One of the very interesting things about the Soviet (and now Russian) space program is how some things seem almost eternal.

The first Sputnik launch was on an R-7 ICBM, modified for space launch. If you were to look at a picture of it, and compare it with a Soyuz launcher you saw launching last week to carry a Progress or Soyuz capsule to the ISS, it looks remarkably similar.

Sure the electronics/computers are upgraded over the years, and they added an upper stage, but what other major changes were made?

There have been many many launchers (over 1700) of the variants. But the amazing thing is how similar to the original R-7 booster they remain.

(A different and interesting (but likely unanswerable) question would be to consider the design philosophies and decisions that allowed such a long run).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is interesting, than the newest Soyuz-2.1V is, finally, not an R-7 derivative. Meaning it doesn't have conic first stage boosters, the core second stage is different and the upper stages were not present on R-7. So it is a Soyuz derivative, but not an R-7 derivative. $\endgroup$
    – horsh
    May 8 '14 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @horsh Soyuz 2.1v deletes the strapon boosters, but uses an NK-33 engine!! Talk about lifespan! Engines not built since the 1970's now launching 2 different boosters (Antares being the other). Good grief. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    May 8 '14 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ What is the oldest US rocket still in use? Wait a second. That's a good question for Space Exploration Stack Exchange site! Stay tuned. $\endgroup$
    – horsh
    May 8 '14 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ That is a good 'question' to be asked... In fact, so say I all. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    May 8 '14 at 15:05

I've tried to write it down, but then I've changed it into the following scheme. That way it is much cleaner.

Note that the scheme doesn't include the recent Soyuz-2.1v vehicle. It seems like it is not "based" on R7 anymore. The conic boosters and core stage of R7 are no longer present.

R7 rocket family


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