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Tsyklon launch vehicles are available in various versions. The two-stage Tsyklon-2 and the three-stage Tsyklon-3 were developed on the basis of the R-36 strategic missile and are based on the R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile designed by Mikhail Yangel. Tsyklon-4 is in development. The Tsyklon is also known as Tsiklon. In English it means Cyclone. The rocket is a Soviet/Ukrainian designed expendable launch system. The rockets were first introduced in 1966 and were derived from the R-36 ICBM (NATO designation of SS-9, Scarp).

Tsyklon launch vehicles are designed by the Yuzhnoe Design Bureau and manufactured by Yuzhmash (both in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine). They are launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.


The Tsyklon-2 is also known as the SL-11 by the US Department of Defense.  The two stage Tsyklon-2 was first launched 27 October 1967 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Tsyklon-2 can lift up to 2.9 tonnes into a 200 km orbit. The first and second stages are equipped with engines designed and built by Energomash that use nitrogen tetraoxide and unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine as propellant. The engine of the third stage was developed by Design Bureau Yuzhnoye.  The Tsyklon-2 is 35.5 to 39.7 meters long with a fuelled mass of 182 tonnes.
Launcher development began in 1968 and the first flight tests of the Tsyklon-3 took place between 1977 and 1979 at Plesetsk, as the equipment at this cosmodrome provided a high degree of automation for pre-launch operations. The Tsyklon production line at Dnepropetrovsk has been practically dismantled. Tsyklon is marketed by the United Start Corporation and no commercial launches have been performed as yet.


The Tsyklon-3 is also known as the SL-14 by the US Department of Defense. Tsyklon-3 can lift up to 3.6 tonnes into a 200 km orbit. The Tsyklon-3 is 39.27 meters long with a fueled mass of 186 to 190 tonnes. The Tsyklon-3 features a restartable third stage, first launched on June 24, 1977 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Tsyklon 4
Tsyklon-4 is a new Ukrainian launch vehicle based on the Tsyklon LV family.

On 4 February 2004 the Ukrainian Parliament ratified an agreement with Brazil on long-term cooperation in the use of the Tsyklon-4 rocket from the launch centre Alcantara. This agreement envisaged the establishment of a joint Ukrainian-Brazilian enterprise Alcantara Tsyklon Space with headquarters in Brasilia.

This programme is expected to be realised within three years, with the first commercial launch taking place in 2006. According to the Ukrainian National Space Agency, Ukraine has signed memorandums with a number of states for international launches of spacecraft using the Tsyklon-4.


In 1986, with advent of Gorbachev's Perestroika, Soviet organization called Glavkosmos created within super-secret Ministry of General Machine Building, or MOM, started promoting Soviet launchers for commercial use in the West. The list of available vehicles included a new name - Cyclone (spelling widely accepted in the western technical literature is Tsyklon; name once painted by the Russians on the body of the actual rocket spelled "Ciklon"!) Since the mid-19 60's the rocket was known to the the West as F-1-r FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bombardment System). In its turn, F-1 family was known to be based on the ballistic missile called SS-9 under NATO classification. As it transpired, SS-9 was developed by Michael Yangel design bureau (classified name OKB-586) in Dnepropetrovsk (now NPO Yuzhnoye in Ukraine) under secret Soviet name R-36.

The project was based on experience gained by Yangel collective in the course of design of the first generation ballistic missile R-16. In the same fashion, Valentin Glushko's propulsion development center pushed its engine technology for R-16 to the new level in R-36 project. According to one pre-Glasnost Soviet source, not coincidentally edited by Glushko, in the period 1958-61, his design bureau was developing RD-219 engine intended for the second stage of unidentified launch-vehicle. It was a two-chamber unit fed by a common turbo pump and burning mix of N4O2 and UDHM with the thrust of 883 kN. It is now known, that like Vostok launch-vehicle's propulsion unit, RD-219 was developed in a pair with a similar first stage engine RD-218 for the two-stage R-16 missile. According to Western sources both engines were upgraded for use in R-36. Moreover, in R-36 three RD-218 engines were clustered in the first stage instead of two on R-16. As a result, R-36 had six combustion chambers on the first stage instead of four on R-16.

The Soviet government approved the R-36 project on April 16, 1962 with a special resolution on so-called "global rockets" - essentially ICBM with global range. R-36 had to compete with GR-1 project (modernized R-9) proposed by Korolev and UR-200 by Chelomei. Originally, flight testing of R-36 was planned for the fourth quarter of 1963 and first orbital launch in the third quarter of 1964. The original design included two stages 3.9 meters in diameter making total length of the vehicle about 36 meters and launch mass of 185 tones. The first actual launch of R-36 prototype took place in Tyuratam from the surface pad in September 1963 and it was a complete failure. Boris Chertok in his memoirs wrote that the results were so discouraging that many members of the State Testing Commission overseeing the launch doubted the whole program. Michael Grigoriev, Deputy Commander of Rocket Strategic Forces, who was a chairman of the commission, insisted on continuation of the program, but only after a long list of modifications is implemented. 


In December 1965, the serial production of R-36 started in Dnepropetrovsk under index 8K67. By that time, US intelligence counted 66 SS-9 silos under construction in the USSR. At the same time, a new version of the rocket called R-36-O (from Russian "orbital") began to undergo testing. This version was equipped with the additional third stage allowing nuclear warhead on its way to the target to reach orbit and re-entry atmosphere. The post-Cold War Russian document revealed that on August 24, 1965, the Soviet government issued a resolution approving development of the two types of orbital vehicles called IS and US (possible Russian abbreviations of artificial sputnik and universal sputnik). Both spacecraft were to be launched by R-36-derived vehicle. The source says that the same month (August 1965) testing of the IS vehicle started in Tyuratam. Western observers initially believed that IS was an orbital part of the Soviet FOBS program. This assumption was supported by the fact that around the end of 1965 or beginning 1966, at least four sub-orbital tests of R-36-O were detected by Western intelligence. The third (payload) stage in those shots would perform controlled impact in the Soviet Far East, while the second stage would free-fall into Pacific. However, from the Russian sources, it is clear that IS has been an anti-satellite vehicle based on "Polet" spacecraft.


In March 1966, OKB-586 proposed two versions of R-36-based launch vehicles:

1. 11K67 (later called Tsyklon-2A) and
2. 11K69 (Tsyklon-2 or Tsyklon-M).

Tsyklon's first stage had 3 liquid-propellant engines with the total thrust of 2,970 kN and the second stage had one similar engine with the thrust of 990 kN and used Glushko's RD-251 and RD-252 engines.

In the following years several versions of the basic R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile have emerged:

R-36-O missile for nuclear attack from space, known as FOBS Tsyklon-2 space booster to orbit ocean spy satellites Tsyklon-3 space booster to orbit a variety of civilian and military satellites R-36M family of heaviest ICBMs in the Soviet arsenal including those carrying multiple warheads


ESA - ESA Permanent Mission in Russia - Tsyklon:

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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014