15 November 1988: At 0300 UTC, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics launched the space shuttle Buran from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This was an unmanned flight, with all the systems preprogrammed. The launch vehicle was an Energiya rocket.
The Energiya was powered by four RD-170 and four RD-0120 rocket engines. The RD-170 burned kerosene and liquid oxygen. Its sea level thrust was 1,697,300 pounds (7,549.967 kilonewtons). The RD-0120 burned liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its thrust was 341,000 pounds (1,516.844 kilonewtons). Total thrust of all eight engines was 8,153,200 pounds (36,267.240 kilonewtons).
4 October 1957: At 19:28:34 UTC, the world’s first artificial satellite, Простейший Спутник-1 (Sputnik 1, or Elementary Satellite 1) was launched from Tyuratam, Kazakh S.S.R. (now, the Baikonur Cosmodrome) aboard a two-stage Sputnik 8K71PS rocket, a variant of the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The satellite entered an elliptical orbit, circling Earth every 96.2 minutes.
Sputnik 1 launched at 22:28:34 Moscow time. After 116.38 seconds, the first and second stages separated. The second stage and satellite entered orbit 295.4 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of 228.6 kilometers (142.05 miles) and velocity of 7,780 meters per second (17,403.36 miles per hour). The satellite separated from the second stage 5 minutes, 14.5 seconds after launch.
The second stage reentered the atmosphere 2 December 1957. Sputnik made 1,440 orbits before it reentered the atmosphere, 4 January 1958.
The satellite was designed at OKB-1 (the Special Design Bureau) by a team of Mikhail Stepanovich Khomyakov, Maksim Khramov and Oleg Genrikhovich Ivanovsky. It was constructed as a sphere with a diameter of 58.0 centimeters (22.84 inches), made from an aluminum alloy with a thickness of 2 millimeters (0.08 inch). The two halves were joined by 36 bolts and filled with pressurized nitrogen. Four “whip” antennas were equally spaced around the satellite’s shell, angled at 35° from the longitudinal axis. With three silver-zinc batteries and equipment, the Sputnik 1 mass was 83.6 kilograms (184.3 pounds).
The satellite entered an elliptical orbit, with a perigee of 215.0 kilometers (133.6 miles) and apogee of 939.0 kilometers (583.5 miles). The duration of each orbit was 1 hour, 36 minutes, 12 seconds.
The Sputnik 8K71PS launch vehicle, serial number 1 M1-PS, was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket based on the R-7 Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer. It had a length of 29.167 meters (95.69 feet) and maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33.79 feet) at the base, including stabilizers. Its mass was 267.13 tons (588,921 pounds) at liftoff. The propellant was Kerosene T-1 with liquid oxygen.
The first stage consisted of four “strap-on” boosters surrounding the second, or “core” stage, each with an RD-107 four-chamber rocket engine, for a total thrust of 323.6 tons (713,409 pounds) of thrust. The first stage burn time was 120 seconds.
The second stage (core) was powered by one RD-108 four-chamber engine, producing 93 tons (205,028 pounds) of thrust. Burn time for the second stage was 180 seconds.
At 12:20 UTC, 15 July 1975, Soyuz 19 launched from Gagarin’s Start at Baikonur Cosmosdrome, Kazakh SSR with Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov, both on their second space flights. The launch vehicle was a Soyuz-U three-stage rocket.
At 19:50 UTC, 15 July 1975, Apollo ASTP lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew was Thomas P. Stafford on his fourth space flight, Vance D. Brand on his first, and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton also on his first. The launch vehicle was a Saturn IB.
At 16:19:09 UTC, 17 July 1975, the two orbiting spacecraft rendezvoused in orbit and docked. Using a Docking Module airlock, the two crews each opened their spacecraft hatches and shook hands. The two ships remained joined for 44 hours, separating once for the Soyuz crew to take its turn to maneuver for docking with the Apollo Command and Service Module.
The Apollo command module from the mission is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The descent module of Soyuz 19 is on display at the RKK Energiya museum in Korolyov, Moscow Oblast, Russia.
This was the final flight of the Apollo spacecraft.
16 June 1963, 09:29:52 UTC: Cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва) was launched aboard Vostok 6 from Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The spacecraft was a Vostok 3KA and the launch vehicle was a Vostok 8K72K rocket. She was the first human female in space.
Prior to her acceptance in the cosmonaut corps, Tereshkova had been a textile worker. She was also an amateur parachutist. The qualifications for the Soviet space program were that the women be parachutists under the age of 30 years, less than 170 centimeters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall and weigh less than 70 kilograms (154.3 pounds). After an extensive training program with included pilot training in the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 15UTI fighter and 120 parachute jumps, Tereshkova and three other women were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force.
Vostok 5 with Cosmonaut Valery Fyodorovich Bykovsky had been launched two days earlier on the same orbital path. During their flights they came within approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of each other.
Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits of the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 212 kilometers (131.7 miles). Vostok 6 re-entered the atmosphere and Tereshkova parachuted from the capsule near the Pavinskiy Collective Farms, Altai Krai (approximately 150 miles/240 kilometers southwest of Novosibirsk), landing at 08:20 UTC, 19 June 1963. The total duration of her flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes.
For her support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in 2022, the United States of America placed Tereshkova on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. Her assets were frozen and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with her.
The Vostok 3KA spacecraft consisted of a spherical crew module and a service module. It could support one person in a full-pressure suit for a maximum of 10 days. There were two view ports. The Vostok used pressurized gas jets for attitude control while in orbit, but was not capable of changing its orbit. The vehicle had a total height of 4.40 meters (14 feet, 5¼ inches) and total mass of 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds). The descent module diameter was 2.3 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches) and had a mass of 2,460 kilograms (5,423 pounds).
On descent, the cosmonaut used an ejection seat to leave the capsule prior to Earth landing, and parachuted to the ground.
The Korolev Design Bureau Vostok 8K72K launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket developed from the Soviet R-7 “Semyorka” intercontinental ballistic missile, using RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene, and liquid oxygen as propellant. It was 38.36 meters (125 feet, 10 inches) tall and had a maximum diameter of 10.3 meters (33 feet, 9 inches). Total mass at liftoff was 287,375 kilograms (633,553 pounds).
The first stage consisted of four boosters surrounding a central core. Each was powered by one Glushko Design Bureau RD-108 (8D75) engine with four combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles. The RD-108 was rated at 713.600 kilonewtons of thrust (160,424 pounds-force) at Sea Level. Burn time was 118 seconds. The second stage used one RD-108 engine fired for 301 seconds. The third stage had one Kosberg Design Bureau RD-0109 engine rated at 54.520 kilonewtons (12,257 pounds-force) of thrust, with a burn time of 365 seconds.
12 April 1961: At 06:06:59.7 UTC, Vostok-1 with Cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin was launched into Earth orbit from the Kosmodrom Baykonur, Kazakhistan. The spacecraft was a spherical Vostok 3KA-3 capsule which was carried to low Earth orbit by a three-stage Vostok 8K72K rocket.
Following first stage engine cut off, the first stage was jettisoned 1 minute, 59 seconds after liftoff. The payload fairing separated at 2 minutes, 34 seconds, and the second stage separation occurred at 4 minutes, 59 seconds. The Vostok spacecraft separated from the third stage at 06:18:28 UTC, 11 minutes 28 seconds after launch.
The Vostok was not capable of orbital maneuvering.
The Vostok spacecraft had an overall length of 5.040 meters (16 feet, 6.4 inches) and diameter of 2.500 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The spherical crew/descent module had a diameter of 2.300 meters (7 feet, 6.6 inches). The gross mass was 4,730 kilograms (10,428 pounds).
The Vostok-K 8K72 was a modified R-7A Semyorka intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 rocket was designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, known as The Chief Designer.
The 8K72 version consisted of two core stages with four external boosters. The first stage and each of the boosters were powered by a four-nozzle RD-107 rocket engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. Total thrust was approximately 1,100,775 pounds (4,896.49 kilonewtons). The second stage used a RD-0105 engine, producing 11,015 pounds of thrust (48.997 kilonewtons).
The first two stages were 30.84 meters (101.18 feet) high and weighed 277,000 kilograms (610,680 pounds).
Gagarin made one orbit of the Earth, with an apogee of 315 kilometers (196 miles) and perigee of 169 kilometers (105 miles). The orbital period was 89.34 minutes. The orbit was inclined 64.95° with reference to Earth’s axis.
While still in Earth orbit, Senior Lieutenant Gagarin received a field promotion to the rank of major.
His reentry began over Africa, with the descent engine firing at 7:25:48.2 UTC. As the spacecraft was descending through 7,000 meters (20,966 feet), he ejected from the capsule and parachuted to the ground. The Vostok struck the ground at 07:48 UTC, and Gagarin landed approximately 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) away, near the village of Smelovka, Ternovsky District, Saratov Oblast, at 07:53 UTC.
Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel in space. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) credited him with three World Records: Duration, 1 hour, 48 minutes.¹ Altitude in an Elliptical orbit, 327 kilometers (203 statute miles).² Greatest Mass Lifted to Altitude, 4,725 kilograms (10,417 pounds).³
Yuriy Alekseyevich Gagarin (Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин) was born at Klushino, a village in Smolensk Oblast, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, 9 March 1934. He was the third of four children of Alexey Ivanovich Gagarin, a carpenter, and Anna Timofeyevna Gagarina. The family, workers on a collective farm, were forced from their home when the village was occupied by German soldiers during the invasion of 1941.
In 1950, Gagarin became an apprentice at a steel foundry in Moscow. A school for workers allowed him to pursue an education. After a year, he was sent to a technical school at Saratov. It was while there that Gagarin first flew in an airplane, a Yakovlev Yak-18 trainer at the local aero club.
After graduating in 1955, Gagarin enlisted as a cadet at the military flight school at Orenburg. Gagarin graduated 6 November 1957 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force.
Just over a week earlier, 27 October 1957, Sergeant Gagarin married Valentina Ivanova Goryacheva, a medical technician at the air base. They would have two daughters.
Lieutenant Gagarin was assigned as an interceptor pilot at Nikel, an air base approximately 125 miles (201 kilometers) north of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. He flew the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter.
Lieutenant Gagarin was one of twenty pilots selected for the space program in 1960. This was further reduced to six cosmonaut candidates. Gagarin and Gherman Stepanovich Titov were the final two candidates for the first manned space launch, with Gagarin being chosen.
Yuri Gagarin was killed in an airplane crash, 27 March 1968.
¹ FAI Record File Number 9326
² FAI Record File Number 9327
³ FAI Record File Number 9328
⁴ “Most of the cosmonaut group of 1960, with some of their instructors and wives. Front row, left to right: Pavel Popovich, Viktor Gorbatko, Yevgeni Khrunov, Yuri Gagarin, Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, his wife Nina Koroleva with Popovich’s daughter Natasha, Cosmonaut Training Centre Director Yevgeni Karpov, parachute trainer Nikolai Nikitin, and physician Yevgeni Fedorov. Second row, left to right: Alexei Leonov, Andrian Nikolayev, Mars Rafikov, Dmitri Zaikin, Boris Volynov, Gherman Titov, Grigori Nelyubov, Valeri Bykovsky, and Georgi Shonin. Back row, left to right: Valentin Filatyev, Ivan Anikeyev, and Pavel Belyayev.”