Encyclopedia Astronautica
1961.02.12 - Venera 1

Venera 1 was the first spacecraft to fly by Venus. The 6424 kg assembly was launched first into a 229 x 282 km parking orbit, then boosted toward Venus by the restartable Molniya upper stage. On 19 February, 7 days after launch, at a distance of about two million km from Earth, contact with the spacecraft was lost. On May 19 and 20, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km of Venus and entered a heliocentric orbit. This failure resulted in only the following objectives being met: checking of methods of setting space objects on an interplanetary course; checking of extra-long-range communications with and control of the space station; more accurate calculation of the dimension of the solar system; a number of physical investigations in space.

It was determined that the Venera fourth stage on the 4 February attempt failed due to loss of tank pressurisation. There was a leak in a valve, and the pressurant slowly leaked out, leaving none for the engine start. The launch this day was however outstanding. There was unlimited visibility and the rocket could be followed with the naked eye for five minutes. The fourth stage ignited properly after one orbit of the earth. The first communications session between the Venera and the Saturn communications complex was all right, but the planned second session failed since the spacecraft was moving faster than predicted and was out of sight. After 12 hours the satellite was already 126,000 km from the earth. Kamanin admits he was mistaken in his negative analysis of the Venera spacecraft's flight readiness.

Kamanin describes Korolev. He is unable to make a decision about the man's true nature. Everyone is excited about the new seven-year plan, approved on 23 January 1960 in decree 711-296, which authorises design work to start on the N1 superbooster. In the immediate future, Vostok 3KA flights are planned every 8 to 10 days beginning 22 February until the first manned flight is achieved. The first flights will use mannequins to test the cosmonaut ejection seat. A manned flight will be attempted after two consecutive successful mannequin flights.

In the West, the failed Venera 4 launch is being analysed as an attempted manned flight. Some Italians claim to have picked up voices on radio from the satellite. Kamanin describes all of this as unfounded speculation -- the Soviet Union will not risk a man's life until two fully successful mannequin flights demonstrate safe recovery.

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