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Kapustin Yar
48.4 N 45.8 E

Overview, Supporting Facilities and Launch Vehicles of the

Soviet Space Program *


1. Prepared by the late Charles S. Sheldon II and Geoffrey E. Perry M.B.E. Dr. Sheldon was the Senior Specialist in Space and Transportation Technology, Mr. Perry is a Senior Teacher at Kettering Boys School, England, and the leader of the Kettering Group of amateur satellite observers.


The third Soviet launch site is near Kapustin Yar on the Volga River below the city of Volgograd at about 48.4 N. latitude, 45.8 E. longitude, also in European Russia. Indirectly the site has been finally acknowledged by the Soviet Government, as some sub orbital launches in the Vertikal series are referred to as coming from the Volgograd Station" or, less precisely, "from the middle latitudes of the European part of the U.S.S.R." (20) The area has been used for a long time as a rocket test station. In the middle 1950's before the first Sputnik, Aviation Week magazine revealed the United States had a radar station in Turkey which used radar to follow missile and test rocket firings from this point. (21) Magazines of the period said that Soviet short and medium range missiles were launched southeastward from there toward the Kyzylkum Desert near the Aral Sea as the principal test range. In fact, this launch site was so well known that for several years after 1957, the American press assumed that it was used for the launch of the early Sputniks and Luna flights when in fact they came from the Tyuratam ICBM test center.

It was not until 1962 that payloads were placed in orbit from the Kapustin Yar site, using the smallest of the Soviet launch vehicles, and only in 1973 did they start space launches from Kapustin Yar which used the intermediate size of launch vehicle. All the "B" class small launch vehicles from there put payloads into an inclination of 48.4 to 49 degrees. All the intermediate "C" class vehicles put payloads into an inclination of about 50.7 degrees inclination.

The combination of use of the smaller launch vehicles and the use of the site for launching vertical probes make this site seem to parallel a combination of the Wallops Island, Va. station, and the

White Sands, N. Mex. test area. Some Western observers speculated that when the day came that the Soviet Government would ease its security rules sufficiently to open a launch site to outside visitors that Kapustin Yar was most likely to be the first to "go public." This view was encouraged when finally Soviet bloc scientists were permitted to go there in connection with the launch of Interkosmos flights which began in 1969. More recently, engineers and scientists from Sweden, India, and France have also visited Kapustin Yar in connection with the launches of their own payloads and experiments.

Landsat pictures of the area show signs of activity over many kilometers, but not on the scale of Tyuratam or even Plesetsk. (22)

Sary Shagan, the antiballistic missile (ABM) test station to intercept rockets fired from Kapustin Yar, was also found in Landsat pictures. (23)

Table 14 which follows summarizes the known successful launches by site, world wide, to provide a perspective on their relative levels of activity for orbital launch purposes. The figures do not reveal additional sub orbital or missile launchings. The table reveals that Plesetsk has conducted more successful orbital launches than any other base in the world. Tyuratam has pulled ahead of Vandenberg since 1975 and Cape Canaveral is still a poor fourth.



20. Moscow Home Service, 0900 GMT, Aug. 28, 1981 .

21 Aviation Week, New York , Oct. 21, 1957 , p. 26.

22. Aviation Week, New York , Dec. 1, 1975 , pp. 18-19.

23. Aviation Week, New York , Nov. 25, 1974 , pp. 20-21.


1. This record is of launch "successes" as defined elsewhere in this study; that is, any

flight which reached at least one Earth orbit, or which escaped from Earth, either to lunar distance, or to enter solar orbit.

2. Not all launch sites have been announced by the launching country, but most

flights can quickly be identified by repetitive use of certain orbital locations. A plot of the ground traces of the "zero revolution" (the initial part of the flight before the Equator is first crossed) will disclose a nodal point which will define that a launch pad is near a certain spot on the surface of the Earth. In occasional instances where a given inclination for an orbit of unknown origin could have come from more than one launch site can still be pinned down by plotting the zero revolution orbital ground trace to observe which launch site falls on this path. In the case of escape missions and geostationary missions, these are already known to have come exclusively from only a few sites ( Cape Canaveral, Tyuratam, Tanegashima, and soon Kourou).

3. The names of launch sites listed are in a sense a kind of shorthand. Plesetsk has never been precisely identified by the U.S.S.R., which refers generally to a northern cosmodrome. The nodal point of the ground traces is near the city of Plesetsk. Tyuratam is officially called the Baykonur Cosmodrome, and the officially listed launch coordinates are several hundred kilometers northwest of the nodal point which is near the railway stop of Tyuratam, and now the growing space city of Leninsk. Vandenberg is the name of an air force base in California near Lompoc, and now expanded to include additional pads at Point Arguello. Cape Canaveral refers to the collection of pads both on the Cape and on nearby Merritt Island, most administered by the Kennedy Space Center. Kapustin Yar is the town nearest the nodal point of launches from a site the U.S.S.R. calls Volga Station. Wallops Island is a NASA site on the Delmarva Peninsula. Uchinoura is a site on Kagoshima Bay, Kyushu. Shuang Cheng Zi is the current spelling of what was Shuang Cheng Tzu in Gansu (formerly Kansu) province. The Indian Ocean Platform also carries the designator San Marco and was constructed by Italy just outside the territorial waters of Kenya. Kourou is in French Guiana. Tanegashima is an island at the northern end of the Ryukyu chain. Hammaguir was the former French site in southern Algeria, later stopped and moved to Kourou. Woomera is in south Australia. Sriharikota is near Madras.

4. The count of launches matches other tables of this study and corresponds to the numbers recorded by COSPAR, the Committee on Space, of ICSU, the International Council of Scientific Unions.

SOURCES.—These have been derived as explained above, and as carried in (updated) logs of studies published by either the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, or the House Committee on Science and Technology, derived from United Nations registers, Goddard Satellite Situation Reports, and the logs of the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

Overview Maps

Overview Mosaics

Mosaic 191k

Mosaic 956k

Corona Mission 1116-2
6 May 1972

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Page last modified: 10-04-2016 19:06:02 ZULU