Maks Air Launch System


Maks Spaceplane is a cancelled Russian Air-launched multi-purpose aerospace system. The aim was to reduce the cost of space operations. It was being developed by NPO Molniya. The first flight was expected in 2008.


The Maks system consists of two stages:

1. Antonov AN-225 carrier plane is the world’s largest aircraft.
2. Space Stage will be carried on top of the An-225. It can take-off from suitable airports around the world and transport the second stage for launch on any staging point above the Earth. The An-225 will use in-flight refuelling for equatorial launches.

Three Space Stages are envisaged:

–  Maks-OS (Reusable Spaceplane) with an external tank. It would be used to carry from 2 up to 6 crew.

  Maks-T uses an expendable unmanned stage instead of the Maks Spaceplane to launch payloads up to 18,000kg to low earth orbit or 5000kg to GEO.

 Maks-M will be the ultimate version of Maks. It will be a fully reusable spaceplane

How does it work?

1. The An-225 carrier plane with the second stage will takeoff from a suitable airport. For equatorial launches, in-flight refuelling will be used to reach the destination.

2. The An-225 will fly to a  starting point above the Earth’s surface. At 9km altitude, the Antonov An-225 will perform a pre-start manoeuvre and follow a shallow decent, then on the pull-up manoeuvre the RD-171 rocket engine is ignited. 

3. The carrier plane and second stage separate at the required trajectory angle. The An-225 returns to the base airport. Maks spaceplane / Maks-T/ Mak-M fly to orbit.


It was initiated in the 1980’s. Development has stalled due to Russia’s economic problems. There is rumours that a metal tiling system is being built for the space plane.

Maks has the potential to be the cheapest near term cost-effective launch system. It was going to use the Antonov An-225 as the first stage.

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