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Zenit - Korolyov's Legacy


Tyneside, UK
2018 Jan 20
Saturday, Day 20

Maintained by:












Zenit Re-entry Failures

This table lists the handful of occasions where a Zenit satellite failed to re-enter as planned.

Additionally, some Zenit cabins re-entered successfully but then damage occurred as a result of ballistic problems, parachute problems or particularly awkward landings. Because information on such events is usually secret, they are not included here. Some entries in the main tables contain notes where a post re-entry problem was subsequently flagged up.

Korabl Sputnik (Vostok-1KP)       1960 ε 1       34
1960 May 15, 00:00 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Vostok 8K72
1960 Jun 17:  292 x 665 km,  64.9 deg,  94.2 min
First launch of a Korabl Sputnik in preparation for piloted spaceflight, recovery of the cabin was not intended so it carried no heat shielding. 1960 May 19, 23:52 UTC, retrofire occurred. The guidance system had oriented the spacecraft 180 degrees away from the required attitude so the spacecraft ascended to a higher orbit (as listed above). Otherwise the flight went as expected. The original orbit was reported to have been approx 320 x 360 km. After the retro-rocket firing, the cabin separated and became catalogued as 1960 ε 3, NORAD 36. Catalogued by NORAD with alternate name Sputnik 4.
Re-entry Unsuccesful

Korabl Sputnik 3 (Vostok-1K №3)       1960 ρ 1       65
1960 Dec 1, 07:30 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Vostok 8K72
1960 Dec 01:  172 x 238 km,  65.1 deg,  88.6 min
Carried the dogs Pchelka and Mushka plus other animals, insects, and plants. Retro-fire was 1960 Dec 2, 07:15 UTC. The spacecraft was burned up in the lower atmosphere after the retro-rocket failed to shut down and caused the re-entry angle to be too steep. Catalogued by NORAD with alternate name Sputnik 6.
Re-entry Unsuccesful

Cosmos 50 (Zenit-2 11Ф61 №25)       1964-070A       919
1964 Oct 28, 10:48 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Vostok 8A92
1964 Oct 28:  191 x 234 km,  51.3 deg,  88.7 min
Photo reconnaissance satellite - cabin section disintegrated when auto-destruct system was triggered after retro-fire failed.
Re-entry Unsuccesful
HF Transmit:
19.995 MHz, FSK/PDM

Cosmos 57 (Voskhod-3KD №1)       1965-012A       1093
1965 Feb 22, 07:40 UTC
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Voskhod 11A57
1965 Feb 22:  164 x 426 km,  64.8 deg,  90.5 min
Test mission prior to the Voskhod 2 flight. Objectives - test out the EVA suit and the inflatable EVA airlock. Both test were successful but when Cosmos 57 received two radio commands simultaneously, the onboard system set in motion a train of events that led to its disintegration through ignition of the auto-destruct system. As a result, it was not possible to measure the aerodynamic effects during re-entry of the airlock attachment ring. This was subsequently undertaken by Cosmos 59, a Zenit-4 spacecraft.
Re-entry Unsuccesful

Cosmos 199 (Zenit-2 11Ф61 №59)       1968-003C       3115
1968 Jan 16, 12:00 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Voskhod 11A57
1968 Jan 25:  145 x 244 km,  65.7 deg,  88.4 min
Failed to separate from third-stage rocket on entering orbit. Attempt made to complete mission but not successful. Re-entry vehicle separated after eight days around the expected recovery time and destroyed by automatic system. Instrument unit continued to operate for several more hours.
Re-entry Unsuccesful
HF Transmit:
19.995 MHz, FSK/PDM

Cosmos 554 (Zenit-4MK 11Ф692, Germes)       1973-021A       6432
1973 Apr 19, 08:59 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Voskhod 11A57
1973 Apr 19:  203 x 352 km,  72.9 deg,  90.1 min
1973 Apr 19:  171 x 334 km,  72.9 deg,  89.6 min
1973 Apr 20:  119 x 366 km,  72.8 deg,  89.4 min
1973 Apr 20:  173 x 332 km,  72.9 deg,  89.6 min
1973 Apr 23:  171 x 329 km,  72.9 deg,  89.6 min
1973 Apr 25:  171 x 380 km,  72.9 deg,  90.1 min
1973 May 05:  168 x 351 km,  72.9 deg,  89.8 min
1973 May 06:  226 x 352 km,  72.9 deg,  90.4 min
Variant of the manoeuvrable Zenit-4M but with high resolution cameras. Disintegrated 1973 May7 approx 02:30 UTC, possibly by detonation of the self-destruct system following failed attempt(s) at retro-fire. Recovery was expected around 1973 May 3.
Re-entry Unsuccesful
HF Transmit:
19.990 MHz, FSK

Cosmos 1813 (Zenit-8 17Ф116, Oblik)       1987-004A       17297
1987 Jan 15, 11:20 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Soyuz-U
1987 Jan 15:  197 x 362 km,  72.9 deg,  90.2 min
1987 Jan 16:  357 x 416 km,  72.9 deg,  92.4 min
1987 Jan 22:  357 x 416 km,  72.9 deg,  92.4 min
1987 Jan 23:  358 x 416 km,  72.9 deg,  92.4 min
1987 Jan 28:  358 x 416 km,  72.9 deg,  92.4 min
1987 Feb 06:  359 x 416 km,  72.9 deg,  92.4 min
1987 Apr 19:  358 x 413 km,  72.9 deg,  92.3 min
1987 May 01:  357 x 414 km,  72.9 deg,  92.3 min
1989 Mar 13:  130 x 141 km,  72.8 deg,  87.3 min
Variant of the Zenit photographic satellite with capabilities of imaging and high slant angle. Re-entry cabin disintegrated 1987 Jan 29 approx 06:00 as a result of detonation of the self destruct sytem. The instrument unit continued to transmit until 1987 Jan 31. Following the explosion, the designation 1987-004A/17297 was applied to a large fragment, possibly a separated rocket motor.
Re-entry Unsuccesful
HF Transmit:
19.990 MHz, FSK
VHF Transmit:
39.980 MHz, FSK

Cosmos 1906 (Resurs-F2 17Ф42 №1)       1987-108A       18713
1987 Dec 26, 11:30 UTC
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Soyuz-U
1987 Dec 26:  182 x 245 km,  82.7 deg,  88.9 min
1987 Dec 27:  178 x 243 km,  82.6 deg,  88.8 min
1987 Dec 28:  258 x 278 km,  82.6 deg,  90.0 min
1988 Jan 30:  245 x 266 km,  82.6 deg,  89.7 min
1988 Feb 12:  237 x 433 km,  83.1 deg,  91.3 min
Earth resources photography satellite for multispectral and spectrozonal imaging of the Earth in visible light and near-infrared. The launch announcement mentioned "...continuing research into the Earth's natural resources..." and that incoming information was being passed to the 'Priroda' state scientific research centre. Disintegrated 1988 Jan 31 at approx 11:00 UTC, possibly following failed recovery attempt(s) and triggering of the self-destruct system. Recovery was expected 1988 Jan 25 after 30 days in orbit.
Re-entry Unsuccesful
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