Space: January 3, 2003


On December 20, Russia successfully used a converted SS-18 ICBM to launch six satellites. Three of the satellites were of the micro variety, weighing 25 or 26 pounds each. The missile was launched from a silo, the same method that would have been used if the SS-18 were used in combat. The commercial version of the SS-18 is called the Dnepr-1. This was the third time the SS-18 was used to launch satellites. The SS-18 can put satellites into orbits as high as 650 kilometers and lift as much as four tons into space. By treaty, Russia must withdraw all of its SS-18s from service (military or commercial) by 2007. Since the missiles require only minor modification for use as boosters, Russia has already decommissioned most of it's SS-18s and has sold 160 for use as satellite launchers. The first use of an SS-19 as a satellite launcher was in 1999. Satellites can be put into orbit on an SS-18 for $5-10,000 a pound. In addition to this income, Russia saves the cost of destroying the missiles (over $200,000 each), which it is obliged to do by treaty.


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