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Fregat (Russian: Фрегат, frigate) is an upper stage developed by NPO Lavochkin in the 1990s, which is used in some Soyuz and Zenit rockets. Fregat became operational in February 2000[3]. Its liquid propellant engine uses UDMH and N2O4.

MAKS Airshow 2013 (Ramenskoye Airport, Russia) (525-13).jpg
Model of the Fregat-SB
ManufacturerNPO Lavochkin
Country of originRussia
Used onSoyuz, Zenit-3F
General characteristics
DiameterFregat/Fregat-M: 3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Fregat-MT: 3.80 m (12.5 ft)
Length1.5 m (4.9 ft)
Propellant massFregat: 5,250 kg (11,570 lb)

Fregat-M: 5,600 kg (12,300 lb)

Fregat-MT: 7,100 kg (15,700 lb)
Empty massFregat: 930 kg (2,050 lb)

Fregat-M: 980 kg (2,160 lb)

Fregat-MT: 1,050 kg (2,310 lb)
Engine details
Thrust19.85 kilonewtons (4,460 lbf)
Specific impulse333.2 seconds
Burn time1,350 seconds[2]



Fregat upper stage is designed for injecting large payloads into a low, medium-height or high geosynchronous orbit. Fregat is a versatile upper stage, in addition to orbital insertion, it can be used as an escape stage to send modern space probes into interplanetary trajectories (e.g. Venus Express and Mars Express). Fregat stages are currently used as the fourth stage of some Soyuz launch vehicles. The stage can be restarted up to 25 times,[2]

NPO Lavochkin has built many interplanetary probes, and the Fregat stage follows their design traditions. The main part of the stage is six intersecting spheres placed on a single plane, four of which contain propellants. The remaining two contain the control equipment. The main engine is placed between the spheres, so Fregat is a tightly-packed stage with a diameter much larger than its height. A set of eight struts through the tanks provide an attachment point for the payload, and also transfer thrust loads to the launcher. The Fregat stage is independent from lower stages, since it has its own guidance, navigation, attitude control, tracking, and telemetry systems. The Fregat uses storable propellants (UDMH/NTO) and can be restarted up to 20 times in flight – enabling it to carry out complex mission profiles. It can provide three-axis or spin stabilization of the spacecraft payload.[4]


August 2014 failureEdit

The Arianespace-operated flight of a Fregat MT ended in failure on 22 August 2014 after the vehicle deposited two EU/ESA Galileo navigation satellites into the wrong orbit. The lift off at 1227 GMT from the Sinnamary launch site near Kourou, French Guiana, appeared to go well. However, a failure was only apparent later when, after the second firing of the Fregat MT upper stage had taken place, the satellites were detected as being in the wrong orbit.[5]

The Independent Inquiry Board formed to analyze the causes of the "anomaly" announced its definitive conclusions on October 7, 2014 following a meeting at Arianespace headquarters in Évry, near Paris.[6]

The failure occurred during the flight of the Fregat fourth stage. It occurred about 35 minutes after liftoff, at the beginning of the ballistic phase preceding the second ignition of this stage.

The scenario that led to an error in the orbital injection of the satellites was precisely reconstructed, as follows:

  • The orbital error resulted from an error in the thrust orientation of the main engine on the Fregat stage during its second powered phase.
  • This orientation error was the result of the loss of inertial reference for the stage.
  • This loss occurred when the stage's inertial system operated outside its authorized operating envelope, an excursion that was caused by the failure of two of Fregat's attitude control thrusters during the preceding ballistic phase.
  • This failure was due to a temporary interruption of the joint hydrazine propellant supply to these thrusters.
  • The interruption in the flow was caused by freezing of the hydrazine.
  • The freezing resulted from the proximity of hydrazine and cold helium feed lines, these lines being connected by the same support structure, which acted as a thermal bridge.
  • Ambiguities in the design documents allowed the installation of this type of thermal "bridge" between the two lines. In fact, such bridges have also been seen on other Fregat stages now under production at NPO Lavochkin.
  • The design ambiguity is the result of not taking into account the relevant thermal transfers during the thermal analyses of the stage system design.

The root cause of the failure of flight VS09 is therefore a shortcoming in the system thermal analysis performed during stage design, and not an operator error during stage assembly.[6][7]

Since August 22, 2014 Soyuz ST-B launch vehicles with Fregat-MT upper stages have performed three successful launches, six Galileo (satellite navigation) navigation satellites have been inserted into their target orbits in frame of Soyuz at the Guiana Space Centre ongoing ESA programme.[8][9][10]

November 2017 failureEdit

The Russian-operated flight of a Fregat upper stage ended in failure after the vehicle deposited the upper stage, a Meteor MS-1 weather satellite, and 18 secondary cubesats back into Earth's atmosphere due to the first Fregat burn being ignited with the stage in the wrong orientation.[11] The guidance computer on the Soyuz rocket's Fregat upper stage was mis-programmed, causing it to begin an unnecessary turn that left it in the wrong orientation for a critical engine burn required to enter orbit.[12]



Fregat-M/Fregat-MT tanks have ball-shaped additions on the tops of the tanks. These additions increase the load capability of the propellant from 5,350 kilograms (11,790 lb) to 6,640 kilograms (14,640 lb), without causing any other changes to the physical dimensions of the vehicle.[2]


A version called Fregat-SB can be used with Zenit-2SB rocket. This version is a variation of Fregat-M with a block of drop-off tanks ("SBB" or Сбрасываемый Блок Баков in Russian) which makes increased payload capability possible. The torus-shaped SBB weighs 360 kilograms (790 lb) and contains up to 3,050 kilograms (6,720 lb) of propellant. The total dry weight of the Fregat-SB (including SBB) is 1,410 kilograms (3,110 lb) and the maximum propellant carrying capacity is 10,150 kilograms (22,380 lb).[13]

Fregat-SB was launched for the first time on 20 January 2011, when it lifted the Elektro-L weather satellite into geosynchronous orbit.[14]

All versions dataEdit

Fregat Upper Stage Family[15]
Stage Fregat Fregat-M Fregat-MT Fregat-SB Fregat-SBU Fregat-2
Engine S5.92 S5.92 l.n. (Long Nozzle)
Total Launches 22 18 8 3 - -
Thrust (Low) 13.73 kN (3,090 lbf) 13.96 kN (3,140 lbf)
Thrust (High) 19.61 kN (4,410 lbf) 20.01 kN (4,500 lbf)
Specific Impulse (Low) 3,168 N*s/kg 3,222 N*s/kg
Specific Impulse (High) 3,207 N*s/kg 3,268 N*s/kg
Propellant (Max) 5,350 kg (11,790 lb) 6,640 kg (14,640 lb) 7,100 kg (15,700 lb) 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) 10,710 kg (23,610 lb) 12,240 kg (26,980 lb)
Burn Time 1,235...874 s 1,535...1,085 s 1,640...1,160 s 2,310...1,635 s 2,475...1,750 s 2,830...2,000 s
Flow Rate 4.3...6.1 kg/s
Total Impulse 16.9...17.2 MN*s 21.4...21.7 MN*s 22.9...23.2 MN*s 32.2...32.7 MN*s 34.5...35.0 MN*s 39.4...40.0 MN*s


  1. ^ "Конструкция разгонного блока "Фрегат"". NPO Lavochkin (in Russian). Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Fregat space tug". RussianSpaceWeb. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-13. Retrieved 2014-10-08. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b "Soyuz Flight VS09: Independent Inquiry Board announces definitive conclusions concerning the Fregat upper stage anomaly" (Press release). Evry: Arianespace. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Soyuz Flight VS09: Independent Inquiry Board announces definitive conclusions concerning the Fregat upper stage anomaly - Arianespace".
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2016-01-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-01-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Russian weather satellite and 18 secondary payloads lost after rocket failure – Spaceflight Now".
  12. ^ "Russian official blames Nov. 28 launch failure on botched software programming – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  13. ^ "L'étage supérieur Fregat-SB : descriptif technique (in French)". 2012-12-12.
  14. ^ "Russia meteo satellite Electro-L successfully orbited". ITAR-TASS. 2011-01-21. Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ "NPO Lavochkin's Fregat upper stage, Gallery". Retrieved 2015-08-05.

External linksEdit