Here is a type of article you will not find in today's modeling
magazines; it is an in-depth look at the state of Russia's space
program in the late 1960s. In 1968, the Cold War was in full swing,
and recently constructed survival shelters were still stocked with
food, water, clothing, and medicine in case some crazed general
in Russia decided to push that would launch a barrage of ICBMs over
the North Pole and into the USA. President Kennedy's challenge to
send a man to the moon and safely return him was a year away from
reality, and the Space Race was revealing how different design and
execution strategies can be toward accomplishing the same goal of
manned space flight. Maybe it is cultural bias, but I have always
believed that American rocket design looked much more eloquent -
even beautiful - than the Russian efforts. Could it be a result
in the vastly alternative mindsets of Capitalism versus Socialism/Communism,
where the former had as part of its nature a desire to appeal to
consumers who had a choice in what they buy as opposed to the latter
where consumers had to accept what the ruling class offered. Functionality
was the only requirement. Communism produced ugly, black cars while
Capitalism was offering vast choices of colors and styles. Members
of the oligarchy imported their cars. The Worker's Paradise thing
never did fool the proletariat. This article from the July 1968
edition of American Aircraft modeler is an excellent illustration
of what I mean.
The Truth About the Russian Space Program
G. Harry Stine
Photography /CTK, Space Business Daily, G.
EXCEPT for the obvious, well-documented results of the Soviet Union's
space program in the past decade, there has been a shroud of secrecy
around the actual vehicles, techniques, and equipment used by the
Soviets to accomplish the numerous "firsts" in astronautics. Tass,
the So vie news agency has never been reticent about announcing
every Soviet space achievement as it has occurred, and Sovfoto has
released numerous pictures of the Sputniks, Kosmos, Luniks. and
other satellites and space probes. As a result of this secrecy,
a tremendous amount of speculation about the Soviet space program
has been carried out in Europe and the United States. Some Soviet
space watchers, myself included, have continued to keep a quiet
archive, awaiting the day when enough information became available
to piece together a logical, unemotional, solidly based historical
story of the Soviet space program.
The complete Vostok spacecraft as it was displayed in
Moscow in May 1965. Note vernier-thruster nozzles and top-stage
engine nozzle. Shown here in orbital configuration, it may
be compared to drawing.
Vostok command module sphere on display in Moscow shows
dummy cosmonaut in ejection seat, and hatch used for entrance
and ejection. Open hatch, left, to parachute storage - with
the risers attached.
Standard Soviet space carrier rocket with Vostok spacecraft.
Strap-on boosters and hammerhead configuration of sustainer
core are visible. The unfaired hatch in nose shroud is for
Vostok and its carrier rocket before launch. Hold-down arms
grasp forward booster attach points. Two umbilical towers
swing back on lift-off. The vans are rail cars. Base of
carrier rests below launch pad.
Interior of Voskhod 1 cabin shows viewport between the feet
of the command pilot and simple instrument panel. Cabin
heavily padded. Quite a contrast to the instrument and control
panels of the U. S. Gemini.
Umbilical connector and shroud connecting the Vostok command
module to service module positioned so as not to penetrate
ablative heat shield. The 1:16 model on display London Kensington
RD-107 rocket engine has four main thrust chambers and two
vernier chambers, supplied with Lox and kerosene by a single
turbo-pump. The main chamber at left was cut away to show
Top stage of standard carrier rocket as displayed at Paris
Air Show in 1961. Basic top stage was added to sustainer-booster
vehicle in 1959-1960 to raise the orbital capability to
more than 10,000 lbs. Capability at that date was impressive.
Arrangement of the 20 main thrust chambers of the standard
Soviet space carrier rocket are clearly shown here, as it
was prepared for display at Paris Air Show. Rocket is robustly
constructed for handling and erection.
In 1967, the year of the 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution
and the 10th Anniversary of the launching of Sputnik I, this shroud
of secrecy was lifted by the Soviets. As of this writing, the shroud
is almost completely gone, allowing us to determine exactly how
the Soviets did it.
So much data is now being released so rapidly that it is quite
difficult to keep up with it all.
What stands revealed is a space program characterized by decades
of supporting research and development. long-term planning, constantly
increasing support, and excellent engineering.
This is confirmed by the unveiling of the standard Soviet space
launch vehicle "carrier rocket," in their terminology - at the
Paris Air Show held at le Bourget on May 26, 1967. At the same time,
the Soviets revealed details of the rocket engines used to power
their vehicles. This has been followed in 1968 by additional photographic
and motion picture film releases from Tass and Sovfoto, as well
as from the Czech news agency (CTK). This evidence, in turn, confirms
the fact that the Soviets developed and used a large launch vehicle
during the first decade of the Space Age.
The standard Soviet space launch vehicle is undoubtedly the original
T-3 ICBM. This conjecture is supported by the early 1957 flight
history of the T-3 ICBM as announced by the Soviets and revealed
by our long-range Turkish-based tracking radars.
Briefly, the history of the Soviet space program goes back to
1903, the year of publication of the initial works of Konstantin
E. Tsiolkovski dealing with the use of multi-staged rocket-propelled
space vehicles. In 1919, the first Soviet rocket research laboratory,
the Leningrad Gas Dynamics Laboratory (LENGIRD) was established.
The Soviets were flying their first liquid-propellant sounding rockets
in the 1930's. They received a windfall (as we did) in 1945 with
the capture of the German rocket research center at Peenemunde,
the German A4 (V -2) assembly factory, Mittelwerk, near Nordhausen,
and several hundred German A4 rocket production and test engineers.
The USA got von Braun's design and development team. By 1949, most
of these German rocket engineers had been returned to Germany by
the Soviets, who had, in the meantime, cranked-up the A4 production
line again. Several improved versions of the A4 were developed by
the Soviets. But, by and large, their rocket development work remained
their own; they learned from the Germans and then modified their
own developments from this teaching.
We can lay to rest forever the fallacy that the Soviet space
program was German in origin and execution. Facts no longer will
support this notion.
Both the Soviet Union and the United States started serious design
studies of a nuclear-tipped ICBM at about the same time. The USA
demurred from building the very large rocket vehicle that would
have been required to carry the bulky and heavy nuclear and thermonuclear
warheads of 1950-1952. The Soviets went ahead and built the kind
of big rocket it would take to deliver such a heavy warhead over
intercontinental ranges. We waited until the "thermonuclear breakthrough"
of 1953 permitted smaller TN warheads and therefore smaller ICBM's
of the size of the Atlas SM-65. By 1957, the Soviets found themselves
with a very large rocket capable of carrying very heavy payloads
over both ICBM range and into orbit.
Based on the data filed with the FAI in Paris for the Soviet
manned flight records, we believed that the Soviets had developed
some very large liquid propellant rocket engines. The Soviet data
submitted to FAI clearly states that the launch vehicle was powered
by six rocket engines. To achieve the payload orbiting capability
announced by the Soviets, this meant that the rocket engines would
have to be large.
In US terminology, a rocket engine is a single
combustion chamber with a single turbo-pump supplying its propellants.
There have been some exceptions to this, namely the RMI XLR-11 four-chambered
"Black Betsy" that powered the Bell X-1, the Convair MX-774, the
Douglas D-558-2, and the early version of the X-15.
But, to the Soviet engineers, a rocket engine was one or more
combustion chambers linked together to be supplied by a single turbo
pump. This follows the same logic that terms a V8 automobile engine
as an engine, although it may have eight separately acting combustion
cylinders; a V8 automobile is not powered by eight separate engines,
This glaring difference in rocket terminology which caused some
observers to conclude that the Soviets were either lying, or had
big combustion chambers available, was resolved when the standard
Soviet space vehicle was displayed at Paris. According to Soviet
terminology, this launch rocket does indeed have six rocket engines
Four main thrust chambers and two vernier chambers with a single
turbo pump in each of four strap-on boosters. This is known as the
RD-I07 rocket engine. Four main thrust chambers and four vernier
chambers with a single turbo pump in the central sustainer core,
known as the RD-108 rocket engine. A single thrust chamber and four
vernier chambers with a single turbo-pump in the top stage. This
engine designation is unknown, but may be the RD-119.
Totals: four boosters, one sustainer, one top stage. Six rocket
engines in all, Soviet style, and six turbo-pumps.
In operation, the Soviet carrier rocket is a 1% stage vehicle
with a series top stage. As we will see, the top series stage was
added to the basic booster as the program progressed. According
to Space Business Daily, the Soviets refer to this carrier rocket
as the RD-107, the same designation as the booster engines.
At lift-off, it operates as a parallel-staged vehicle. The four
RD-107 engines of the boosters and the RD-108 of the sustainer core
are ignited at the same time. This is a total of 20 main thrust
chambers and 12 vernier chambers, providing an estimated total takeoff
thrust of 950,000 lbs., increasing to 1,150,000 in vacuum. At an
undisclosed time and altitude, the four strap-on boosters separate
from the sustainer core, probably by having explosive bolts sever
the fore and aft attachments. The hammerheaded sustainer core continues
thrusting with its RD-108 engine producing 228,480 lbs. of thrust.
In due course - thrust duration unknown the sustainer core propellant
tanks are emptied, and the RD-108 shuts down. If the vehicle is
carrying its top stage, the single-chambered top stage engine then
lights-off with "fire-in-the-hole" technique, and explosive bolts
separate the top stage from the interstage truss structure.
Soviet rocket technology must certainly be applauded if their
engineers can manage to ignite simultaneously 32 thrust chambers
at launch. The ignition technique is very similar to that of the
German A4, as shown by released motion pictures of the start sequence.
At the ignition signal, propellant valves open permitting the propellants
- liquid oxygen and kerosene to flow to all combustion chambers
by a combination of gravity feed and tank pressurization. We don't
know whether ignition is accomplished by pyrotechnic igniters in
each chamber or by use of "hypergolic leads" - slugs of propellants
introduced into the engine plumbing between tanks and chamber injectors
so that when they initially come into contact after the start signal,
they start a fire simply by contact with each other. Thus, in this
"preliminary stage," a very low-thrust combustion process gets ignition
going in all 32 thrust chambers.
Using either instruments to detect combustion in all chambers
or eyeball inspetion through periscopes from the blockhouse, the
launch crew has a few seconds to determine if all chambers are lit
off satisfactorily. If everything is well, the "main stage" signal
is sent, starting the turbo pumps. Thrust in all chambers then rises
rapidly to some 950,000 lbs. total because the propellants are being
driven into the combustion chambers by the turbo pumps. Once thrust
has risen to the correct level, four launcher arms swing back from
their hold-down attachment points at the forward booster attachments,
leaving the vehicle free to lift off at an acceleration of about
1.3 gees, which is nearly optimum.
Unlike our paper-thin Atlas vehicle which also uses a modified
1%-stage principle - jetissoning only two outboard booster engines,
however, instead of engines and tanks - the Soviet carrier rocket
is built very solidly. While the vehicle was being assembled at
Paris, technicians walked up and down all over it. It was lifted
and placed on its railway car erector by two cranes which picked
it up and the forward and aft booster attachment points. By using
the strap-on booster concept with parallel staging, the Soviets
were able to make a much shorter vehicle than would have been possible
with series staging, and the carrier rocket is therefore a much
stiffer vehicle than our smaller Atlas. There is also evidence that
Soviet engineers paid a great deal of attention to aerodynamics
in their design.
This sustainer-booster combination is undoubtedly the first-generation
Soviet ICBM, often termed the T-3 and also called the M-108, although
the latter designation may have referred only to an earlier version
of the RD-107 rocket engine. As such, the sustainer-booster combination
alone launched the first three Sputniks without a top stage. Soviet
photos have been released showing the launching of Sputnik III with
no top stage and no interstage support trusses. Another photo has
been released showing a top stage and interstage truss structure
with the caption, "Launching of the Soviet pioneer manmade earth
satellite." Therefore, the exact configuration of the launch vehicle
for the first three Sputniks is, at this time, unconfirmed, but
the standard Soviet space carrier rocket was indeed used to launch
Although the spherical Sputnik I was only 24" in diameter and
weighed 184 lbs., it is not generally known that the Soviets orbited
a total of some 8,000 lbs. on the first shot. Sputnik II weighed
in at 1,120 lbs. with the dog Laika aboard, and again some 8,000
lbs. were orbited. Sputnik II was a bright object in the heavens,
and I watched it go overhead many times. Sputnik II was photographed
from Cape Canaveral, and RCA Service, Inc. estimated its length
between 74 and 84 ft. The Royal Aircraft Establishment in England
estimated from tracking data that the entire Sputnik II vehicle
was 7.6 ft. in diameter and 65.6 ft. long. The total length of the
carrier rocket sustainer core plus Sputnik II payload shroud is
actually between 95 and 110 ft. long (depending upon whether or
not the top stage structure and interstage trusses were really used),
which is very close to the photo-based estimates of 1958.
The first three Sputniks were therefore orbited using only the
booster-sustainer configuration without any top stage. With Sputnik
I, the rocket was operating far below its maximum payload-carrying
capability. Even with the 2926-lb. Sputnik III, the vehicle was
operating far below the 3087-lb. orbital capability of the booster,
a figure recently revealed by Soviet professor G. V. Petrovich.
In 1959-1960, the Soviets added the top stage to the RD-I07,
and this was first tested on the launching of Luna I on January
2, 1959. This, then, was the complete 2½-stage booster that was
eventually to launch the manned Vostoks. Petrovich announced recently
that the orbital capability of this booster was 10,143 lbs., and
this was very close to the weight of Spacecraft I, launched May
15, 1960, which put an unmanned Vostok into orbit for the first
The Soviets did not go at their manned orbital program lightly.
There is absolutely no substantiation at this time to the persistent
rumor that the Soviets lost one or more cosmonauts in the Vostok
program. When they finally did lose a man, Komarov, in the first
Soyuz flight, they did not try to hide the fact. They even went
to great lengths in the unmanned Vostok test program to keep the
West from believing that they had a cosmonaut in orbit; for the
test of the communications in one of the unmanned flights, they
deliberately used a recording of a choral group singing folk songs
rather than the recorded voice of a single man. The Soviets do have
a sense of humor, because they have admitted with chuckles that
they also thought that this chorus from space would cause a bit
of confusion among Western listeners!
They also used their most reliable orbital weight-lifter as the
launch vehicle, the standard carrier rocket. By the time they orbited
the first unmanned Vostok in May 1960, they had had at least six
tests of the vehicle as an ICBM (probably more), three orbital Sputnik
shots, and three lunar shots. Their Vostok program was not without
problems, however. Technology is technology, and there are no infallible
super-engineers. They lost Spacecraft I, which is still going around
in orbit as an unmanned Vostok. Spacecraft III, another unmanned
Vostok precursor flight, burned up on re-entry. However, by the
time their carrier rocket was "man rated," at the time of the first
manned flight, the Soviets had had at least 18 space launches (that
we know of) with the carrier rocket, two of which failed (that we
know of). Undoubtedly, there were more flights of the vehicle than
that, some of them being the Pacific test shots that were run during
that time period. Therefore, the Soviets had a man-rated launch
vehicle of very high reliability by the time Yuri Gagarin climbed
aboard and rode into history once around the world on April 12,
Having available the large standard carrier rocket, the Soviets
were not as limited in the weight of their manned spacecraft as
was NASA with the Mercury spacecraft lofted by the Atlas-D. The
nominal orbital weight of the Vostok spacecraft, in. eluding pilot,
is given by the Soviets as 4725 kilograms (10,422.5 lbs.) . Therefore,
they did not need to cut things as finely as the USA did with Mercury.
The Soviets could afford the weight of a dual-gas-oxygen and nitrogen
- capsule atmosphere, plus enough consumables to permit Vostok to
remain in orbit for long periods of time - 64 orbits in the case
of Nikolayev in Vostok 3. They even had television transmission
from the Vostok.
The Vostok capsule is a very strong and rugged vehicle, as evidence
by the released photographs. It also came as a great surprise to
Western engineers to see from released motion pictures that the
Soviets do not use "white room" techniques in the assembly and check-out
of the Vostoks. Photos plainly show the Vostok capsules being assembled
in huge hangars. The equipment aboard is also very rugged and heavy;
a photo shows a coveralled Soviet technician installing some electrical
gear with a large 250-watt soldering iron.
The Vostok capsule that is placed in orbit consists of 1) the
entire top stage of the carrier rocket, 2) a service module carrying
electronics, consumables, and re-entry rockets, and 3) a spherical
re-entry command module. An aerodynamic shroud protects the spacecraft
during launch and perhaps is jettisoned after separation of the
top stage from the booster sustainer core.
The only thrusters visible on the Vostok spacecraft that have
been displayed in Paris, Moscow, and Montreal are the four nozzles
located on the aft end of the top stage. These may also be vernier
rockets for final orbit adjustment. They appear to be canted slightly
to provide roll control as well as pitch and yaw control when operated
singly or in pairs.
When ready for re-entry, the top stage is jettisoned, revealing
the conical-shaped aft end of the service module. This has never
been displayed, but is shown in both Czech and Polish drawings.
Although its exact shape is therefore open to question, it must
also mount some manner of attitude control thrusters to align the
command and service modules for proper re-entry rocket firing angle.
The re-entry rocket engine is apparently at the small end of the
conical frustum of the service module. After firing of the re-entry
retro rocket, the service module is separated from the spherical
command module, probably by releasing the straps that go around
the command module. The service module thrusters, wherever they
are located, may also impart a roll to the command module after
it is positioned in the proper re-entry attitude.
The command module is a sphere 96" in diameter. The displayed
Vostok had a coating of aluminum foil over the sphere to provide
thermal control. Released Soviet photos indicate that the sphere
is coated with an ablative heat shield material on the hemisphere
at the pilot's back, while the remainder of the sphere is protected
with honeycomb material.
Early USA manned capsule designs used the spherical shape, but
this was later modified to the blunted cone shape now so familiar
to us, primarily because the blunted cone shape weighs less. The
Soviets stuck to the spherical re-entry shape because: a) they did
not have a weight-lifting problem to contend with, and b) the aerodynamic
characteristics of a sphere are very well known. In the engineering
trade-off between weight and aerodynamic knowledge, the Soviets
opted for more weight and a shape they knew more about, thereby
shortening their development time period.
The Vostok re-entry sphere has an off-set center of gravity to
provide some stabilization during re-entry. It may also have an
imparted roll around its fore-and-aft axis (with respect to its
position on the launch vehicle). It apparently has no drogue parachute
like our Mercury and Gemini capsules. It comes in like a spinning
ball. The spherical shape, with its off-set CG and imparted roll,
leads me to believe personally that the Vostok probably undergoes
more oscillation during re-entry than the US space capsules. Re-entry
in a Vostok must be a wild ride!
At about 23,000 ft., the cosmonaut ejects from the spherical
capsule. The entry-exit hatch blows off, and the three ejection
seat rockets fire to push the cosmonaut and his seat clear of the
falling capsule. The cosmonaut then separates from his seat and
lands under a regular personnel parachute, just like a jet pilot
that has ejected from a plane. Soviet films show the Cosmonauts
practicing ejection from Yak-25 Flashlight jets. At about 16,000
ft., another hatch blows off the side of the Vostok sphere, the
capsule recovery parachute deploys, and the capsule lands. at a
velocity of about 33 ft. per second.
Although all Vostok cosmonauts used this type of landing system,
the Soviets claim that a landing can be made with the cosmonaut
remaining inside the capsule. This may be true; in an emergency,
the cosmonaut may not have to eject from the capsule. But it is
my belief that such a landing would be very rough on a cosmonaut.
Why did the Soviets use this recovery technique for their Vostok
In the first place, they recover their capsules over land rather
than over water as the U. S. does. Impact forces for a ground landing
are much more severe than for a water landing. The geometry of the
Vostok sphere shows that the only available free Volume in the sphere
for stowage of the capsule parachute is on the side of the sphere.
If the cosmonaut stayed inside the capsule, he would have to take
the parachute opening shock and a landing shock of 33 ft. per second
on his side. So the obvious safe technique was to get the cosmonaut
out of the capsule before parachute opening and landing. This also
permitted a smaller capsule recovery chute and the high capsule
Again, however, we see Soviet engineering philosophy at work
here. The cosmonaut is already strapped into an ejection seat which
is required for emergency egress during a launch abort. The Soviets
did not develop an escape rocket system such as we used on Mercury.
They used the ejection seat technique that we later used with Gemini.
Apparently, the Soviet engineers decided to use the ejection seat
that was incorporated for launch abort purposes in a dual role:
launch abort safety as well as simplifying the landing problem.
The ejection seat is also obviously intended for launch abort
purposes because the capsule's aerodynamic shroud has a large, unfaired
opening in it for entry and egress.
Although the Vostok spacecraft system may appear to some people
to be crude, it is well to remember that it worked quite well. The
Soviets got 12 flights with it, including six completely successful
manned missions. They even flew a woman in it. Soviet engineering,
as evidenced by their aircraft alone, is eminently pragmatic.
Their launch pad technique also shows this. Recently released
motion pictures of the check-out, erection, and launch sequences
at the Tyuratam Cosmodrome reveals an entirely different system
than that in use in the United States for large launch vehicles.
The carrier rocket is completely assembled horizontally on a
railway car erector inside the Cosmodrome hangar. The Vostok space
capsule also undergoes final assembly in the hangar and is put
through a series of systems tests with and without a cosmonaut aboard
before mating the spacecraft to the booster. Finally, the entire
carrier rocket and spacecraft is mated horizontally in the hangar.
The check-out vehicle is taken by rail on its erector car to the
launch pad. It is then erected on the pad by the hydraulically-operated
erector, and four counter-weighted steadying and hold-down arms
swing in to secure the booster vehicle on the pad in a vertical
direction. These hold-down arms also have work platforms attached
to them. Two swing-back umbilical towers are also positioned against
the vehicle so that propellant loading lines, electrical cables,
and capsule air conditioning ducts can be attached. After the erector
is removed, a rail-mounted service tower with an elevator is moved
into position on the erection side of the vehicle. The vehicle itself
does not have its base flush with the main surface of the pad, but
is positioned with its base below the pad level in a well over the
flame pit. There are no assembly operations carried out on the launch
pad, but some final systems checks are probably made. Everything
appears to be moved in and out of the launch pad area by rail.
Either the Soviets have two such pads at Tyuratarn Cosmodrome,
or this system of horizontal hangar assembly and rail-borne erection
has been designed for an extremely rapid pad turn-around time. The
first Soviet paired flight with Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 required two
launches within 24 hours - one on August 11, 1962, and the second
on August 12th. It took the U. S. a week of three-shift operation
to recycle the launch pad between Gemini 7 and Gemini 6; this long
recycle time was due to the fact that the Gemini-Titan vehicle must
be assembled in a vertical position on the launch pad before final
systems checks can be done.
If the Soviets used the same launch pad for their paired Vostok
flights, it seems unlikely that the USA can match their pad turn-around
time even with the Saturn V Complex 39 or the Titan III complex
at Cape Kennedy. Obviously, the Soviets can assemble and check-out
two Vostok launch vehicles at the same time with their horizontal
Now that the Soviet Sputnik, Lunik, early interplanetary, and
Vostok programs have been reasonably well described by Soviet sources
and Western analysts, what about the Soviet multi-man Voskhod follow-on
program? Again, we now know from Soviet sources that the standard
space carrier rocket was used. This has been called the RD-107B
vehicle by some U. S. sources. It utilizes the same 1½-stage booster-sustainer
vehicle, but has an uprated, lengthened upper stage that is some
18 ft. longer than the Vostok top stage. Most of this additional
Volume is devoted to additional propellants, and the new top stage
may have a multiple-chamber rocket engine in place of the single-chamber
engine of the Vostok vehicle. The released photographs at the time
of this writing give no information on this point. However, like
the Vostok RD- 107 vehicle, the Voskhod RD-107B rocket was used
by the Soviets from 1961 on. According to Professor G. V. Petrovich,
it has an orbital capability of 14,333 lbs. The Voskhod shroud seems
to be the same diameter as the Vostok's, but it is longer.
External details of the Voskhod spacecraft itself have not yet
been revealed at the time of this writing, but several things can
be inferred about Voskhod. It has no ejection seats in evidence.
In Voskhod 1, the three cosmonauts Komarov, Yegorov, and Feoktistov
flew without pressure suits and landed inside the capsule. On Voskhod
2. Belyayev and Leonov flew in pressure suits as a safeguard against
airlock malfunction, the weight of the third crew member being
replaced by the collapsible airlock for Leonov's EVA. Again, Voskhod
2 landed with the two cosmonauts aboard. The Soviets have announced
that retro-rockets were used in the landing sequence.
The simple blackboard drawings of Leonov during the press conference
in which he described his EVA indicate that the Voskhod may still
be the 96-inch diameter re-entry sphere of the Vostok program but
with a canister added on the forward end for a larger landing parachute.
Since the cosmonauts landed in the capsule, it seems reasonable
to assume that the Soviets eliminated the side-mounting of the Vostok
recovery chute. How and where landing retro-rockets could have been
mounted so that they were protected during re-entry remains unknown
at this time.
Whatever the Soviets have come up with beyond Voskhod is not
known yet. Undoubtedly, they have already made several unmanned
flights with a much larger carrier rocket, if the past history
of their space program is any indication. Proton 1 was flown on
July 16, 1965; its announced weight was 26,840 lbs. in orbit. As
displayed in Paris, Proton 1 was 14.76 ft. in diameter. A vehicle
of this size and this weight would require a launching vehicle of
a size between Saturn-Ib and Saturn-V. The Soviets may have used
this new vehicle for the successful Venus shot, and may also have
used it for the ill-fated flight of Soyuz 1 on April 24, 1967 during
which Komarov lost his life after re-entry. Norman Baker, the editor
and publisher of Space Business Daily, remarked to me that the Soyuz
booster might be an SS-9 core surrounded by four strap-on SS-9 boosters.
The SS-9 is the new Soviet ICBM paraded in Moscow in 1967 and
powered by a cluster of six thrust chambers. This would certainly
be consistent with the Soviet space vehicle design philosophy evidenced
to date. However, all of this must remain speculation until more
details are released by the Soviets and until they make their next
series of space flights.
One thing is certain: The Soviets are going to continue to expand
their space program with multi-man flights, orbital rendezvous,
and very large launch vehicles. The Moon may not be their immediate
goal; a permanent manned orbiting space station may well be in the
Soviet space planning instead, and this may be used as a departure
point for the Moon and the planets which they are currently engaged
in scouting successfully with unmanned spacecraft.
The Soviet Union has been aiming toward space flight longer and
more consistently than the United States. It would be folly to believe
that they would not continue the pace of their program regardless
of what the United States does.
U.S.S.R. "VOSTOK" Spacecraft & Carrier Rocket
Posted September 17, 2011