Encyclopedia Astronautica
Molniya


Russian manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Molniya Design Bureau, Russia.

NPO Molniya was spun of from OKG MiG in in 1976 with the special purpose of producing the Buran spaceplane, a copy of the American space shuttle. Chief Designer was Lozino-Lozinskiy, who had headed the Spiral spaceplane project at MiG from 1965-1976.

In parallel with development of Buran, Lozino-Lozinskiy continued to develop the Spiral deseign. In a series of design studies it was determined that launch of Spiral from a large subsonic transport was feasible and would have a much lower development cost than the previous approach using a supersonic launcher. Further it was realised that a smaller orbital spaceplane would have many advantages compared to the Buran space shuttle then in development. These studies culminated in a draft project for the MAKS space launch system in 1988, generated by NPO Molniya and 70 sub-contractors and government institutes. Development was underway and mock-ups had been completed when the project was cancelled in 1991.

During the 1990's attempts to interest Western investors in MAKS or engage in other collaborative reusable launch vehicle projects came to nothing. Lozino-Lozinskiy passed away in 2001. The design bureau was still busy due to light aircraft designs created together with the associated Raduga Design Bureau and Myasishchev Experimental Machine-building Plant.

More... - Chronology...


Associated People
  • Lozino-Lozinskiy Lozino-Lozinskiy, Gleb Yevgenyevich (1909-2001) Russian Chief Designer of spaceplanes, headed NPO Molniya 1976-2001. Developed the Buran space shuttle and MAKS spaceplane. Earlier had headed the Spiral spaceplane project at MiG 1965-1976. More...

Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • System 49 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1981. System 49 was the design that followed Spiral and preceded MAKS in the Soviet quest for a flexible air-launched manned space launcher. More...
  • System 49-M Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1981. The 49M was an application of the system 49 air-launched design concept, but with a larger carrier aircraft. The orbiter mass was 28 metric tons in orbit, including a 9 metric ton payload in a 8. More...
  • BOR-4 Russian manned spaceplane. 4 launches, 1982.06.04 (Cosmos 1374) to 1984.12.19 (Cosmos 1614). BOR-4 were subscale test versions of the Spiral manned spaceplanes. More...
  • Bizan Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1982. Bizan was the 1982 Soviet air-launched spaceplane design iteration between the '49' and 'MAKS' concepts. Like the '49', it was air-launched from atop an An-124 transport. More...
  • BOR-5 Russian spaceplane. 2 launches, 1983.07.04 (BOR-5 Flight 1) and 1984.06.06 (BOR-5 Flight 6). The aerodynamic characteristics of Buran at hypersonic speeds were validated by the BOR-5 1:8 sub-scale model of Buran. More...
  • Buran Analogue Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. This Buran OK-GLI 'Analogue' was a version of the Buran spaceplane equipped with jet engines to allow it to be flown in handling and landing system tests at subsonic speed in the earth's atmosphere. More...
  • OK-M1 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M1 manned spaceplane was designed by NPO Molniya as a follow-on to the OK-M of NPO Energia. The OK-M1 was an integrated part of a unique launch vehicle, the MMKS reusable multi-module space system. More...
  • OK-M2 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M2 was a manned spaceplane, a straight delta wing joined to a broad fuselage with an upturned nose. More...
  • OK-M Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. 1980's design for a spaceplane, smaller than Buran, to replace Soyuz and Progress spacecraft for space station crew rotation/replenishment tasks. More...
  • Uragan Space Interceptor Russian manned combat spacecraft. 2 launches, 1987.08.01 (Cosmos 1871) to 1987.08.28 (Cosmos 1873). Russian sources continue to maintain that the Uragan manned spaceplane project never existed. More...
  • MAKS Orbiter Russian manned spaceplane. Reached advanced stage of development testing and prototype construction when project was cancelled in 1988. The MAKS spaceplane was the ultimate development of the OK-M studies NPO Molniya conducted with NPO Energia. More...

See also
Associated Launch Vehicles
  • System 49 Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. The Spiral project was not cancelled with the decision to proceed with the large Buran spaceplane. Instead flight test of the orbiter continued but the launcher design was rethought. The ambitious Mach 4 air-breathing first stage was abandoned. Instead the rocket stages and the manned Spiral orbiter were mounted on the back of an An-124 subsonic transport. This concept would evolve through the Bizan concept to the MAKS of the 1980's, which reached the hardware development stage. More...
  • Bizan-T Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from catamaran heavy-life aircraft, predecessor of later Gerakl / Molniya-1000 design. 900 tonnes takeoff mass. Release conditions: Suspended load, Mach 0.7 at 8 to 9 km altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • System 49-M Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. The 49M was an application of the system 49 design concept, but with a larger carrier aircraft. The system would have a 770 tonne gross takeoff mass. The orbiter/rocket stage combination weighted 370 tonnes, with the orbiter mass being 28 tonnes in orbit, including a 9 tonne payload in a 8.0 m x 3.3 m diameter payload bay. The tripropellant single rocket stage was equipped 1 x NK-43 / 11D112 engine burning Lox/Kerosene and 2 x RD-57 / 11D57 engines burning Lox/LH2. The orbiter could have one or two crew, and was designed for 100 reuses. Development costs for the new heavy lift aircraft and larger orbiter would be too high, and the design was abandoned in favour of the Bizan concept. More...
  • Bizan Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Bizan was the 1982 Soviet air-launched spaceplane design iteration between the '49' and 'MAKS' concepts. Like the '49', it was air-launched from atop an An-124 transport. Unlike the '49', it was a single-stage-to-orbit tripropellant concept. More...
  • MAKS Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. The MAKS spaceplane was the ultimate development of the air-launched spaceplane studies conducted by NPO Molniya. The draft project for MAKS was completed in 1988 and consisted of 220 volumes, generated by NPO Molniya and 70 sub-contractors and government institutes. Development of MAKS was authorised but cancelled in 1991. At the time of the cancellation, mock-ups of both the MAKS orbiter and the external tank had been finished. A 9,000 kgf experimental engine with 19 injectors was tested. There were 50 test burns proving the separate modes and a smooth switch between them. Since it was expected that MAKS could reduce the cost of transport to earth orbit by a factor of ten, it was hoped in the 1990's that development funding could be found. However this did not materialise. MAKS was to have flown by 1998. More...
  • MAKS-M Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Fully reusable unpiloted verion of MAKS, similar to Interim HOTOL. Air launched from An-225. MAKS was found to have superior payload, lower non-recurring cost and technical risk. MAKS-M would require new materials. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. Payload bay 7.0 m long x 4.6 m diameter. More...
  • MAKS-T Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. All cargo version of MAKS. Air-launched heavy-lift launcher would use an expendable second stage with a payload container. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. Payload bay 13.0 m long x 5.0 m diameter. More...
  • VKS-ZhRD+GPVRD Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Horizontal takeoff, delta winged, single-stage-to-orbit, launch vehicle. Mixed rocket / scramjet propulsion. More...
  • VKS-RTO+ZhRD Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Horizontal takeoff, delta winged, single-stage-to-orbit, launch vehicle. Mixed rocket / ramjet propulsion. More...
  • VKS-D Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from An-225. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • VKS-G Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from Kholod Mach 5 mother ship. This was a Mikoyan supersonic cargo aircraft, designed from Spiral 50-50 design. Combined-cycle turbo-ramjet engine. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 200,000 kg, Mach 5 at 25 to 30 km altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 1130 m/s. It was concluded that the extensive development would be required for the combination-cycle engines, resulting in an extended development schedule and high technical risk. The more conservative subsonic-launched MAKS was chosen instead. More...
  • VKS-O Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Vertical takeoff, ballistic re-entry, single-stage-to-orbit, Lox/Kerosene/LH2 tripropellant rocket engine powered, reusable launch vehicle. 550 tonne and 770 tonne gross lift-off mass versions considered. More...
  • VKS-R Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Sled launched, delta winged, single-stage-to-orbit, Lox/LH2 launch vehicle. 290 tonne and 550 tonne versions considered. Studied in tradeoff studies leading to MAKS. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 290,000 kg, Mach 0.5, zero altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 100 m/s. The wheeled sled would get the vehicle up to a velocity where the wings could provide lift, allowing lower-thrust engines to be used than in a vertical-takeoff design. This saved weight, but velocity losses during lifting flight to orbit almost cancelled the advantage, resulting in the approach being unattractive in comparison to pure vertical-launch or air-launch designs. More...
  • VKS-V Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Vertical takeoff, delta winged, single-stage-to-orbit, Lox/Kerosene/LH2 tripropellant rocket engine powered vehicle. 550 tonne gross liftoff mass and 1000 tonne versions studied. Analogous to NASA's Shuttle-2 and RKK Energia's VKS. More...
  • VKS-DM Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from Gerakl / NPO Molniya-1000 heavy-lift aircraft, catamaran layout, twin-fuselage triplane. Release conditions: Suspended load, 450,000 kg, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • Ajax Russian sled-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Sled-launched, air-breathing, single stage to orbit, horizontal takeoff / horizontal landing launch vehicle proposed in Russia. More...
  • Herakles Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Launch vehicle design by NPO Molniya / TsAGI that would utilize air launch from a giant cargo aircraft capable of lifting 900 tonne payloads. The single stage to orbit spaceplane would be released at subsonic velocity. More...
  • MAKS-D Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. NPO Molniya, Antonov, and TsAGI proposed a spaceplane demonstrator project to the European Space Agency in 1993-1994 under the RADEM project. This would be a scaled-back version of the cancelled MAKS spaceplane using existing rocket engines. An unmanned prototype of the MAKS would be fitted out with RD-120 Lox/Kerosene engines. Launched from atop the An-225, the MAKS-D would reach an altitude of 80 to 90 km and a speed of Mach 14 to 15. More...

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