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Vostok launch vehicle

The rocket that carried the first man into space.

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Vostok

Major features of the Vostok rocket. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak

Vostok

A Vostok rocket at liftoff.

The 8K72K rocket, (later known as Vostok) derived from a three-stage launch vehicle which carried the first Soviet unmanned probes to the Moon. Structural changes were limited primarily to the top (third) stage originally developed for sending its payloads to the Moon.

The key difference was the replacement of the RD-0105 engine on the third stage of the rocket with the RD-109 engine. Both, were developed at Semen Kosberg's design bureau in Voronezh under a direct leadership of Vasily Koshelnikov. The upgraded engine featured better reliability and specifications thanks to more effecient and lighter combustion chamber. It was developed under leadership of Vitaly Rubinsky within an internal initiative of the design bureau. RD-109 was initially manufactured at the bureau before being transfered to the adjacent Voronezh Mechanical Plant.

For Vostok missions, a larger cylindrical adapter was fitted onto the stage to accommodate a manned spacecraft and its protective payload shroud. The new fairing had a big circular opening to enable Vostok pilots to eject from the cabin in case of an emergency on the launch pad or in the early phase of the launch.

The total launch mass of the 8K72 rocket with the Vostok spacecraft reached 287 tons. (52). The launch and first two stages of the orbital insertion would be similar to most vehicles based on the R-7 missile. The payload fairing the Vostok spacecraft would be split into two petals and dropped soon after the separation of the first stage.

Upon reaching the velocity necessary to insert the Vostok spacecraft into orbit, the flight control system would shut down the engine of the third stage and separate the stage from the spacecraft.

The first launch of the human-rated rocket was made on Dec. 22, 1960, with the RD-109 No. 13 engine on the third stage. On April 12, 1961, the same vehicle with RD-109 No. 17 engine on the third stage launched the world's first manned spacecraft - Vostok.

A total of 140 RD-109 enignes had been manufactured for Vostok rockets.

With the conclusion of manned Vostok missions in 1963, the unmanned version of the rocket, later known as Vostok-M, was introduced on Aug. 28, 1964, with the launch of the Meteor satellite. The vehicle continued flying for several decades with unmanned satellites, including Elektron and Meteor. (2)

The general architecture of the Vostok rocket was revealed to the general public only in 1967, when a full-scale mockup of the rocket was displayed at the Paris Air and Space Show in Le Bourget, France.


APPENDIX

Vostok rocket designations:

Vehicle name
Industrial name
US name
Vostok
8K72
A-1/SL-3

 

Known specifications of the Vostok rocket:

Number of stages
3
Total length
38.36 meters (2) 41 meters (466)
Maximum diameter with stabilizers
10.3 meters (2)
Total liftoff mass
287 tons (52) 290.515 tons (466)
Rocket dry mass
28.759 tons (466)
Stage I and II dry mass
23.560 tons (466)
Payload fairing mass 0.8 tons (466)
Payload fairing maximum diameter
2.7 meters (466)
Payload 4.73 tons (2); 4.8 tons (466); 5.02 tons* (466)
Stage I and II (combined) thrust
5,410.1 kH (466)
Stage I (Four boosters - Blocks B, V, G, D) -
Length 19.8 meters (2)
Diameter 2.68 meters (2)
Stage I thrust
4,960.0 kH (466)
Stage II (Core stage/Block A) -
Length 28.75 meters (2)
Diameter 2.95 meters (2)
Stage II thrust
976.7 kH (466)
Stage III (Block E) -
Stage III dry mass 1.34 tons (466)
Stage III thrust
54.9 kH (466)

*For a circular 200-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.8 degrees toward the Equator.


 

Vostok rocket variants:

Luna/Vostok
8K72 (8K72L)
Luna probes, Vostok (first launch)
Vostok
8K72K
Vostok
Vostok-2
8K72V
-
Vostok-2M
8K72V1
Elektron, Meteor
Vostok-2M
8K72V3
Elektron, Meteor
Vostok-2M
8K72D
Elektron, Meteor
Vostok-2M
8K72-2D
Elektron, Meteor
Vostok
8A92
Zenit-2
Vostok-M
8A92M
Tselina D, Meteor, IRS-1A, Intercosmos-Bulgaria
Vostok
8A92ME
Meteor, Tselina-D
Vostok
8A92V3
Zenit-2
Vostok
8A93
OD-2
Vostok
11A92
Zenit-2

 

Vostok rocket production team (466):

Responsibility
Organization
Location
Overall development
OKB-1
Podlipki (Kaliningrad, now Korolev)
Manufacturing Stage III, fairing, spacecraft
ZEM
Podlipki (Kaliningrad, now Korolev)
Manufacturing Stage I and II
Aviation plant No. 1
Kuibyshev (now Samara)

 

 

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Story and images by Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 19, 2016

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: April 12, 2011

All rights reserved

 

IMAGE ARCHIVE

launch

The launch of the Vostok spacecraft. Credit: RKK Energia, Roskosmos


Block E

A propulsion system on the third stage of the Vostok rocket. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak


Stage 3

The 3rd stage of the Vostok rocket during pre-launch processing. Credit: RKK Energia


RD-0109

The RD-0109 engine, which powered the 3rd stage of the Vostok rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak


RD-107/108

A mockup of the 1st stage engine which propelled the Vostok rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak


Pad No. 5

A full-scale replica of the Vostok rocket and its erector. The display illustrates how low the rocket is positioned relative to the surface of the launch pad. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak