Luna (rocket)

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The Luna 8K72 vehicles were carrier rockets used by the Soviet Union for nine space probe launch attempts in the Luna programme between 23 September 1958 and 16 April 1960.[1] Like many other Soviet launchers of that era the Luna 8K72 vehicles were derived from the R-7 Semyorka design (a variation of the Vostok), which is also the basis for the modern Soyuz rocket.

The first flight of a Luna 8K72 (September 1958), which was to launch the Luna E-1 No.1 probe, ended 92 seconds after launch when the rocket broke up from longitudinal vibration, causing the strap-ons to separate from the vehicle, which then crashed downrange.[2]

The second flight of a Luna 8K72 (October 1958), which was to launch the Luna E-1 No.2 probe, ended 104 seconds after launch when the rocket again disintegrated from vibration.

The third flight of a Luna 8K72 (December 1958), which was to launch the Luna E-1 No.3 probe, ended 245 seconds after launch when the Blok I core stage shut down from loss of engine lubricant.

The resonant vibration problem suffered by the 8K72 booster was the cause of a major argument between the Korolev and Glushko design bureaus over the cause and solution to it. It was believed that the vibrations developed as a consequence of adding the Blok E upper stage to the R-7, shifting its center of gravity.

Luna 1[edit]

The first probe launched by a Luna 8K72 to reach orbit was Luna 1, launched 2 January 1959, which was intended as a lunar impactor mission.[3] Luna 1 instead passed within 5,995 kilometres (3,725 mi) of the Moon's surface 4 January 1959, and then went into orbit around the Sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars.[4]

The fifth flight of a Luna 8K72 (July 1959) ended 220 seconds after launch due to a guidance malfunction of the Blok I core stage, leading to RSO destruct.

Luna 2[edit]

Luna 2 was launched by a Luna 8K72 12 September 1959. It was the first spacecraft to impact the lunar surface.

Luna 3[edit]

The final successful launch of a Luna 8K72 took place 4 October 1959. The Luna 3 spacecraft took the first photographs of the far side of the Moon.

The eighth flight of a Luna 8K72 (March 1960) ended 435 seconds after launch when the Blok E upper stage developed insufficient thrust, causing the Luna probe to reenter the atmosphere and burn up.

The ninth flight of a Luna 8K72 (April 1960) failed when the Blok K strap-on booster developed only 75% thrust at liftoff, breaking away from the launch vehicle, which then disintegrated, the strap-ons flying in random directions and exploding as they impacted the ground. The Blok I core stage then crashed into a salt lake.

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