Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.06.14 - Ye-8-5 s/n 402


Another attempt to launch a Ye-8-5 to return lunar soil to the earth, 'scooping', the Americans' impending Apollo 11 mission. Yet another UR-500K launch failure. This time the UR-500K booster functioned perfectly, but the Block D upper stage did not fire, and the payload did not even attain earth orbit. Every UR-500K launch is costing the Soviet state 100 million roubles. This failure pretty much ended the chances for the Russians to trump the American moon landing. Tass yesterday began running stories to prepare the masses for the upcoming Apollo 11 triumph. The party line is that the Soviet Union is not about to risks the lives of its cosmonauts on flights to the moon, when automated probes can safely retrieve soil from the moon for study on earth.

Kamanin notes that there have been 7 failures in 13 flights, 1 in the first seven, followed by six consecutive failures. There is, disturbingly, no pattern. Two failures have been in Mishin's Block D upper stage; 2 failures have been with Stage 1 engines, built by Glushko at the Perm factory; 3 failures have been in the second and third stage engines, built by Konopatov at the Voronezh factory. This can only point to widespread poor quality control in the factories. There is no discipline at these factories, and few qualified workers. The investigative commissions can cite specific reasons for each failure all they want, but as far as Kamanin is concerned, the underlying cause is the lack of a culture of quality in Soviet industry.

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