An evolution of the currently operational Soyuz, the new version of the launch vehicle meets the market's needs for a versatile, flexible vehicle capable of performing a wide range of commercial missions. With its successful inaugural flight on December 27, 2006 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the evolved Soyuz marks the latest step in a cooperative European/Russian evolution program and will become the centerpiece of the European launcher fleet flying from French Guiana starting in 2011.

The evolution began with Starsem in 1999 and the addition of the restartable Ikar upper stage to the three-stage Soyuz, which then launched 24 satellites of the Globalstar constellation in six flights. Following this success, Starsem introduced the flexible, restartable Fregat upper stage from NPO Lavochkin with significantly more propellant capacity than the Ikar. To date, the Soyuz has flown six consecutive successful commercial missions with the Fregat upper stage.

The modernized version of Soyuz features the following major upgrades:

a) A Digital control system with a digital computer and inertial measurement unit (IMU) based on proven technology, giving the Soyuz improved navigation accuracy and control capability. The digital control system is located primarily in the equipment bay of the third stage and was flight-qualified during the inaugural flight of a Soyuz 2-1a launch vehicle performed on November 8, 2004 from the Plessetsk Cosmodrome.

The introduction of the digital control system leads to the following advantages:

- A more flexible and more efficient attitude control system (ACS) capable of handling the increased aerodynamic instability generated by the larger ST fairing.
- Increased accuracy in the flight of the first three stages of the Soyuz.
- The ability to perform in-flight roll maneuvers as well as in-plane yaw steering (dog-leg) maneuvers.

b) The ST-type fairing with an external diameter of 4.110 m and a length of 11.400 m. The ST fairing enables the Soyuz to accommodate standard medium-class GTO telecommunications spacecraft in a dedicated configuration and to carry smaller payloads in a multiple-manifest configuration for LEO, MEO, SSO and escape missions. The ST fairing was flight-qualified on October 19, 2006.

c) The RD-0124 engine is a staged combustion engine powered by a multi-stage turbopump spun by gas from combustion of the main propellants in a gas generator. These oxygen-rich combustion gases are recovered to feed the four main combustion chambers where kerosene, coming from the regenerative cooling circuit, is injected. Attitude control is provided by main engine activation along one axis in two planes. LOX and kerosene tanks are pressurized by the heating and evaporation of helium coming from storage vessels located in the LOX tank.

The RD-0124 engine adds an additional 34 seconds of Isp, significantly increasing the overall launch vehicle performance, as demonstrated during its inaugural flight on December 27, 2006.

The decision of the ESA member states to introduce the new modernized Soyuz to the European Space Port in French Guiana (CSG) is a major step in widening the range of accessible missions for the Soyuz. Following the construction of a new Soyuz launch pad coordinated between the European, French and Russian S pace Agencies, the launch vehicle's inaugural flight from the European Space Port is scheduled for 2011.

With the introduction of the Soyuz to CSG, this famed Russian launch vehicle becomes an integral part of the European launcher fleet, together with the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the lightweight Vega. To be offered exclusively by Arianespace to the commercial market, the Soyuz from CSG is Europe's reference medium-class launch vehicle for governmental and commercial missions.