Mar 08

Space Rocket History #200 – Luna 15

In February of 1969, the first launch of the Soviet Moon Rocket, the N-1, exploded.  By April, the Soviets still did not have a clear program of subsequent piloted Soyuz fights. In May, the Soviets watched the successful US lunar orbital flight and practice landing of Apollo 10. In June, a Lunar Sample return mission failed when the Block D stage refused to ignite. On July 3rd the second N1 launch failed with a spectacular explosion…

Soviet Luna 15 was designed to take a sample of Lunar soil and return it to Earth

Ye-8 lunar sample return spacecraft – detail of re-entry vehicle
Credit: Mark Wade

Ye-8 Sample Return method

Mar 01

Space Rocket History #199 – The Second Test Flight of the Soviet N1 Moon Rocket

On July 3, 1969, the same month as the the Apollo 11 Moon landing, The Soviet Union made another secret attempt to fly their giant Moon rocket.

N1-5L Rollout to pad. Credit Russia Space Web

Raising N1-5L

Escape system activated for N1-5L. Credit Russian Space Web.

Sep 07

Space Rocket History #176 – The First Test Flight of the Soviet N1

Finally, on the morning of February 21, all the population of the N1 assembly area and a residential area, situated just south of the launch pad, was ordered to evacuate. The giant service structure then rolled away leaving the dark-gray rocket with a white payload fairing towering under sunny skies. The weather was extremely cold, with temperatures falling to minus 44 C degrees, and stormy winds.  In the fortified firing control room, the Commander of the 6th Directorate, took the firing command position at the main periscope…

Apollo CSM/LM vs. Soviet L3 Complex. Credit Mark Wade

Apollo CSM/LM vs. Soviet L3 Complex. Credit Mark Wade

N1 image taken by US KH-8 Reconnaissance satellite

N1 image taken by US KH-8 Reconnaissance satellite

N1 on the launch pad

N1 on the launch pad

Mar 03

Space Rocket History #151 – Zond 4

When we left the Soviet Union they had somewhat successfully landed a probe on Venus and they had completed the automatic docking of two Soyuz 7K-OK spacecrafts.  However they did not reach their goal of a circumlunar flight in time for the 50th anniversary of the glorious revolution.

L1 - Zond

L1 – Zond

Mishin, Agadzhanov, & Chertok

Mishin, Agadzhanov, & Chertok

7K-L1 spacecraft on Proton booster

7K-L1 spacecraft on Proton booster

Jan 07

Space Rocket History #143 – The First Soyuz Automatic Docking and the Secret Plan

After 1957, the Soviets became accustomed to achieving “world firsts” in space accomplishments. Nevertheless, 10 years later they were not confident that they could pull off the world’s first fully automatic rendezvous and docking of two un-piloted Soyuz spacecraft.  At the time the chance for success was estimated at only 50/50.

Vasily Mishin at Baykonur in 1967. Credit B. Chertok

Vasily Mishin at Baykonur in 1967. Credit B. Chertok

Armen Mnatsakanyan the main designer of Igla. Credit B. Chertok

Armen Mnatsakanyan the main designer of Igla. Credit B. Chertok

Igla docking system antennas.

Igla docking system antennas.

Dec 17

Space Rocket History #141 – Soyuz 1: The Crash

“It’s a terrible scene. Komarov burned up. All the instruments burned. We must quickly find out what prevented the main parachute from unlatching.” Chief Designer Mishin after he arrived at the Soyuz 1 crash site.

Soyuz 1 crash site

Soyuz 1 crash site

Soyuz 1 crash site

Soyuz 1 crash site

Validmir Komarov by Joe G.

Vlaidmir Komarov by Joe G.

Dec 10

Space Rocket History #140 – Soyuz 1: The Flight

“I was the last one to see him alive and I told him ‘See you soon!’” Yuri Gagarin, recalls bidding farewell to his friend Kamarov in Soyuz 1.

Kamarov with Gagarin

Kamarov with Gagarin

Soyuz 1 on the Pad

Soyuz 1 on the Pad

Soyuz 1 shown with both panels extended

Soyuz 1 shown with both panels extended

Dec 03

Space Rocket History #139 – Soyuz 1: Preparation

With the success of Kosmos 146 and in spite of the failures of the first three 7K-Ok’s it was now time to plan for a Soyuz manned mission. The planned involved the launch and docking of two piloted Soyuzes. Soyuz 7K-OK production model number 4 was assigned the role of the active vehicle. The active vehicle was supposed to carry one cosmonaut into earth orbit. Twenty-four hours later, vehicle No. 5 (the passive vehicle) carrying three cosmonauts would be inserted in orbit. After rendezvouing, two cosmonauts from vehicle No. 5 would transfer through open space to vehicle No. 4.

Kosmos 146. A 7K-L1 model.

Kosmos 146. A 7K-L1 model.

7K-OK and 7K-L1 Rendezvous Concept

7K-OK and 7K-L1 Rendezvous Concept. Credit Mark Wade

Sketch of Vladimir Komarov by Joe G.

Sketch of Vladimir Komarov by Joe G.