Times that there are 150 to 200! They were really intending to go to the Moon in a big way. Or it is just Russian news, you know. For sale at only a million dollar each, wow, that's cheap! $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @ilyakharlamov I think you've said that a competitor referred to the NK-33 as the "rotten engine", no big surprise there. That's very different from later conclusing that it "is" a rotten engine. Unless you have privileged information (tell us more?) you are not in a position to know whether the Antares failure was a fundamental engine design problem, workmanship or launch vehicle integration or storage problem. Your final conclusion would be better if you took more care to separate your opinion from supportable facts. $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 10:44

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