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.
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
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
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.
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:
Page author: Anatoly Zak
Last update: November 18, 2015
All rights reserved