First commissioned in 1966, the iconic Russian Soyuz rocket is now the world's most used space launcher with over 1800 flights to its credit. The Soyuz vehicle is a three-stage rocket, 49.5 metres high with a main diameter of 2.95 metres and a maximum diameter of 10.3 metres. Its liftoff mass is around 305,000 kilograms. The core stage is fitted with four conical liquid fuelled strap-on boosters for extra lift during the initial flight phase. Each booster has a single rocket motor with four combustion chambers, and one set of turbopumps. All four boosters are ignited before liftoff to reach full thrust and are jettisoned once their fuel tanks are empty. The core stage, boosters and third stage all use refined kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellant. The boosters are arranged around the central core stage, each holding a total of 39,600 kilos of propellant. All boosters ignite about 20 seconds before launch to allow the turbopumps to spin up to flight speed, and after liftoff burn for 118 seconds before separating from the launch vehicle. The engines provide 792 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust at launch.
The artwork “symmetrical boosters“ visualises the bottom of a Soyuz rocket erected on the launch pad and enclosed by a mobile launch gantry. The rocket is transported from integration building to launch pad by a special train which erects the rocket to vertical position at the pad where Soyuz is suspended on four support arms. Once vertical, the mobile gantry moves in, enclosing the Soyuz rocket for integration of the final payload. The image composition shows an unusual perspective, positioning the viewer’s eye directly under the launcher. From this angle the engine’s symmetrical configuration with the core stage and the 4 side boosters is clearly visible. The duotone colour composition highlights the red combustion chamber covers of the 5 rocket engines. These protective inserts are clipped onto the nozzles to keep debris out during transport to the launch pad and are removed shortly before launch together with the mobile gantry. The artwork gives the viewer not only an idea but a distinct feeling of the tremendous power of the nearly 800 kilonewtons of thrust that erupt from the engines during the launch sequence, catapulting the heavyweight rocket up into space. “symmetrical boosters “ pictures the same rocket featured in the artwork “ignition“ at the moment when all its engines are fully ignited and the firetrail bursts from its boosters.