Encyclopedia Astronautica

Vostok and GR-1
Dynamic test models of Vostok, Soyuz and GR-1 ICBM
Credit: © Mark Wade
Korolev's entry in the 'Global Rocket' competition, a missile that could place a nuclear warhead in orbit, where it could come in under or behind American anti-ballistic missile defences, and be deorbited with little warning. Cancelled in 1964 in preference to Yangel's R-36-O.

The Global Rocket 1 (GR-1) requirement of 1961 called for a system to place a large 1,500 kg nuclear warhead equipped with a deorbit rocket stage into a low earth orbit of 150 km altitude. The warhead could approach the United States from any direction, below missile tracking radar, so little warning was available. Not only could such a missile hit any point on earth, but the enemy would also be uncertain when it would be deorbited onto target. The main disadvantage was lower accuracy of the warhead in comparison to an ICBM.

Korolev insisted on sticking to the liquid oxygen/kerosene propellants of his R-9 ICBM, despite the military's preference for the more toxic but storable propellants used by the other designers. In competition with Korolev's 8K713 design, Chelomei proposed his UR-200, while Yangel offered the R-36. Korolev considered the 8K713 a low risk project, using rocket elements already in development by his bureau:

  • First stage: a stretched version of the first stage of the planned R-9M missile with Kuznetsov NK-9 engines
  • Second stage: an adaptation of the Soyuz launch vehicle third stage
  • Third stage: a development of the Molniya launch vehicle's fourth stage with the S1-5400 engine.
  • Missile sized for launch from existing R-9 launch silos

Korolev unofficially started work on the missile on 15 March 1962 based on a verbal go-ahead by Khrushchev. The draft project for the GR-1 was completed in May 1962, and a mock-up had already been built and drawings released to the production shop by the time the official resolution was issued on 24 September 1962. Test flights were scheduled to start in the third quarter of 1963. The 8D726 third stage engine was proven in over 500 test firings of 230 preproduction engines. However continued development problems with Kuznetsov's NK-9 first stage engine resulted in delays. Kuznetsov could not provide Korolev with a flightworthy engine by the end of 1963. By that time two flight missiles were completed and LC-51 at Baikonur had been modified and comprehensively checked out for the beginning of fully automated launches. Reaction time for the operational missile was expected to be as little as 8 to 12 minutes. But during the course of 1964 Korolev's GR-1 and Chelomei's UR-200 were both cancelled in preference to Yangel's R-36.

Cancellation of the 8K713 in March 1964 had a significant and perhaps fatal impact on the project for Korolev's N1 moon rocket. Korolev had hoped that the GR-1 could be used to prove N1 engines concepts. This is remarked on in the editor's note to Korolev's letter to Khrushchev of 17 March 1964 ('Document written to N S Khrushchev on the path for development and experimental launch of the intercontinental global rocke GR-1'). Vetrov states:

S P Korolev also did not agree to cancellation of the GR-1, which had great potential for support of the future work of OKB-1. It was important to continue tests of the GR-1 in order to provide realistic tests for design ideas used in the rocket engines, that were analogous between the GR-1 and N-1. This was in accordance with an earlier communicaton between Korolev and Brezhnev (a letter written in 1959 at the beginning of the N1 program). Finally the only real test of the engines of OKB-276, developed according to aviation practices, came with the first flight tests of the N-1.
In a final bit of disinformation, the two completed 8K713 flight vehicles were paraded in Red Square aboard 8T139 R-16 trailers on 9 May 1965, and identified by the Soviets as the 'global rocket' FOBS launcher, and by NATO as an operational 'Scrag' ICBM. This confused Western defence analysts for many years to come. Korolev's detractors called the GR-1 the 'Moscow-to-Leningrad ICBM', a reference to the fact that the only place it had ever gone was to Leningrad for static dynamic tests.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • 8K713 Russian intercontinental ballistic missile. ICBM version. Article number sometimes erroneously given as 8K73. More...
  • 8K513 Russian anti-satellite missile. ASAT version. Little has emerged about Korolev's ASAT project, designed in competition with Chelomei's in 1961-1964. More...
  • GR-1 Russian intercontinental ballistic missile. Korolev's entry in the 'Global Rocket' competition, a missile that could place a nuclear warhead in orbit, where it could come in under or behind American anti-ballistic missile defences, and be deorbited with little warning. Cancelled in 1964 in preference to Yangel's R-36-O. More...
  • 11A513 Russian intercontinental ballistic missile. FOBS version. Warhead accuracy 5 km along orbital track, 3 km to either side. OKB-1 estimated warhead would be detected by Western defences only two minutes before it detonated. The designation SS-10 was assigned by the DOD to the UR-200, but was commonly and erroneously applied to the GR-1, which was shown publicly after its cancellation. More...

GR-1 Chronology

1962 May - . LV Family: GR-1. Launch Vehicle: GR-1.
  • Draft project for the GR-1 was completed - . Nation: USSR.

1962 September 24 - . LV Family: GR-1; N1; Tsiklon.
  • N1 and GR-1 authorised. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Korolev; Keldysh; Yangel. Program: Vostok. Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 1021-436 'On start of work on the N1 and GR-1' was issued. Following a review of the N1 project by an Academy of Sciences expert commission headed by Keldysh in July, this decree provided a detailed plan leading to a first launch by the end of 1965. Planning and drawing release for the GR-1 were completed by this date and the decree ordered test flights to begin in the third quarter of 1963. However development problems with the NK-9 engine resulted in continual delays. Finally in 1964 Korolev's GR-1 was cancelled and Yangel’s R-36 was selected for the mission. This would deprive Korolev of a vital test-bed for flight test of the N1 engines.

1962 October 13 - . LV Family: GR-1. Launch Vehicle: GR-1.
  • GR-1 FOBS missile authorised. - . Nation: USSR. Summary: State Committee for Defence Technology (GKOT) Decree 640/06 'On start of work on the GR-1' was issued..

During 1965 - . LV Family: GR-1; N1; R-9; RT-2. Launch Vehicle: RT-1.
  • N1 development issues - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Pilyugin; Korolev; Raushenbakh. Program: Lunar L3. Spacecraft: Luna E-6; LK; Soyuz 7K-LOK. There were two camps on the N1-L3 control systems. One group was within OKB-1, and had developed the systems for the Vostok and Zenit spacecraft, under the personal oversight of Korolev. They stressed the maximum quality and reliability in their systems. The second group had worked with Pilyugin, and had designed the systems for the Mars, Venus, Luna E-6 probes, the R-9, RT-1, RT-2, and GR-1 missiles; and piloted spacecraft. Their design emphasis was on maximum usability and output. Pilyugin had been named chief designer of the control system for the N1-L3. Additional Details: here....

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