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Zenit - Korolyov's Legacy


Tyneside, UK
2018 Oct 16
Tuesday, Day 289

Maintained by:



















Scientific Zenit Missions

The Soviet Union flew several orbital missions with the object of studying high energy particles (cosmic rays) and extremely short wavelength radiation - gamma rays and x-rays.

Proton 4 Experiments PackageIn the early days, scientists were able to take advantage of the test flight undertaken by what is now known as the Proton rocket.

As a name, Proton emerged first as the payload for the heavy lift booster and in later years was transferred to the booster itself. The first three flight used a two-stage configuration to put payloads in the region of 12 tonnes into space. The fourth flight used an upper stage with the result that nearly 17 tonnes mass found its way into orbit. It meant that large instruments could be lofted. The photo on the right shows the piece high-energy physics equipment carried by Proton 4. It is similar in shape but somewhat larger than the Sokol, being some three metres tall where the Sokol had to fit into a space less than half the dimensions.

Once the Proton opportunities had passed, Soviet scientists had to find other means of getting large sensors into orbit. Proton could not return to Earth so could only collect information electronically and pass it back via a telemetry link. The Zenit spacecraft offered the opportunity both to carry sensors to collect information on events as they occurred, and to bring-blocks of sensitive emulsions so that the tracks of charged particles could be studied and measured.

Sokol diagramOn Earth, with such instruments, the emulsion blocks can be changed out periodically but in orbit, without a cosmonaut present, that could not be done. As a result, the earlier, Energiya, missions were limited to four days on orbit so that the recording medium did not become saturated. The later Efir, using more modern and robust technology , was able to spend several weeks in space.

The first Energiya payload went under the name 'Intercosmos 6' because research equipment and experimental material was provided by eastern-bloc countries under the agreement of the same name. The second mission was announced as a purely Soviet-driven payload and got the next-in-series name of Cosmos 1026.

The diagram on the left is taken from a scientific paper covering some of the findings from the Cosmos 1543 experiments. The annotation to go with the numbers is lost but it gives a general indication of the layout of detectors and emulsion layers in the Sokol instrument.

Some sources indicate that the descent modules of the Efir satellites were not fitted with heat shielding and that the satellites were deliberately destroyed through a controlled re-entry after the 26 day mission.


Intercosmos 6 (Energiya № 1)       1972-027A       5936
1972 Apr 7, 10:00 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Voskhod 11A57
1972 Apr 07:  203 x 249 km,  51.8 deg,  89.0 min
High-energy Physics. The main instrument on board was an ionization calorimeter assembled by the Soviet Union with some of components supplied by Hungary, Poland, Mongolia, Czechoslavakia, and Roumania. Also included was a multilayered silver bromide photographic emulsion stack designed to detect and track high-energy primary cosmic rays, as well as electronic equipment to detect, identify and measure the same radiation. A meteorite detector was also carried built with components from the USSR, Czecholslovakia and the Hungary. Total Mass of internal scientific instrumentation - 1200 kg, including 1070 kg for the high-energy particle detectors. Part of the payload was carried in an autonomous 'Nauka' module. Intercosmos 6 built on the work undertaken by the 'Proton' satellites, 1965-1968. The satellite was based on the Zenit recoverable spacecraft and returned to Earth after four days - the mission duration was chosen to avoid the detector emulsions becoming saturated.
Landed:
1972 Apr 11, 09:36
HF Transmit:
19.995 MHz, FSK/PDM
VHF Transmit:
67.140 MHz, AM?

Cosmos 1026 (Energiya №2)       1978-069A       10977
1978 Jul 2, 09:30 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Soyuz-U
1978 Jul 02:  212 x 245 km,  51.8 deg,  89.0 min
Investigation of primary cosmic radiation and meteoritic particles in near-earth outer space, using equipment similar to that aboard Intercosmos 6 (1972-27A). Part of the payload was carried in an autonomous 'Nauka' module.
Not Recovered
HF Transmit:
19.995 MHz, FSK

Cosmos 1543 (Efir №1)       1984-026A       14797
1984 Mar 10, 17:00 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Soyuz-U
1984 Mar 10:  216 x 395 km,  62.9 deg,  90.7 min
1984 Apr 04:  217 x 380 km,  62.9 deg,  90.5 min
Science satellite, based on the Bion derivative of the Zenit spacecraft, studying the energy spectrum and charge composition of primary cosmic rays with energy above 2 TeV. The main instrument was the 'Sokol', consisting of an ionization calorimeter and two Cerenkov detectors which was used to investigate primary cosmic rays at energies of 1-10 TeV. Total mass of scientific equipment - 2450 kg. Part of the payload was carried in an autonomous 'Nauka' module. Efir in English is 'Ether'.
Not Recovered

Cosmos 1713 (Efir №2)       1985-120A       16429
1985 Dec 27, 17:04 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Soyuz-U
1985 Dec 28:  217 x 399 km,  62.9 deg,  90.7 min
1986 Jan 21:  217 x 391 km,  62.9 deg,  90.6 min
1986 Jan 22:  188 x 303 km,  62.8 deg,  89.5 min
Science satellite, based on the Bion derivative of the Zenit spacecraft, studying the energy spectrum and charge composition of primary cosmic rays with energy above 2 TeV. The main instrument was the 'Sokol-2', consisting of an ionization calorimeter and Cerenkov detectors, which was used to investigate primary cosmic rays at energies of 1-10 TeV. Total mass of scientific equipment - 2450 kg. Part of the payload was carried in an autonomous 'Nauka' module. Efir in English is 'Ether'.
Not Recovered
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