Launch Date May 16, 1967
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia
Destination Our Solar System
Type Orbiter
Status Partial Success
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names


This spacecraft was designed to go into a highly elliptical orbit around Earth so mission planners could develop trajectory-measurement techniques that could be employed on future lunar-orbiter missions.


Plans for an orbit that would have been 250,000 km from Earth at its furthest were dashed by the premature cutoff of the upper-stage rocket. But even with an orbit measuring 60,710 by 260 km, it is likely that Soviet engineers gathered much of the data they sought.

Key Dates

May 16, 1967: Launch
Nov. 11, 1967: Re-Entered Earth's Atmosphere

In Depth

This spacecraft was a one-off high-apogee Earth satellite developed to acquire data on trajectory-measurement techniques on future lunar orbital missions. By perfecting such techniques, engineers could accurately measure trajectories of future lunar orbiters affected by anomalies in the Moon's gravitational field.

Mission designers had planned to send the probe into a highly elliptical orbit with an apogee of 250,000 kilometers, but the Blok L upper stage evidently cut off too early. Instead, the spacecraft, named Kosmos 159, entered a lower orbit of 260 x 60,710 kilometers at 51.7° inclination.

Despite the incorrect orbit, controllers no doubt used the spacecraft for its original mission. No data is available on when the ground lost contact with the spacecraft. Kosmos 159 re-entered Earth's atmosphere on Nov. 11, 1967.


Launch Vehicle: 8K78M (no. Ya716-56)

Spacecraft Mass: Unkown

Spacecraft Instruments: Unknown

Selected References

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

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