April 12, 1961
55 years ago engineering genius of S.P.Korolev blazed the trail
into space for the Earth civilization by ushering in manned spaceflight
The flight into low-Earth orbit of Vostok spacecraft carrying onboard our compatriot Y.A.Gagarin marked
Beginning of the Era of Manned Spaceflight
Vostok spacecraft and its launch vehicle were developed by Special Design Bureau No.1 (now known as RSC Energia) headed by the founder of practical cosmonautics Chief Designer academician S.P. Korolev
Taking part in the development of the spacecraft and the launch vehicle, preparations for launch of and support of the flight of the spacecraft carrying a man onboard were more than 100 organizations. These include organizations headed by our country's Chief theoretician of spaceflight academician M.V. Keldysh, academicians V.P. Glushko, V.P. Barmin, N.A. Pilyugin, V.I. Kuznetsov, corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences M.S. Ryazansky.
The Vostok program became the starting point for the development and improvement of new space technologies and systems, implementation of increasingly complex manned spaceflight programs aimed at supporting man's long-duration stay in space, conducting space research and experiments in the interests of fundamental science and solution of applied problems.
Accumulated over this half of a century a powerful scientific and technological potential and on-earth infrastructure are currently aimed at establishing an interplanetary infrastructure and proceeding with manned space exploration beyond the confines of the low Earth orbit.
Preparation for and Carrying out
of the First Manned Mission into Space
Creating and developing rocket technologies in our country, first of all launch vehicle based on rocket R-7, provided by Special Design Bureau No.1 (now RSC Energia) made it possible to overcome Earth gravity and, having achieved both orbital and escape velocities, to proceed with development and refinement of space flight technologies.
The manned mission into space was preceded by first artificial satellites of Earth, interplanetary robotic spacecraft and sounding rockets.
Government Decree dated May 22, 1959, set the task of developing and launching the spacecraft needed to carry out such a mission. Approved as the prime contractor for the spacecraft was Special Design Bureau No.1.
A preliminary design of the spacecraft presented in April 1960 contained materials on the experimental spacecraft Vostok-1 intended for developmental testing of the major systems and structure of two new spacecraft - a satellite Vostok-2 (tasked with Earth observation from space) and a manned spacecraft Vostok-3 (tasked with a manned mission into space).
Taking part in the design effort on the spacecraft and the launch vehicle were employees of Special Design Bureau No.1 K.D. Bushuev, M.K. Tikhonravov, Y.F. Ryazanov, K.P. Feoktistov, I.V. Lavrov, P.I. Yermolaev, V.V. Molodtsov, A.V. Afanasiev,
K.S. Shustin, Y.N. Tsererin, L.N. Soldatova, B.G. Suprun, V.N. Dudnikov, B.I. Nikolaev, V.I. Bodrikov,
B.P. Sotskov, V.I. Frumson, V.P. Kuraev, V.A. Yazdovsky, O.G. Makarov, V.Y. Lyubinsky, N.M. Tereshenkova,
L.A. Volgin, and others.
One of the main developers of the project was K.P. Feoktistov - head of a section in the systems engineering department. Developed under the direction of a deputy chief designer B.Y. Chertok was the spacecraft control system, and under direction of B.V. Raushenbakh and V.P. Legostaev - the attitude control system.
Government Decree dated October 11, 1960 directed that spacecraft Vostok 3KA be prepared and launched with man onboard and that this task be considered as a task of utmost importance.
The spacecraft consisted of a 2.4 ton spherical descent vehicle and a 2.3 ton instrumentation and propulsion unit which included a 1600 kgf retro engine. After orbital flight, the descent vehicle returned to Earth along a ballistic trajectory. A cosmonaut wearing a special pressure suit during the launch and in flight was seated in an ejection seat installed inside the pressurized cabin of this spacecraft. The pressure suit was designed to support life of a cosmonaut in a depressurized cabin for four hours and to provide protection during seat ejection at altitudes of up to 10 km.
The launch of an experimental spacecraft 1KP (without thermal shields, life support and landing systems) took place on May 15, 1960. An unmanned orbital flight verified the operation of its major systems. On August 19, 1960, a spacecraft carrying test animals - dogs Belka and Strelka - took them into orbit and then returned them to Earth.
Spacecraft 3KA No.1 was launched on March 9, 1961, and it was outfitted with all onboard systems. Placed inside its descent vehicle were a dog named Chernushka and an anthropomorphic dummy. The mission was accomplished, the equipment operated faultlessly, the descent vehicle with a dog safely landed, and the dummy ejected as per mission plan.
The launch of spacecraft 3KA No.2, in the same configuration, took place on March 25, 1961. Placed inside the descent vehicle was a dog named Zvezdochka. Its mission was also accomplished. This launch completed developmental flight testing of spacecraft Vostok.
On April 12, 1961 the long-awaited event occurred: at 9 h 06 m 59.7 s spacecraft Vostok No.3 with the mass of 4725 kg was launched, carrying pilot-cosmonaut Y.A. Gagarin. The spacecraft was launched into orbit with the altitude of 181 km at perigee and 327 km at apogee. The cosmonaut landed at 10 h 55 min onto a soft ploughed field on a bank of the Volga river near the village Smelovka in Ternovski district of Saratov region.