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Mars 1960A



Mars 1960A (also known as Korabl 4 and Marsnik 1) was reported by the NASA Administrator to Congress in 1962 to be an attempt at a Mars probe. Some Soviet scientists involved with the program at that time claim no knowledge of this mission, stating that only the launch on October 14 (Marsnik 2) was an intended Mars mission. However V.G. Perminov, the leading designer of planetary spacecraft at the Lavochkin design bureau, states that this mission was indeed intended for Mars, was identical to Mars 1960B, and was launched unsuccessfully in October 1960.

Mission Profile

This would have been the Soviet Union's first attempt at a planetary probe. The objectives of the mission were to investigate interplanetary space between Earth and Mars, to study Mars and return surface images from a flyby trajectory, and to study the effects of extended spaceflight on onboard instruments and provide radio communications from long distances. After launch, vibrations due to the ignition of the second stage damaged the gyroscopic pitch control, causing the rocket to veer off-course. The emergency cutoff of engine procedure was instituted at 309.9 seconds after launch. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 120 km before reentry, eventually crashing in eastern Siberia.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The spacecraft was nearly identical to the Venera 1 design, a cylindrical body about 2 meters high with two solar panel wings, a 2.33 meter high-gain net antenna, and a long antenna arm, and had a mass of about 650 kg. It carried a 10 kg science payload consisting of a magnetometer on a boom, cosmic ray counter, plasma-ion trap, a radiometer, a micrometeorite detector, and a spectroreflectometer to study the CH band, a possible indicator of life on Mars. These instruments were mounted on the outside of the spacecraft. A photo-television camera was held in a sealed module in the spacecraft and could take pictures through a viewport when a sensor indicated the Sun-illuminated martian surface was in view.

Attitude was controlled by a Sun-star sensor with attitude correction performed by a dimethylhydrazine/nitric acid binary propellant engine. The spacecraft orientation was to be maintained so that the solar panels faced the Sun throughout the flight. Power was provided by the two-square meter solar panels which charged silver-zinc batteries. Radio communications were made using a decimeter band transmitter via the high gain antenna for spacecraft commands and telemetry. Radio bearing was used to maintain the antennas orientation to Earth. Images were to be transferred using an 8-cm wavelength transmitter through the high-gain antenna. A fourth stage was added to the booster, the Molniya or 8K78, the new launcher was designated SL-6/A-2-e.

Spacecraft image for illustrative purposes - not necessarily in the public domain.

Alternate Names

  • 1M No.1
  • Korabl 4
  • Marsnik 1
  • Marsnik1

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1960-10-10
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation Upper Stage + Escape Stage
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 650 kg

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (U.S.S.R)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Harvey, B., The new Russian space programme from competition to collaboration, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, England, 1996.
  • Snyder, C. W., and V. I. Moroz, Spacecraft exploration of Mars, in Mars, Kieffer ed, U. of Arizona Press, 1992.
  • Varfolomeyev, T., The Soviet Mars programme, Spaceflight, 35, 230-231, July 1993.
  • Perminov, V. G., The difficult road to Mars - A brief history of Mars exploration in the Soviet Union, NASA, No. 15, Wash, DC, July 1999.
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