The R-7 missile was designed and specifications written in 1953, serving as the basis for the most famous family of boosters ever developed. By 1954, engine development was underway at the GDL. In 1955, the testing launch site at Baykonur was selected. The booster was built at the Kuznetsov factories at Kuybyshev. In April 1956 the first R-7 rockets were finished and ready for testing and engine testing began. From August, until Dec. 1956, launch equipment for the R-7, was installed at Baykonur. After this, an R-7 test article was used to test the ground support equipment. The first flight version R-7 was rolled out to the launch pad after two months of checkout, on May 5, 1957. The rocket was launched on May 15, only to fail after 50 seconds of flight. After three more failures, the first successful flight of the R-7 occurred on August 3. The rocket test flight terminated at the Kamchatka peninsula. The second successful flight was on Sept. 7, with Premier Nikita Khrushchev viewing the launch.
The R-7 was originally built as the Soviets first ICBM, but it was never deployed in significant numbers. The missile was found to take too long to fuel and launch to be an effective weapon. It also required large above ground launch facilities that were very vulnerable to attack. It could also only standby fueled for 24 hours before the propellant line seals and valves began to degrade dangerously. Test flights of the missile continued in April 1958 then stopped until April 1959 and continued through January, 1960 with tests at full range, some with accuracy of 2 km. in the target region of the Pacific where 3 Soviet ships and US intelligance forces observed the reentry. There were less than 20 test flights, of which more than half failed. The U.S. achieved a slightly better failure rate during testing of the first 35 Air Force Atlas ICBM's. By Aug. 1961, there were only four R-7 ICBM's in operational service. This included two missiles in storage to reload the two operational launch pads at Plesetsk. The R-7's were taken out of service by 1967 and new launch facilities with an enclosed service structure buildings were built to serve as space launch pads for the R-7 booster. The R-7 rocket consisted of five parts, a core stage 2.95 meters in diameter and 28 meters long, which was surrounded by four strap-on boosters, each 19 meters long and three meters in diameter. The booster was 10.3 meters diameter at the base, from tail fin to tail fin. The basic R-7 was used to launch early Sputniks which were light enough to achieve orbit using only the core of the booster as a final stage. After several launches, the test flights stopped in July, 1958, for a year of redesign to perfect the booster for operational use. The R-7 used an RD-107 rocket engine in each strap-on booster. Development of the RD-107 and RD-108 engines started in 1954 at the Gas Dynamics Laboratory in Leningrad. The RD-107 had four main nozzles with two steering vernier engines which gimballed on one axis, the main engines did not gimbal. Each RD-107 engine consisted of four combustion chambers, feed by a single turbo-pump mounted above the chambers. The chambers were the same basic technology as the German V-2 engine chamber. Each had the same thrust as a V-2 engine, but the chamber pressure was four times higher. The core stage used a RD-108 engine, which was the same as the RD-107, but with four steering verniers. To start the RD-107 and RD-108 type engines, propellant valves open and propellant flows through the pumps under force of gravity. The propellant is ignited by pyrotechniques and the engine burns at what is called intermediate thrust. As the pumps are turned by the propellant flow, they also drive two small pumps that feed hydrogen peroxide into a gas or steam generator. The gas generator (also called an APU or Auxiliary Power Unit) produced a large amount of steam that drives the propellant pumps. This creates an increased pump speed and feeds more propellant into the combustion chamber. The engine then runs at full thrust. The gas generator exhaust also flows through a heat exchanger to warm nitrogen that pressurizes the booster's propellant tanks. The exhaust is then expelled into the engine exhaust. The engines also use regenerative cooling, circulating the cool Kerosene fuel around the nozzle in order to cool it. Many of the RD-107 and RD-108 engine parts were made of Bronze alloys to conduct heat away from engine parts. The first stage burn of the strap-on's and core stage yielded 510,000 kg. thrust total. Generally, the booster lifts-off four seconds after engine ignition. Using the RD-107 type engine was a compromise between the limits of Soviet technology and the need for more power than a single chamber engine could at that time produce. Since the Soviets could not build a single rocket chamber engine that would be more compact, they instead used the cluster approach. This was an admittedly clumsy and complicated solution according to a former Soviet engineer.
The Vostok type booster was used for Vostok and other missions. The first use of the A-1 was to launch the Luna 1 probe on Jan. 2, 1959. The A-1 consisted of an R-7 with a Block-Ye upper or third stage, 2.65 meters in diameter and 2.5 meters long. The Block-Ye upper stage weighed about 1400 kg. empty and had a single RD-7 oxygen-kerosen engine developed by the Kosberg OKB with a thrust of 90,000 kg. (specific impulse ranged from 300 sec. to 314 sec. from first flight to first Vostok tests). The unique characteristic of the upper stage was that after separating from its payload, it vented the unused propellants in its tanks, which usually raised the upper stages orbit somewhat above that of the payload. The Vostok was still in use in 1985, for ELINT launches, but was generally being phased out by the Tsyklon booster.
The Soyuz type was used for Voskhod, Soyuz and other launches. It consisted of an R-7 with a new Block-I (Venus) upper stage in place of the Vostok's Block-Ye upper stage. The stage measured eight meters long and 2.6 meters in diameter. The stage used a RD-461 engine which was very similar to the RD-108. The stage weighed about 2300 kg. empty. The first test of the stage without an additional escape stage was Kosmos 22, the first second generation reconnaissance satellite, on Nov. 16, 1963. The Soyuz has two major varients, the Soyuz-U and Soyuz-U2. The U2 uses a special kerosene propellant to increase payload capacity. It was retired from service in late 1996 due to the prohibitive cost of making the special propellant.
The Molniya was the same as a Soyuz with an additional Block-L upper stage for use on missions beyond Earth orbit and for 'Molniya' orbit launches. The upper stage was slightly smaller than the Vostok stage measuring two meters diameter by two meters long, and weighing 1,260 kg. empty. The Block-L was powered by a restartable S1-5400 Oxygen-Kerosene engine and attitude control system developed by the Korolev OKB. The smaller size allowed it to be put inside the payload shroud of the booster, giving it the appearance of a regular A-2 type booster. In the early 1960s, the escape stages commonly failed, and occasionally a strap-on booster failed, leading to the booster's destruction. The first flight of an Molniya was Sputnik 7 on Feb. 4, 1961.
The Soyuz-2 booster is the most extensive modification of the Soyuz to be made since development of the SL-4 version. It is being designed to replace the Soyuz-U ans Soyuz-U2 versions of the SL-4. Rus was the name given to the project to develop the Soyuz-2 although it is refered to as the Rus in some sources. The Soyuz-2 will have the same general configuration of the SL-4 version but allows 5 engines and 6 types of stages to be taken out of production. It also will use Russian only parts simplifying its procurment and production. A new third and fourth stage (Fregat, made by NPO Lavochkin.) will be built. The 3 stage version will have 800 kg. greater payload than a Soyuz type. Launch is planned from both Plestesk and Baykonur. It will enable manned operations at 65 degree inclination when launched from Plesetsk. Flight tests to begin in 1997 or 1998. It is not planned to begin manned operations at 65 degrees, but this was considered for a time for the Mir-2 station and considering a pull-out of most manned operations from Baykonur, before the Russians joined the International Space Station project with NASA. [B. Konovalov, Izvestiya, March 24, 1993, p 5] Four Soyuz pads are all being modernized for the Soyuz-2 booster. The Soyuz-2 booster completed its engineering development in November 1995. Extensive testing will continue in the spring of 1996. Flight tests are expected to begin in 1997. Space Forces Deputy Commander Vladimir Vlasyuk was not so sure in late 1996, saying the Soyuz-2 will be ready by 1997, saying it would be ready in "a year or two".
By 1988, more than 1200 R-7 boosters had been launched. It was reported that the A-2 assembly line was shut down in 1985 after years of phasing out by the Tsyclon booster for military launches and amid plans for using the Soviet shuttle for manned missions in the near future. Boosters were stockpiled for use several years later. At Baykonur, the Soyuz boosters are assembled horizontally in an assembly building. The assembly building is very near the primary launch pad and measures 16 by 25 meters. An altitude chamber for satellites was used there around 1961. This building housed the primary booster for a given mission, and the primary and secondary spacecraft, but other pieces of boosters and more spacecraft may be stored inside, as in the harsh winter of 1986-87. In the 1980s, a clean room for assembly of satellites was built next the old building. The new building measured 30 by 125 meters and is where all payloads (meaning satellites and upper stages) for Proton and Energia boosters were assembled. Previously, payloads for the Proton were also assembled in the Soyuz assembly building. All booster components are shipped to Baykonur by rail except for Energia/Buran components. The Soyuz and Progress spacecraft are prepared vertically after each component has passed the temperature, vibration and vacuum tests. They are then shipped to the Soyuz assembly building. The spacecraft are then held from their aft end horizontally, as the launch shroud is slid over them, and attached at the base of the spacecraft. The assembly is then set horizontally on a rail car and taken outside to be fueled with the hypergolic propellants. The spacecraft and shroud are then taken back inside and mated to the booster, still in the horizontal position. The Soyuz is assembled on an erector which is mounted on a rail car. The erector which was very similar to the V-2's Meilerwagen. The booster assembly is 49.3 meters tall in the case of a Soyuz or Progress. The booster is then taken to the launch pad where the booster is set vertically on the launch pad. There were three launch pads for the Soyuz booster at Baykonur. Two were built by the late 1960s. The primary pad is the closest to the assembly building was built in 1956. This pad was used to launch Sputnik 1, Vostok 1 and was damaged in the Soyuz T-10A explosion. The launch pad was the only one in service at Baykonur until the late 1960s when two more launch pads were built. The second launch pad is 20 km. away from the primary. Members of the press, engineers and VIP's can observe the launches from viewing points 1.5 km from the pads. Although others, like photographers, can observe from very close distances. Some of the launch pads were built on the edges of the remains copper mine pits dug in the 1930's. The flame trenches under the launch pads are 45 meters deep, cover 25,000 cubic meters area and displace one million cubic meters. The booster is supported by a concrete platform structure that extends over the deepest part of the flame pit. The launch pad, support arms and service structures are built onto a large turntable. Once the booster is placed on the pad and the umbilical, service towers and support arms are raised, the entire complex is rotated to the proper launch azimuth. On one launch pad, for a 51.6° launch, the booster must be rotated about 175 degrees. The Soyuz booster guidance had gyroscopes only for yaw and pitch control to guide the booster during its arc into orbit. There are reports that the first test flights of the R-7 used radio guidance. Two semi-circular service structures, which surround the booster, are lowered to lie flat against the launch pad during launch. A main umbilical tower provides communications and propellant lines to the spacecraft and upper stage. A smaller tower provides communications and electrical power to the booster and spacecraft. Air is also circulated under the launch shroud to keep the spacecraft within a normal temperature range. The launch pads themselves have no hold down arms, as on most U.S. launch pads, but have four arms which hold the vehicle upright, with the engines suspended a few meters below the surface of the pad. As the booster begins to rise, the arms fall away by gravities pull on counter balances. TheSoyuz launch pad can be used to launch a booster within 24 hours of the previous launch. This capability is a hold over from the original design of the R-7 ICBM which were designed for fast re-launching in war time. The Soviets demonstrated this launching Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 from the same pad. The primary Soyuz launch pad had been used for about 317 launches through mid-December 1989.[29,30], Under each Soyuz pad next to the flame pit, deep underground, is the main command bunker that controls the launch. Hundreds of Rocket Forces personnel mann the launch complex bunker. The bunker has periscopes to watch the launch pad. After the last booster stage is separated from the spacecraft, control of the mission passes to one of the Soviet Mission Control Centers. The Soyuz has been dubbed by some the 'Machine of the Century' for is major contributions to history and its long lived design.
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