Russia Declares Its Independence In Space
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jul 12, 2007
On July 15, 1957, the Soviet Union started building a ballistic missile base in the Arkhangelsk Region in northern Russia. The first unit of R-7 intercontinental ballistic missiles was deployed at the base, initially commanded by Colonel Mikhail Grigoryev, throughout the late 1950s. This is how the Plesetsk space center came into being; and the decision to site it in northern Russia was influenced by the specifications of R-7 ICBMs.
By late 1963, the base had 15 launchers, including one missile silo, for R-7A, R-9A, R-16 and R-16A ICBMs. The first test launch of a silo-based missile took place in September 1963.
In March 1966, a Vostok launch vehicle orbited the Kosmos-112 satellite, the first spacecraft ever to lift off from Plesetsk. The first international satellite, Kosmos-261, was launched in December 1968, ushering in the Interkosmos space research program, which involved the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Cuba, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia.
Plesetsk has been regularly launching foreign spacecraft since 1972.
In November 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree establishing the Plesetsk state test site as part of the national Space Force. In all, about 1,600 rockets have lifted off from Plesetsk, orbiting nearly 2,000 spacecraft.
Until recently, the space center only launched the light-weight Rokot and Ukrainian-made Kosmos-3M and Tsiklon-3 rockets, as well as the medium-weight Soyuz-U and Molnia-M vehicles.
A vehicle assembly building and launch facility for orbiting heavy Angara rockets will be completed soon. In the next few years, Russia will use new-generation rockets to launch most of its civilian and military spacecraft from Plesetsk.
Russia, which has already launched all of its Tsiklon-3M rockets, has no intention of ordering any more of them from Ukraine. And it has decided to convert the Tsiklon-3M launch pad, which will eventually orbit light-weight Angara vehicles.
Only a few Kosmos-M rockets remain, and there are no plans to resume batch production.
The intention is to annually launch three Rokot rockets, which are converted versions of the UR-100N UTTKH (NATO reporting name, SS-19 Stiletto) ICBMs. President Vladimir Putin has mentioned the SS-19 as one of the main weapons systems that will guarantee Russian-U.S. strategic nuclear parity for the next 30 years. However, these ICBMs will be used as launch vehicles after their service life expires.
The Svobodny space center in the Russian Far East, which launched converted Strela and Start ballistic missiles, has now been shut down, and some of its facilities will probably be relocated to Plesetsk.
In November 2004, the first revamped Soyuz-2 rocket successfully lifted off from Plesetsk under the Rus program. The new launch vehicle is to replace all operational Soyuz-class medium-weight rockets once flight tests are complete.
The Soyuz-2, which is a descendant of space rockets developed by the famous spacecraft designer Sergei Korolyov (1906-1966), features Russian components and can orbit any conceivable medium-weight payload from Plesetsk.
It has more advanced rocket engines, a high-precision digital guidance system for placing spacecraft into preset orbits and new-generation telemetry systems.
Russia's goal is to have access to outer space without relying on any other country for launches or vehicles. It will do so with the help of multi-purpose Angara rockets lifting off from interchangeable facilities in Plesetsk. The Zvyozdochka (Starlet) Engineering Plant in Severodvinsk, also in the Arkhangelsk Region, has developed the space center's truly unique launch pad which can orbit three different Angara rockets in quick succession.
Yury Zaitsev is an expert at the Space Research Institute.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Source: RIA Novosti
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