Russia’s RS-12M Topol ICBM retires and goes into the space program

MOSCOW, BM, ($1=73.09 Russian Rubles) – According to unconfirmed official information, but according to a TASS source from the Russian military-industrial complex, Moscow will retire the RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile in 2024. The future of the Russian ballistic missile is set to continue in some Russian space missions, such as the Start-1 launch vehicle.

Russia currently has 360 RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles in service with dozens of missile divisions, part of Russia’s strategic missile forces. The news has not yet been officially confirmed, and the press service of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT) – the main enterprise in the development of ballistic missiles – also refused to comment on the topic.

The practice of redirecting intercontinental ballistic missiles to space programs also exists in other countries. The United States, for example, uses its obsolete Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile as a launch vehicle for various space missions, the last of which was on June 15 this year, when the spy satellite NROL-111 was launched into space.

RS-12M Topol is a solid propellant rocket. This year, Moscow is expected to confirm two things: restarting the use of the Start-1 launch vehicle and using the RS-12M Topol for this purpose. The restart of Start-1 was discussed in 2020 when in an interview with TASS Yuri Solomonov, Director General of MIT said that he expected the decision of the governing bodies in the country to happen.

Solomonov then hinted that if there was economic efficiency, the Start-1 launch vehicle would most likely be put back into service for the Russian space forces. Even then, there was talk among Moscow’s scientific community that Start-1 could become a significant space opportunity to launch a series of small Russian satellites.

The Start-1 or RS-12M Topol can carry a payload of up to 500 kg in low orbit. The mass of the launch vehicle alone is nearly 47 kg. Start-1 has its history in the Russian space program – seven flights between 1993 and 2006. All seven were performed from the two smaller space launch sites – Plesetsk and Free (now Eastern).

The retirement of the RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile could mean that Russia is redirecting its financial resources to two other similar ballistic missiles currently being developed, the Cedar and Aspen.

RS-12M Topol ICBM will be replaced by another intercontinental ballistic missile, but newer – Yars. The Strategic Missile Forces commander, Sergei Karakaev, announced in early December 2020 that the troops had already received more than 150 newest Yars missile systems.

Intercontinental ballistic “Yars” differ from the first modifications. These missiles and launchers can receive commands from the most advanced control systems. Directly on patrol routes, they can receive an order for combat use, which significantly reduces the time for preparing and delivering a retaliatory nuclear strike. Also, it is believed that now the Yars are in service with two options of equipment – with light warheads, partially unified with the Bulava and Liner sea ballistic missiles, and the more powerful Yars-S with medium-power warheads. The Russian forces can use such ammunition against the most essential and well-defended targets such as underground command posts and positions of potential enemy strategic missile systems.


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