Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.07.22 - Soviet post-mortems after Apollo 11


Two sequential N1 failures could not just be blamed on the poor reliability of the first stage. It was apparent that, compared to the Americans, both the management and the development practices of the Soviet space programme were inferior to the Americans. Politically there was no consensus within the Soviet state of the need for a space programme. Glushko and Ustinov waged a perpetual struggle against Afanasyev, Keldysh, and Mishin. RVSN Commander Kirillov wrote a letter to Smirnov on behalf of Afanasyev on the root causes of the failures. His faction believed these were the continued use of artillery/military rocket development practices for large, complex systems. These outdated practices required 20 to 60 flight tests to achieve reliability before a rocket could be put into production.

The poor results of all of the current generation of space programmes - Luna, Mars, Venera, L1, and L3 - showed that new development methods were required. Extensive ground test was needed prior to first flight trials. New, extensively qualified basic spacecraft and rocket components were needed.

Ustinov's reply to this letter was dismissive. This was nothing new, even his ministry had proposed such measures, which were the ones the Americans were using. The Ministry of Defence had not approved funds for development of reusable Kuznetsov engines (which could be static tested prior to launch, as American engines), or a test stand for the Block A first stage, or N11 rocket tests (the basic booster without Block D or payload). This lack of funding, not the method of development, was the reason for the problems.

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