Author Topic: When Soyuz T-10-1 caught fire and exploded on the pad in 1983  (Read 25649 times)

Offline Blackstar

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http://thespacereview.com/article/2327/1
    

Things that go boom in the night
by Dwayne Day
Monday, July 8, 2013

Last week a Russian Proton rocket exploded in spectacular fashion at the primary Russian launch facility at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The rocket lifted off, wobbled, looped, and started breaking apart in fiery clumps before slamming into the ground and exploding. We know all this because there were a lot of people on site to film it in real time, or post their videos to YouTube shortly thereafter. This is, after all, the modern age.

But when Russian rockets blew themselves to smithereens during the Cold War, usually there was no public acknowledgement of the failure by Soviet officials, who preferred to conceal their embarrassments. The United States intelligence community, however, was often watching. And occasionally American officials sought to advertise the failure for propaganda purposes, even if they could not show evidence of it. Such was the case with the explosion of a Soyuz rocket in September 1983 that came close to killing two cosmonauts. Newly declassified CIA documents now reveal some of what the US intelligence community knew about this event.

Offline Stan Black

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Dwayne,

Another informative read from yourself!

One question: when was it known that Progress featured an escape tower on top? Was that something they knew or was it common knowledge by that time?

Stan

Offline arachnitect

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That was in 1983? Wow, I'd always assumed that had happened much earlier...

It made me wonder about how much the US intelligence on the Soviet manned program changed after ASTP. Weren't there various NASA liaisons to the Soviet Union, including Baikonur, during ASTP? Did the intelligence descriptions of the facilities suddenly improve?

Quote from: http://history.nasa.gov/apollo/apsoyhist.html
Prior to the conduct of ASTP, the astronauts and cosmonauts visited each other's space centers and became familiar with the spacecraft of the other country. The first visit was by the Russians to Johnson Space Center in July 1973, followed by a U.S. visit to Moscow in November 1973. In late April and early May 1974, the Russian flight crews returned to Johnson Space Center, and the U.S. crews went to Moscow in June and July 1974. The Russian crew made a third trip to the United States in September 1973 and came for the fourth and last time in February 1975. The U.S. crew visited the Soviet Union in late April and early May 1975 and became the first Americans to see the Russian launch facilities at Tyuratam on April 28, 1975.

Offline saturnapollo

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Quote
One question: when was it known that Progress featured an escape tower on top? Was that something they knew or was it common knowledge by that time?

The Progress version has never featured an escape tower. Why would it? - it's unmanned.

It's always been known that the Soyuz manned spacecraft had an escape tower. Even Airfix had the basic configuration correct when it released the Vostok/Voskhod/Soyuz launcher kit in1969.

Keith

Offline Stan Black

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Quote
One question: when was it known that Progress featured an escape tower on top? Was that something they knew or was it common knowledge by that time?

The Progress version has never featured an escape tower. Why would it? - it's unmanned.

It's always been known that the Soyuz manned spacecraft had an escape tower. Even Airfix had the basic configuration correct when it released the Vostok/Voskhod/Soyuz launcher kit in1969.

Keith

It does have an inert one!

Gunter has a picture
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau_det/soyuz-u.htm

Quote
“The presence of an escape tower atop the payload indicates that it is an SL-04 launch vehicle with a Progress/Soyuz payload.”

Offline saturnapollo

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It does have an inert one!

It doesn't now.

However point taken.

I didn't realise that the original Progress used the same launch shroud as the Soyuz but with an inert escape tower purely for aerodynamic reasons

However since 1989 when Progress M flew that was changed and a new shroud fitted - minus the tower.

Keith

Offline Targeteer

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Another great product Blackstar. 

Can you point the location of the declassified NPIC reports?  I'm somewhat surprised they've been released (although it has been the "standard" 25 years for declassification review.)
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline fregate

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42 Progress missions  from 1978 to 1990 use the same launch shroud as the Soyuz LV, though this was purely for aerodynamic purposes as the launch escape system had been deactivate.

@Blackstar - I would skeptically question an authenticity of "Keep your fingers crossed" photo. It's a typical western gesture that most likely would not be used in Russian culture before 90s...   
« Last Edit: 07/09/2013 03:24 am by fregate »
"Selene, the Moon. Selenginsk, an old town in Siberia: moon-rocket  town" Vladimir Nabokov

Offline notsorandom

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@Blackstar - I would skeptically question an authenticity of "Keep your fingers crossed" photo. It's a typical western gesture that most likely would not be used in Russian culture before 90s...   
That picture may have been a still image taken from this footage:

The part in question starts at the 36 second mark. It is hard for me to see if they are making any gestures with their hands or not.

Online jacqmans

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Offline Blackstar

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It made me wonder about how much the US intelligence on the Soviet manned program changed after ASTP. Weren't there various NASA liaisons to the Soviet Union, including Baikonur, during ASTP? Did the intelligence descriptions of the facilities suddenly improve?

Yeah, probably, although I don't think that NASA got to walk all over Baikonur.

One problem with writing based upon intelligence reports is that the compartmentalization process in the U.S. intelligence community--to keep things secret--makes it hard to know what the U.S. intelligence community really knew about what was going on. For instance, I wrote the article based solely on imagery interpretation reports. But as I mentioned in the article, there were other kinds of intelligence, such as DSP detection of the thermal energy. At some point the Air Force surely produced a report that said something like "At XXXX Zulu time, DSP-12 detected a thermal event at location XX, XX, XX. This event is consistent with a fire and explosion at this location. There was no movement of the thermal source that would indicate a launch vehicle in flight."

And of course there were communications intercepts, and possibly telemetry signals detected.

I don't have any of those reports. So the U.S. intelligence community knew a lot about what had happened, but I don't have access to that and don't have a way to assemble that all into a single overall picture.

Offline Blackstar

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A note about the video:

I'm working from vague memory here, but I think that around 1992-1993 somebody in Russia sold about 10 minutes (or less) of "secret footage" to a Western media source. I think it was in the UK. They produced a UK documentary using the footage and then I think it later showed up in a US documentary, probably on The History Channel (which used to actually show history documentaries, believe it or not). That footage has since shown up in other documentaries as well. The key stuff that was released was:

-the Nedellin explosion (lots of people running from a burning ICBM, some of them on fire)
-the Soyuz T-10-1 failure
-one or more N-1 explosions, plus some other N-1 footage
-the smoking remains of Soyuz-1

There might have been some other stuff, like mission footage, maybe from Salyut-1. All of this was kinda shady, if I remember correctly, and it is entirely possible that the Russians selling it did not have any permission to do so. It is also possible that the Russians selling it had lots of other non-disaster footage, but the Western media sources just were not interested. The people buying were interested in making money themselves, not producing exhaustive history.

Offline fregate

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@Blackstar - I would skeptically question an authenticity of "Keep your fingers crossed" photo. It's a typical western gesture that most likely would not be used in Russian culture before 90s...   
That picture may have been a still image taken from this footage:
The part in question starts at the 36 second mark. It is hard for me to see if they are making any gestures with their hands or not.
Yes, it's an authentic and there are no "Keep your fingers crossed" - military men just kept hands behind their backs. My sincere apologies for being doubtful. I was in Moscow at that time (just started my Uni study)  - but failed launch had not been announced. 
It would be fair also to mention a Soyuz 18a (crew Lazarev and Makarov) anomaly during second staging event in April of 1975. Third staged ignited when second stage was not separated and abort had been performed by Soyuz spacecraft own propulsion engine. This event had been revealed in open media only in 1983, while NASA got an official Soviet report two days after aborted launch. 
« Last Edit: 07/10/2013 03:20 am by fregate »
"Selene, the Moon. Selenginsk, an old town in Siberia: moon-rocket  town" Vladimir Nabokov

Offline Danderman

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This is a recent Roskosmos documentary on the launch abort, with some new animations.

Offline Blackstar

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That's cool. Great find, thanks!

Looks like there is one or two new pieces of launch video footage. Unfortunately, no photos of the destroyed pad or the recovered Soyuz.

Offline Danderman

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That's cool. Great find, thanks!

Looks like there is one or two new pieces of launch video footage. Unfortunately, no photos of the destroyed pad or the recovered Soyuz.

I thought I saw some imagery of people walking around the pad after the blast, close to the end of the video.

Offline Blackstar

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These might be after that accident, but it does not look like a lot of damage. The newspapers are fake, however.

Offline Danderman

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I have a dim recollection that the launch abort was not widely reported at the time, and first was reported as a rumor, not a news item.

At any rate, I think the pad was in use again within a relatively short period of time, so it was probably not Zenited.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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As far as I can see, there isn't any new footage of the accident in the documentary.  There may not be much other footage of the accident itself, but what about footage of the damage to the pad, the recovered Soyuz etc.? I wonder why nothing new has been released more than 30 years after the accident. Is that footage still classified, is it too difficult to track down in the archives or what? The same question can be asked about footage of many other Soviet space missions.     

It is claimed in the documentary that the Americans initially believed three cosmonauts had died in the accident. I do remember there were Western reports about three cosmonauts being on board, but I don't think there ever were rumours that they had died. That certainly doesn't emerge from the declassified CIA documents described by Dwayne Day in "The Space Review" last year. The documentary is quick to add that the Americans failed to draw the necessary lessons from the accident by not equipping the Space Shuttle with a crew escape system...

Offline Blackstar

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1-but what about footage of the damage to the pad, the recovered Soyuz etc.? I wonder why nothing new has been released more than 30 years after the accident. Is that footage still classified, is it too difficult to track down in the archives or what? The same question can be asked about footage of many other Soviet space missions.     

2-It is claimed in the documentary that the Americans initially believed three cosmonauts had died in the accident. I do remember there were Western reports about three cosmonauts being on board, but I don't think there ever were rumours that they had died. That certainly doesn't emerge from the declassified CIA documents described by Dwayne Day in "The Space Review" last year.

3-The documentary is quick to add that the Americans failed to draw the necessary lessons from the accident by not equipping the Space Shuttle with a crew escape system...

1-I agree. You would think that by now somebody would have photos of the destroyed launch pad.

2-I have over a dozen declassified imagery interpretation memos following this accident. None of them mentions the crew being killed. Several of them are very clear that the capsule was visible a few kilometers away from the pad along with recovery forces and a parachute. So it was clear from the imagery interpretation reports that the crew escape system had fired successfully.

3-That's an ignorant statement on their part. It was not possible to equip shuttle with such a system at this point (1983) without completely redesigning the vehicle and sacrificing most of its performance. I think that I've seen reports indicating that adding a system for ejecting the crew compartment would have reduced the shuttle's payload to something like 10-15K pounds.

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