8A92 OperationsThe first 8A92 launch vehicle took off on 1 June 1962 carrying reconnaissance satellite Zenit-2 No.3, but just 1.8s after blast off the engine 8D74 (RD-107) of the strap-on booster Block B suddenly cut off . Due to abnormal loads, the booster B broke away and fell to the pad damaging it. The central sustainer Block A carrying the upper stage went out of control with the remaining three boosters attached, fell back to Earth about 300 m from the-pad and blew up . The launch pad was under repair for almost two months. The next launch came on 28 July 1962 and was successful, as also were the following seven launches. But the launch attempt on 10 July 1963 ended in serious failure again. Two seconds before lift-off, the hydrogen peroxide valve of the strap-on booster Block V suddenly cut out. As a result a turbopump stopped and the engine 8D74 of the booster V shut down. Nevertheless the launcher, with the engine units of three boosters and the central sustainer operating, blasted off. The faulty booster V broke off at once and the launcher exploded. On this occasion the launch pad was extensively damaged. Preliminary studies of these failures showed that it looked as if some sort of fault had knocked out the power supply circuit of the engine's automatic devices. The next launches were delayed until the cause had been revealed. Investigations and tests took more than three months and led to the conclusion that a remote commutator that switched power to the booster's control system was the cause of these failures .
8A92M - An Improved Version of the 8A92.
During 1961-1963, responsibility for all
improvements, the development of new versions, flight tests and operation of R-7 based
launch vehicles was placed with the Kuibyshev Branch of
OKB-1 (now TsSKB-Progress, Samara) headed by D.I. Kozlov [4,5]
In 1965 the decision was taken by the Branch leadership to end the manufacture of the 8A92  since at that time a new three-stage R-7 based launch vehicle 11A57 was in service. But it turned out that a launcher of the 8A92-class was the most suitable vehicle for putting Meteor satellites into near-polar orbits due to its ascent profile and the burning time of the Block E (Stage 3) . During 1966 the Kuibyshev Branch of the OKB-1 developed a modified version of the 8A92, designated 8A92M, especially for placing satellites in polar Sun-synchronous and near-polar orbits. The basic packet of Stages 1/2 of the 8A92M remained basically unchanged although on-board control and telemetry cabling was lightened and the telemetry system itself was replaced by an improved one. Stage 3 (Block E) was equipped with a new telemetry system and a new light compact inertial control system designed with more precise units. The new nose fairing was unified with the same unit which was being used a top the 11A57 launcher, i.e. it was lengthened by 0.4 m. The first 8A92M launch was on 28 February 1967 from the Plesetsk launch site and it put into orbit a satellite of the Meteor class officially announced as Kosmos-144. Up to 1984 all Meteor-1 and 2 satellites (excluding the Meteor-2 launched by the 11K68 Tsiklon-3 launcher on 25 March 1982) were launched by the 8A92M. On 18 December 1969 launch vehicle 8A92M placed in orbit a satellite of the ELINT-class, Tselina-D, named officially as Kosmos-389. This spacecraft, intended for detailed electronic intelligence, was developed by M.K. Yangel's Design Bureau Yuzhnoye (Dnepropetrovsk) during 1965-1969. The 8A92M launcher again turned out to be the most suitable vehicle for placing these satellites in orbit. This launcher had been putting ELINT satellites into orbit for fourteen years when, during 1981-1983, it was replaced by the launch vehicle 11K68 (Tsiklon-3). The 8A92M also placed in orbit the Russian Meteor-Priroda (Resurs-O) and Indian IRS-1 Earth resource satellites. It achieved high reliability. In total, 90 launches took place and only two of them ended in failure (on 8 January and 1 February 1969). One launch attempt was aborted on 15 October 1970 when the launcher did not leave the launch pad. One launch attempt ended in tragedy.
Disaster and AftermathOn 18 March 1980, the launch vehicle 8A92M had being preparing for routine launch at pad No.4 of the Ptesetsk cosmodrome with the ELINT satellite Tselina-D atop. At 19:01 Moscow Time, during fuelling operations, the launcher blew up. As a result 51 men were killed and a few dozen were injured . Immediately after the disaster, a State Commission was established to investigate the cause of the tragedy. For two months the commission examined a number of versions of the event and came to conclusion that one member of launch team - a corporal - was the main culprit . During fuelling he had discovered a LOX leak at a junction of a filling pipeline and the LOX inlet of Stage 3 and he was trying to eliminate the defect by wrapping the site of the leak with a wet rag[8.]. In me opinion of the commission it led to the explosion of Stage 3 and the launcher as a whole.
2. M. Rudenko, "The Lost Moon", Ekonomika i Zhizn (Economy and Life), Weekly newspaper, No.47, 1991, p.14.
3. V. Agapov, "Launches of Zenit-2 Spacecraft", Novosti Kosmonavtiki, Vol.6, No.lO, 1996, p.76.
4. D.I. Kozlov, "Rocket for Yuri Gagarin was made in Samara", SALON-95, Newspaper of the Moscow Aerospace Salon MAKS-95, 24 August 1995, p.5.
5. S.P. Korolev Rocket Space Corporation ENERGIA, 1946-1936. Moscow, 1996, p.l 72.
6. Private conversation with veteran of TsSKB at the Moscow Aerospace Sa/on '97 (MAKS-97).
7. D. lvanov, "Explosion at the Launch Pad", Rossijskiye Vesti (Russian News), Newspaper, 31 March 1994, p.3.
8. D. lvanov, "For the Sake of Truth", Svobodnaya Mysl (Free View), Monthly magazine, No.ll, 1993, p.80.
9. Ibid, p.81.
10. V. Agapov, "Launches of Zenit-2 Spacecraft", Novosti Kosmonavtiki, Vol.6, No.lO, 1996, pp.70,71.
11. Ibid, pp.72,73.
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