Soviet Star Wars

Posted: December 10, 2009 in nuclear weapons, Russia
Tags: ,

The launch that saved the world from orbiting laser battle stations
Air & Space Magazine

(This is a lengthy article but the most interesting to me is this last section…)
The rocket was rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted to the vertical launch position. Then, on the night of May 15, 1987, Energia’s engines lit and the giant rocket climbed into the sky. Whereas most launches from Baikonur head for an orbit inclined 52 degrees to the equator, Polyus-Skif traveled farther north, on a 65-degree inclination. If the worst happened, this heading would keep rocket stages and debris—or the entire Skif-DM—from falling on foreign territory.

The Energia rocket performed flawlessly, gaining speed as it rose and arced out toward the northern Pacific. But the kludged nature of the Skif–DM test spacecraft, along with all the compromises and shortcuts, spelled its doom. The satellite’s functional block had originally been designed for the Proton launcher, and couldn’t withstand the vibration of the Energia’s more powerful engines. The solution had been to mount the spacecraft with the control block at the top instead of down near the engines. Essentially, it flew into space upside down. Once the spacecraft separated from its booster, it was supposed to flip around to point away from Earth, with the control block’s engines facing down toward Earth, ready to fire and push the craft into orbit.

Skif-DM separated on cue, the spent Energia fell away, and the protective shroud over the front of the spacecraft separated. Then the entire spacecraft, as tall as a 12-story building, began its gentle pitch maneuver. Its tail end, actually the front of the spacecraft, swung up through 90 degrees, through 180 degrees…then kept going. The massive spacecraft tumbled end over end for two full revolutions, then stopped with its nose pointing down toward Earth. In the rush to launch such a complicated spacecraft, the designers had missed a tiny software error. The engines fired, and Skif-DM headed back into the atmosphere it had just escaped, quickly overheating and breaking into burning pieces over the Pacific Ocean.

http://bit.ly/812dtq

(This is interesting to me today because of the following, also about a failed Russian launch.)


Anyone for some Arctic roll? Mystery as spiral blue light display hovers above Norway
Daily Mail Online 10 Dec 2009

The Bulava missile was test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea early on Wednesday but failed at the third stage, say newspapers in Moscow today.

A Russian military source said today that ‘the third stage of the rocket did not work’. The Russian Defence Ministry, with characteristic secrecy, has so far been unavailable for comment.

The Bulava, despite being crucial to Russia’s plans to revamp its weaponry, is becoming an embarrassment after nine failed launches in 13 tests, prompting calls for it to be scrapped. In theory, it has a range of 5,000 miles and could carry up to ten nuclear weapons bound for separate targets.

A previous failure in July forced the resignation of Yury Solomonov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology which is responsible for developing the missile. However, he is now working as chief designer on the jinxed project.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was flooded with telephone calls after the light storm yesterday morning. Totto Eriksen, from Tromsø, told VG Nett: ‘It spun and exploded in the sky.’ He spotted the lights as he walked his daughter Amalie to school.

He said: ‘We saw it from the Inner Harbor in Tromsø. It was absolutely fantastic. ‘It almost looked like a rocket that spun around and around and then went diagonally down the heavens.’

Read more: http://bit.ly/8vztPm

1987, 2009… looks like they haven’t quite perfected things…

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