Launch Date Jul. 3, 1969
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia |
Launch Site 110P
Destination Earth’s Moon
Type Orbiter
Status Unsuccessful
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names N/A

Goals

This was the second Soviet attempt to use a giant N1 rocket to launch a lunar orbiter.

Accomplishments

None. During launch, the N1's first stage exploded, engulfing the launch pad in fire and damaging buildings within a several-mile radius. The orbiter's launch-escape system, however, operated flawlessly and enabled the orbiter to land safely 2 kilometers from the pad.

In Depth

This was the second attempt to launch the giant N1 rocket. As with its predecessor, its payload consisted of a basic 7K-L1 ("Zond") spacecraft equipped with additional instrumentation and an attitude-control block to enable operations in lunar orbit. Moments after launch, the first stage of the booster exploded in a massive inferno that engulfed the entire launch pad and damaged nearby buildings and structures for several kilometers around the area.

Amazingly, the payload's launch-escape system operated without fault, and the Zond descent apparatus (or descent module) was recovered safely 2 kilometers from the pad.

An investigation commission traced the cause of the failure to the entry of a foreign object into the oxidizer pump of one of the first-stage engines at T-0.25 seconds. The ensuing explosion started a fire that began to engulf the first stage. The control system shut down all engines except one by T+10.15 seconds. The booster lifted about 200 meters off the pad and then came crashing down in a massive explosion.

Spacecraft

Launch Vehicle: N1 (no. 15005)

Spacecraft Mass: 6,900 kilograms

Spacecraft Instruments:

Unknown

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Soviet Lunar Missions History

Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, NASA, 2002.

Solar System News