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Marsnik 2



Marsnik 2, an intended Mars flyby mission, was either the Soviet Union's first or second attempt at a planetary probe, depending on whether the probe designated as Marsnik 1 reputedly launched four days earlier was actually designed to go to Mars. 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, the third stage pumps were unable to develop enough thrust to commence ignition, so Earth parking orbit was not achieved. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 120 km before reentry.

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

    Facts in Brief

    Launch Date: 1960-10-14
    Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation Upper Stage + Escape Stage
    Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
    Mass: 640 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 & 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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