Kosmos 482

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Kosmos 482
Mission typeVenus lander
OperatorSoviet Academy of Sciences
COSPAR ID1972-023A
SATCAT no.5919
Mission durationLaunch failure
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type3V (V-72) no. 671
Launch mass1,180 kilograms (2,600 lb)
Start of mission
Launch dateMarch 31, 1972 (1972-03-31), 04:02:00 UTC
RocketMolniya 8K78M
Launch siteBaikonur 31/6
End of mission
Decay dateMay 5, 1981 (1981-05-06)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeMedium Earth
Semi-major axis7,708 kilometres (4,790 mi)
Perigee altitude209.4 kilometres (130.1 mi)
Apogee altitude2,464.8 kilometres (1,531.6 mi)
Period112.2 minutes
EpochThursday, August 16, 2018 3:44:57 UTC

Kosmos 482 (Russian: Космос 482 meaning Cosmos 482), launched March 31, 1972, at 04:02:33 UTC, was an attempted Venus probe which failed to escape low Earth orbit. It is expected to crash back to Earth between 2023 and 2025.[1] Its landing module, which weighs 495 kilograms (1,091 lb),[2] is highly likely to reach the surface of Earth in one piece as it was designed to withstand 300 G's of acceleration and 100 atmospheres of pressure.[3]

Beginning in 1962, the name Kosmos was given to Soviet spacecraft which remained in Earth orbit, regardless of whether that was their intended final destination. The designation of this mission as an intended planetary probe is based on evidence from Soviet and non-Soviet sources and historical documents. Typically Soviet planetary missions were initially put into an Earth parking orbit as a launch platform with a rocket engine and attached probe. The probes were then launched toward their targets with an engine burn with a duration of roughly four minutes. If the engine misfired or the burn was not completed, the probes would be left in Earth orbit and given a Kosmos designation.

Kosmos 482 was launched by a Molniya booster on March 31, 1972, four days after the Venera 8 atmospheric probe and may have been similar in design and mission plan. After achieving an Earth parking orbit, the spacecraft made an apparent attempt to launch into a Venus transfer trajectory. It separated into four pieces, two of which remained in low Earth orbit and decayed within 48 hours into south New Zealand and two pieces (presumably the payload and detached engine unit) went into a higher 210 x 9,800 km[clarification needed] orbit. An incorrectly set timer caused the Blok L stage to cut off prematurely, preventing the probe from escaping Earth orbit.

At 1:00 AM on April 3, 1972, four red-hot 13.6-kilogram (30 lb) titanium alloy balls landed within a 16-kilometre (10 mi) radius of each other just outside Ashburton, New Zealand.[4] The 38-centimetre-diameter (15 in) spheres scorched holes in crops and made deep indentations in the soil, but no one was injured. A similarly shaped object was discovered near Eiffelton, New Zealand, in 1978.

Space law required that the space junk be returned to its national owner, but the Soviets denied knowledge or ownership of the satellite.[5] Ownership therefore fell to the farmer upon whose property the satellite fell. The pieces were thoroughly analyzed by New Zealand scientists which determined that they were Soviet in origin because of manufacturing marks and the high-tech welding of the titanium. The scientists concluded that they were probably gas pressure vessels of a kind used in the launching rocket for a satellite or space vehicle and had decayed in the atmosphere.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Langbroek, Marco (March 20, 2019). "No, the failed Venus lander from Kosmos 482 is not about to come down yet". SatTrackCam Blog. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  2. ^ David, Leonard (February 25, 2019). "Failed 1970s Venus Probe Could Crash to Earth This Year". Space.com. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Space Review: Kosmos 482: questions around a failed Venera lander from 1972 still orbiting Earth (but not for long)". www.thespacereview.com. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  4. ^ "New light on mysterious space balls". New Zealand Herald. August 24, 2002. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  5. ^ Gates, Charlie (January 15, 2011). "Government report on 'space balls' released". Stuff. Retrieved May 20, 2022.

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