62.8 N 40.7 E
Overview, Supporting Facilities and Launch Vehicles of the Soviet Space Program *
The second of the Soviet launch sites is near the town of Plesetsk on the railway from Moscow to Archangel at about 62.83 N. latitude, 40.1° E. longitude in European Russia. This site has never been specifically acknowledged through 1975. It is finding increasingly heavy use, primarily as an operational site, in contrast to the often experimental or specialized nature of the Tyuratam flights.
Plesetsk is in effect the Vandenberg Air Force Base ( Western Test Range ) of the Soviet Union . From here are launched many of the navigation satellites, the weather satellites, and the majority of the military satellites for a wide range of purposes. Now also, most of the Molniya class inclined orbit communications satellites which previously were launched from Tyuratain are also launched from Plesetsk. With its northern location, Plesetsk is used for missions which require coverage of extensive parts of Earth, since even flights launched due east for maximum payload capacity cover most of the inhabited Earth.
Plesetsk had been discussed in the Western press as a missile launching area. It’s later space role presumably was known to Western governments, but the first public disclosure of this space cosmodrome came from the Kettering Grammar School in England . Geoffrey E. Perry published the first clue in April 1966 shortly after the first space launch in March. (7) He published the pinpointed location in November 1966 when Flights at different inclinations had established a nodal point of crossing ground traces. (8) As additional kinds of missions were launched from the Plesetsk area, their patterns of orbital inclinations suggested launch pads scattered over a considerable geographic area. Landsat pictures confirmed to the public that Plesetsk was spread over tens of kilometers although not quite as large as the Baykonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam.(9)
When weather conditions are just right, an occasional Plesetsk launch has been visible from Sweden and Finland , when the still firing rocket rises above the horizon. The closest the Soviet Government has come to acknowledging Plesetsk is to permit its use for cooperative Soviet Bloc payload launches, one of the first being Interkosmos 8 of 1972. (1)
Three separate launch pads for Soyuz-2 rockets will be built at the Plesetsk space center in northwestern Russia after its renovation is over by 2019, a defense ministry spokesman said 21 May 2015. MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said: "When the renovation is over, the space center will have three launch pads for launching medium and light-class Soyuz-2 rockets, modifications 1a, 1b, 1v." He added that renovation works at the Plesetsk space center include building 72 new sites and renovating 26 existing ones. The first launch of a medium-class Soyuz-2 rocket from a new launch pad is expected to take place in the first half of 2017.
- 1. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS, 1971-75, OVERVIEW, FACILITIES AND HARDWARE MANNED AND UNMANNED FLIGHT PROGRAMS, BIOASTRONAUTICS CIVIL AND MILITARY APPLICATIONS PROJECTIONS OF FUTURE PLANS, STAFF REPORT , THE COMMITTEE ON AERONAUTICAL AND SPACE .SCIENCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, BY THE SCIENCE POLICY RESEARCH DIVISION CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, VOLUME – I, AUGUST 30, 1976, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1976
- 7. Perry, G. E., Plight International, London , April 21.1966, p. 670.
- 8. Perry G. E., Flight International. London , Nov. 10, 1966 , p. 817.
- 9. Aviation Week, New York . April 8, 1974 , pp. 18-20.
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