Tentatively Identified Missions and Launch Failures



Luna 1958A

23 September 1958

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This early Luna launch was the first Soviet attempt to reach the Moon and impact on its surface, with a 156 kg Ye-1 probe. The SL-3/A-1 launch vehicle (a three stage R-7 rocket with a Block Ye upper stage) underwent a structural failure due to vibration caused by pressure oscillations in the BVGD boosters and exploded 92 seconds after launch.


Luna 1958B

12 October 1958

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This early Luna launch was the second Soviet attempt to reach the Moon and impact on its surface, with a Ye-1 payload. The SL-3/A-1 launch vehicle (an R-7 rocket (8K72) with a Block Ye upper stage) exploded 104 seconds after launch, again due to vibration. This mission was launched a few hours after the Pioneer 1 mission, an unsuccessful attempt by the U.S. to reach the Moon. Because Luna was on a faster trajectory, it would have reached the Moon first.


Luna 1958C

4 December 1958

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This early Luna launch was the third Soviet attempt to reach the Moon and impact on its surface. It carried a 156 kg Ye-1 payload. A second stage engine of the SL-3/A-1 launcher lost thrust 245 seconds after launch due to failure of a hydrogen peroxide pump gearbox which was compromised by the failure of a hermetic seal and loss of lubricant feed. The rocket lost stability and the engine was shut down by the AVD emergency system.


Luna 1959A

18 June 1959

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This Luna launch was an attempt to reach the Moon and impact on its surface. The payload mass was 390 kg, designate Ye-1a. An SL-3/A-1 launcher was used. The guidance system of the R-7 rocket failed during second stage operations 152 seconds after launch and the spacecraft was destroyed by ground command.


Luna 1960A

15 April 1960

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This Luna mission was an attempt to duplicate the Luna 3 achievement of photographing the far side of the Moon, but passing closer to the lunar surface with higher resolution cameras (The Yenisey photo-television unit). The probe was designated Ye-2f and had a mass of approximately 280 kg. A premature cutoff (3 seconds early) of the upper stage RD-105 engine of the SL-3/A-1 launcher resulted in a velocity 130 m/s less than what was needed. The spacecraft reached an altitude of only 200,000 km and fell back. The cause of the early cutoff was found to be due to the upper stage not being fully fueled with kerosene.


Luna 1960B

19 April 1960

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This Luna mission was an attempt to duplicate the Luna 3 achievement of photographing the far side of the Moon, but passing closer to the lunar surface with higher resolution cameras (The Yenisey photo-television unit). The probe was designated Ye-2f and had a mass of approximately 280 kg. At launch, the four strap-on blocks of the SL-3/A-1 launcher failed to ignite correctly and broke loose, firing off in random directions. The accident caused considerable damage to the launch pad. Some sources give the launch date as April 16.


Luna 1963B

2 February 1963

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was an attempt at a soft-landing on the Moon. The 1420 kg lander bus, the Ye-6, was 2.7 m high and about 1.5 m across at the base. It consisted of a cylindrical section containing maneuvering and landing rockets and fuel, orientation devices and radio transmitters and a spherical top containing the 100 kg landing hemisphere. The lander would be ejected onto the surface after the main body touched down, carrying a camera and devices to measure radiation. Launched on an SL-6/A-2-e (8K78 Molniya), the spacecraft failed to reach Earth orbit when pitch angle control was lost 105.5 seconds after launch. The two upper stages crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Midway Island.


Venera 1964A

19 February 1964

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Venera 1964A, a 3MV series Zond, was planned as a Venus flyby mission. The Zond spacecraft was 3.6 m high and 1.1 m in diameter. The spacecraft and SL-6/A-2-e (8K78 Molniya) launcher failed to attain Earth orbit when a frozen pipeline burst at third stage ignition causing the stage to explode.


Luna 1964A

21 March 1964

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Luna 1964A was an attempted lunar landing mission. The Ye-6 lander and SL-6/A-2-e (8K78 Molniya) launcher failed when a valve failed to open completely reducing the available thrust. The rocket cut off 489 seconds after launch and crashed.


Luna 1964B

20 April 1964

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Luna 1964B was an attempted lunar landing mission. The Ye-6 lander and SL-6/A-2-e (8K78 Molniya) launcher failed to attain Earth orbit when the guidance and control system failed, ending the mission 340 seconds after launch.


Zond 1964A

4 June 1964

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This flight was planned as a lunar flyby. The mission was designed as a technology test of the Zond spacecraft for future Mars missions. The SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed and the spacecraft did not achieve Earth orbit.


Luna 1965A

10 April 1965

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Luna 1965A is tentatively identified as an attempted lunar lander mission. It is believed the SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed to bring the spacecraft to Earth orbit.


Venera 1965A

26 November 1965

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Venera 1965A was an attempted Venus flyby mission, possibly similar to the Venera 2 flyby mission launched two weeks earlier. It is believed the SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed.


Luna 1966A

30 April 1966

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Luna 1966A is tentatively identified as a lunar orbiter mission. It is believed the SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed to bring the spacecraft to Earth orbit.


Zond 1967A

28 September 1967

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This was an unmanned test flight of the Soviet lunar capsule planned for manned flights. The exact intended mission is not known, but may have a flight out to lunar distance (but in the opposite direction from the Moon, as was done later for Zond 4 ) and return. The capsule was similar to the Zond 4 and presumably carried instruments, such as the proton detectors carried by Zond 4, as well. The SL-12/D-1-e Proton launcher first stage had six engines. The fuel line of one of these engines was blocked after liftoff by a rubber plug which had come loose. This caused the rocket to fall off its intended course 60 seconds after launch. The Zond capsule was lifted away by the escape tower and landed safely. The rocket crashed 65 km downrange.


Zond 1967B

22 November 1967

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This was an unmanned test flight of the Soviet lunar capsule planned for manned flights. The exact intended mission is not known, but may have a flight out to lunar distance (but in the opposite direction from the Moon, as was done later for Zond 4 ) and return. The capsule was similar to the Zond 4 and presumably carried instruments, such as the proton detectors carried by Zond 4, as well. One of the 4 rocket engines on the SL-12/D-1-e Proton second stage failed triggering the emergency system, which included disengagement of the cabin and automatic shutdown of the other engines. The Proton crashed 300 km downrange. The Zond cabin was recovered despite a premature firing of the landing rockets.


Luna 1968A

7 February 1968

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Luna 1968A is tentatively identified as an attempted launch to reach lunar orbit. The spacecraft and SL-6/A-2-e launcher failed to reach Earth orbit. Presumably the Luna probe itself was equipped similarly to the later Luna 14 probe.


Zond 1968A

23 April 1968

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

Zond 1968A is tentatively identified as an attempted test of the Zond lunar cabin, possibly planned as a lunar flyby and Earth return as was done later with the Zond 5 probe. It was probably equipped with instrumentation such as automatic cameras and proton detectors. A short circuit in the control system caused the SL-12/D-1-e stage 2 engine to shut down 260 seconds after launch.


Zond 1969A

20 January 1969

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was intended to be similar to the Zond 5 and Zond 6 missions, consisting of a lunar flyby and return to Earth, an unmanned test of the lunar capsule. The craft was presumably equipped with automatic cameras. One of the SL-12/D-1-e stage 2 engines shut down 25 seconds early, causing the emergency system to abort the flight. The escape tower brought the Zond cabin down safely.


Luna 1969A

19 February 1969

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was an attempted lunar rover (Lunakhod). The SL-12/D-1-e launcher exploded 40 seconds after launch.


Zond L1S-1

21 February 1969 UT 09:18:06

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was the first test of the powerful N-1 rocket booster (SL-15/N-1). The payload, a Zond capsule with automatic cameras and a dummy lander, was supposed to be put into lunar orbit. The cameras would have been used to record potential landing sites for future manned missions. Launch was at 12:18:06 Moscow time. At 3 - 7 seconds after liftoff engines 12 and 24 shut down due to an error in the control system, but the remaining engines automatically compensated. At 25 seconds the engines were throttled back to minimize vibration during the period of maximum dynamic pressure. At 66 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of about 30 km the engines throttled up to full power and an oxidizer pipe burst due to the vibration, causing a fire, shorting out wiring, and resulting in the surrounding engines and turbopumps exploding. This caused all remaining first stage engines to shut down and the escape mechanism to fire at 70 seconds, lifting the Zond capsule to safety. The N-1 rocket fell back to Earth and exploded 45 to 50 km downrange, the Zond capsule landed 32 to 35 km downrange.


Luna 1969B

15 April 1969

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission is tentatively identified as an attempted lunar sample return. The sample return apparatus, or Moonscooper, consisted of a descent stage at the 3.96 m diameter base containing retro-rockets, instrumentation and fuel tanks for landing as well as a robot arm. On top of this was a cylindrically-shaped instrumentation unit. An ascent stage was on top of this, consisting of ascent rockets and a sphere-shaped sample return compartment. The compartment had a hatch into which the robot arm could place lunar samples. The entire assembly was 3.96 meters high and weighed 1880 kg. The launch, on a Proton booster, failed for unknown reasons.


Luna 1969C

14 June 1969

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was an attempted lunar sample return. The sample return apparatus, or Moonscooper, consisted of a descent stage at the 3.96 m diameter base containing retro-rockets, instrumentation and fuel tanks for landing as well as a robot arm. On top of this was a cylindrically-shaped instrumentation unit. An ascent stage was on top of this, consisting of ascent rockets and a sphere-shaped sample return compartment. The compartment had a hatch into which the robot arm could place lunar samples. The entire assembly was 3.96 meters high and weighed 1880 kg. The launch, on a Proton booster, failed for unknown reasons.


Zond L1S-2

3 July 1969 UT 20:18:32

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was the second test of the powerful N-1 rocket engine (SL-15/N-1). The payload, a Zond capsule with automatic cameras and a dummy lander, was supposed to be put into lunar orbit. The cameras would have been used to record potential landing sites for future manned missions. Launch took place at 23:18:32 Moscow time on 3 July 1969. Five to nine seconds after liftoff at 150 to 200 meters the engines shut down and the rocket fell back to the launch pad and exploded, destroying the pad. The Zond capsule was thrown clear by the escape tower and landed 1 km away. The accident was apparently caused by a foreign object which was carried through a pipeline into the engine 8 oxygen pump. The object may have been a steel diaphragm from a pulse sensor which broke free or a piece of waste from the oxidizer tank. The oxygen pump exploded, damaging some of the engines and electrical circuitry and triggering automatic shutdown of all rockets just as the N-1 was clearing the launch tower. The N1 crashed back on the launch pad 18 seconds after liftoff, also damaging nearby launch pad 2 and an N1 engineering model stationed there.


Luna 1970A

6 February 1970

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission has been tentatively identified as an attempted lunar sample return, similar to the later Luna 16 mission. The SL-12/D-1-e launcher failed and the spacecraft did not reach Earth orbit.


Luna 1970B

19 February 1970

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission has been tentatively identified as an attempted lunar orbiter equipped with automatic cameras to search for potential landing sites. The SL-12/D-1-e launcher failed and the spacecraft did not reach Earth orbit, crashing into the Pacific Ocean.


Soyuz L3

23 November 1972 UT 06:11:52

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission was an attempt at a lunar orbiter test and the 4th test of the N-1 rocket. The payload consisted of the LOK (Luna Orbitalny Korabl), a Soyuz capsule designed to function as the mother craft for a lunar lander. The LOK was intended to be put into lunar orbit and then return to Earth. Liftoff occurred at 09:11:52 Moscow time. The SL-15/N-1 first stage performed well until 6 of the 30 engines shut down abruptly at 90 seconds after launch. The abrupt cut-off caused strong vibrations and failure of a liquid oxygen line. This resulted in a fire 6 seconds later. At 105 seconds after launch some engines began to explode and all engines shut down automatically at 107 seconds. The escape system pulled the LOK module to safety and the N1 was destroyed by the range safety officer at an altitude of about 40 km 108 seconds after launch.


Luna 1975A

16 October 1975

Soviet Union - Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome)

This mission has been identified as an attempted lunar sample return, possibly similar to the later Luna 24 mission. As with Luna 24, the mission was targeted for Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises). The SL-12/D-1-e launcher failed due to a problem with a rocket booster and the spacecraft did not reach Earth orbit.


References

Chertok, Boris, Rockets and People, Volume 2 - Creating a Rocket Industry, NASA SP-2006-4110, 2006

Harvey, Brian, Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration, Springer-Praxis, 2006

Harvey, Brian, Russian Planetary Exploration, Springer-Praxis, 2007

Johnson, N. L., Handbook of Soviet Lunar and Planetary Exploration, Amer. Astronau. Soc. Publ., 1979

Shelton, W., Soviet Space Exploration - The First Decade, Arthur Barker Ltd., 1969.

Siddiqi, Asif, Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974, NASA SP-2000-4408, 2000


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Author/Curator:
Dr. David R. Williams, dave.williams@nasa.gov
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NASA Official: Ed Grayzeck, edwin.j.grayzeck@nasa.gov
Last Updated: 18 October 2013, DRW