About the R-7 rocket
Valery Kapitonov, Deputy General Designer of the Progress Rocket and Space Center on tests and operation of Soyuz launch vehicles
2 minutes and 20 seconds into the flight the engines cut off
Missile velocity is 7 812 km/h
The stage is discarded and falls to Earth
6 minutes into the flight the engines cut off
Missile velocity is 23,000 km/h
The stage drops away and falls to Earth
Continues on a ballistic trajectory and falls to Earth
Progress Rocket and Space Center in Samara. May 2021
The first three launches failed. Finally, on August 21, 1957, the fourth R-7 successfully achieved the targeted range flying over 6,000 km and crash landed at the proving ground in the Kamchatka Peninsula. This was the world’s first successful flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Based on recollections of Antonina Zlotnikova, Korolev’s secretary; Evdokiya Krasnova, Korolev’s teacher; and Viktor Froumson, employee of Korolev Design Bureau
Following the appearance of the R-1 rocket in the mid-1940s, some Soviet scientists and engineers began considering the possibility of space travel.
Enthusiasts of space exploration were drastically outnumbered. Ninety nine percent of scientists and civil and military engineers that were involved in missile building not only doubted the possibility of launching rockets into space, but openly ridiculed any attempts to seriously discuss the issue.
In 1948, Mikhail Tikhonravov gave a report at the Academy of Artillery Science, in which he outlined the mathematical background for the creation of super-powered rockets. According to his calculations, such rockets had no limits in flight range and were capable of putting into orbit an artificial satellite. The report provoked negative, sarcastic and even insulting comments.
Tikhonravov was demoted, and his group was dismissed.
The first launch of the R-7 and the first satellite flight were less than 10 years away.
Formally, the R-2 missile was a modification of the R-1, but in fact, the crucial engineering solutions were completely new. The R-2 came to be the first truly Korolevian rocket.
In addition to solving the problem of the head separation, the core design was greatly enhanced compared to the R-1. Unlike all previous missiles, the R-2 was made of aluminum.
The engines became much more powerful, and the missile itself was significantly larger than the R-1.
The ballistic missile follows an ellipse-shaped track. After the launch, it is accelerated to a very high speed by the engines, then the engines cut off, the head end separates and continues on its own unpowered ballistic trajectory, much like an ordinary artillery shell.
Ballistic missiles go to a high altitude up to 1,000 km and more, that is, they fly into space.
Soviet scientists considered several options. The most obvious was monkeys, biologically and anatomically the closest species to humans. The problem was that monkeys had to be imported, and that was deemed expensive and impractical.
The pig, another genetically close to humans species, was turned down for linguistic reasons — newspaper headlines like Soviet Pig in Space would not look good enough.
Cats were not a suitable option either; they could hardly withstand weightlessness and suffered extreme stress in the absence of a firm footing.
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