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Rocket launcher "Zenit" (11К77)

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The Zenit launcher should have been a middle new generation Soviet launcher, to replace the numerous ICBM spin-off used since the 60s (Tsyklon and R-7 spin-off). It was also intended to use it to launch piloted vessels like Soyuz (or SPIRAL). In this purpose special installations were built in Baikonur (the N45 field) for the landing of the cosmonauts. But, on one hand the delays accumulated during the development of the launcher and the strong accelerations of the departure (up to 4.5-4.7g) forced the direction to abandon this way. However studies are led in this direction to reduce the thrust of the engines and decrease the accelerations of departure.

The development of the Zenit began in March, 1976 in agreement with the specifications of GUKOS-MO. The project manager was V F Utkin from the KB Yuzhnoye company, with V P Radovskiy of KB Energomash responsible for the engines, V G Sergeyev of NPO Elektropribor was responsible of the guidance system. It is capable of putting into geostationary orbit a satellite of one ton. The first stage is constituted by an RD-171 (РД-171) engine of 3 or 4 chambers and the 2nd stage of an RD-120 (РД-120) engine.

The work on the Zenit's launch site began in 1978. Trials of the first stage took place in 1982 after numerous adjournments because of the first floor's engines. The first launching site was operational in December, 1983. Although the installations are finished, the first stage was still under technical problems. It is the former cosmonaut Gherman Titov who was responsible of the trial's supervision commission. A series of 11 launch attempts began on April 13th, 1985 and continued over the next 2 years. During spring, 1987 the state commission accepted the Zenit for a military usage. They found that the automatic launch system worked well and was reliable. Indeed, there was still much work to be done (construction of a second launch pad at Baikonur and construction of a third one at Plesetsk for Heliosynchronous launches and polar orbits, trial of the third floor for geostationary loads of 1 ton.

Because the launcher was made by Yuzhnoye in Ukraine; when Soviet Union collapsed the plans of massive productions were given up ( the development of the Angara had already begun as an alternative). A version of 1 stage of Zenit had been used for the first stage of Energia. The launch pad was finalized only to Baïkonour; those of Plesetsk were finished and must be modified for the Angara launcher. A version of 3 stages of the Zenit flew, but for Boeing (platform of shot Sea Launch).

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Carriage and setting up the Zenit on the launch pad.

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Plug between the Zenit and the launch pad.

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