CryoSat-2 was launched on 8 April 2010 by a Dnepr – a converted SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile – from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Most of the SS-18 missiles, the most powerful weapon in the Soviet arsenal, were decommissioned under the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but could be adapted for civil use. In 1997, Russia and Ukraine formed the International Space Company Kosmotras to convert the missiles into Dnepr launch vehicles.
Dnepr is a three-stage vehicle. The first and second stages are original SS-18 stages, used without any modification. The third stage is a modified standard SS-18 third stage equipped with a liquid propellant, two-mode propulsion unit that operates based on a 'drag' scheme in which it flies backwards, dragging the satellite behind it to ensure the most accurate orbit injection.
The overall length is 34 m, and the overall diameter is 3 m. The lift-off mass of the rocket is 211 t. It is launched from a silo, being expelled like a mortar round with a charge of black powder, before the main engine ignition some 30 m above the ground.
Over 30 commercial satellites have been launched by Dnepr. Kosmotras also provides the launch services.