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As of 2011, Cosmodrome Plesetsk occupied an area of 1,800 square kilometers. According to the official statistics, since its inception the space center had conducted testing and validation of 10 types of launch vehicles, 11 rocket complexes and 30 types of spacecraft.

Organization

As of June 2013, Plesetsk was undergoing consolidation under a command of Military Unit No. 13991. It would include five test centers, the 43rd detached scientific and testing station on the Kamchatka Peninsula, auxiliary military units and detached tracking stations. An impact range in Kamchatka was integrated into Plesetsk center in 2011. (654)


Known fatal accidents in Plesetsk

2013 accident

On November 12, 2013, the official Russian media reported that three days earlier two military personnel died and three hospitalized after they had been poisoned by vapors of rocket propellant during cleaning of a propellant tank. A poster on the web forum of the Mozhaisky Academy, which trains military cadre for the Russian rocket forces, wrote that a the military personnel had been processing a railway cistern for nitrogen tetroxide (a toxic rocket oxidizer), when one officer wearing a gas mask climbed inside and fell unconscious. Another officer rushed to his help, followed by several others, resulting in two fatalities. Ironically, the officer who was the first to enter the vessel, triggering the deadly rescue effort, did survive. The official

Kosmos disaster

By 1973, the launcher known today as Kosmos-3M was in use in Plesetsk for about six years. According to a post-Soviet source, a routine launch was planned for 1:32 a.m. on June 26, 1973. The preparation, however, run into trouble, when due to a sensor malfunction, the fuel tank was overfilled. The personnel drained part of the fuel and refueled the launcher. Apparently, at this point, the fuel tank developed a leak and 15 seconds before the liftoff, the launch sequence was automatically suspended. The launch was canceled and more than 40-member launch team tried to deactivate the vehicle. At 4:18 and 4:20 a.m. two crews of 13 people were dispatched to the launch pad. At 4:22 a.m., a dual explosion shook the complex, followed by the fire. Seven people were killed at the spot, 13 were injured, two of those later died in the hospital. No announcement about the tragedy was made at the time and its victims were buried in a mass grave in Mirny. A special memorial to the victims of the accident was dedicated in 1974.

Vostok disaster

On March 18, 1980, during the fueling of the Vostok-2M launcher with the Tselina satellite, while dozens of military technicians worked on the pad, the devastating explosion incinerated the rocket, killing 50 people. The victims of the tragedy were buried within limits of the town of Mirny, by the same memorial where nine people, who died in a 1973 Kosmos-3M explosion found their final resting place. The official investigation of the cause of the disaster essentially blamed the ground personnel for breaking fire safety rules. However, for years to come the official conclusion was doubted by people familiar with the matter. According to the post-Cold War Russian source, the results of investigation were proved wrong, when on June 23, 1981, a similar disaster was miraculously averted at the last second in Plesetsk. The new investigation pinpointed a valve, made of materials, which on contact with hydrogen peroxide could cause explosive chain reaction. Not until the end of the 1980's an outside world could learn about both accidents.

 


List of known facilities in Plesetsk:

Facility Description
3 Building No. 14 with a processing facility, TK, for Soyuz and Molniya launch vehicles, Fregat stage, Liana spacecraft, a payload section assembly area for Soyuz and Molniya launchers
10 Town of Mirny (main residential area)
16 Pad No. 2 for the Soyuz-U launch vehicle
25 Processing infrastructure for the RT-2 missile (dismantled after 2011).
32 The 11P868 launch complex for the Tsyklon-3 (11K68) booster with two launch pads
32T Building No. 130 with processing area originally for Tsyklon-3 and later for Rockot boosters
35 A two-pad launch complex originally built for Zenit with a completion date in 1996; During 2000s, rebuilt for Angara
41 Residential area serving Site 1 and Site 142
43 An original launch pad No. 3 for the 8K78M Molniya rocket and pad No. 4, later refurbished for the Soyuz-2 and Soyuz-1
101 An IP-1 ground control station (OKIK-8)
104 A ground station, part of the OKIK-8 complex
111 Residential area
132 From 1967 to present - The 11P865 complex for the Kosmos-3M rocket
133 From 1967 to 1977 - the 11P863 Raduga launch complex for the Kosmos-2 (11K63) rocket with two pads. From 1985 to 1997 - the 11P865P Voskhod for the Kosmos-3M (11K65M) rocket; 1997-present - one pad converted for Rockot
141 Building No. 201 with processing facility for a spacecraft developed at NPO Lavochkin (likely Oko-type satellites); Building No. 1 is used to process an NPO PM spacecraft, previously used for Nadezhda, Tsikada, Obzor, Strela-3, Meteor-3M and Kosmos launch vehicle; Building No. 101 with the processing facility for Okean-01 spacecraft and Kosmos launch vehicle
142 Building No. 1 with processing and assembly area originally for Zenit and later for Angara rockets (under construction); the processing area for Resurs F, F1, Bion, Foton, Oblik, Yantar (Kobalt), Molniya-3K spacecraft
145 A KAZ nitrogen-oxygen plant
151 ZNS fueling and neutralization station 11G143 operational from 1972 to 1991; later 11G143-2 until present
161 Processing infrastructure for the RT-2 missile (dismantled after 2011)
171 Processing area (for the Kosmos-3M rocket and spacecraft)

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Page author: Anatoly Zak

Last update: November 18, 2015

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