Ukraine Celebrates 50 Years in Space

Ukraine recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first satellite launch into space. On March 16, 1962, the Cosmos-2 rocket lifted off with the Cosmos-1 satellite aboard. Both the rocket and the spacecraft were developed by the Ukrainian-based Special Design Office 586 (OKB 586), now known as Yuzhnoye SDO.

In addition to the Cosmos family of rockets, Yuzhnoye’s other launch vehicles include the Zenit rockets flown by Land Launch and Sea Launch, the Dnepr ballistic missiles used to launch small satellites, the Cyclone-4 boosters set to make begin flights out of Alcantara in Brazil next year, and the first stage tanks and structure for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Antares rocket that will lift off from Virginia later this year. The company also provides an upper stage for Europe’s new Vega launcher.

Ukraine’s contributions to space are often overlooked, and this anniversary went largely unnoticed outside of that nation. So,  I thought it would be nice to give the Ukrainians their due. I found an account of the launch prepared by the good folks at the Yuzhnoye press office. It begins after the break.

50 Years in Space: How it All Began

The 16th of March is a remarkable date in Ukraine’s calendar of outstanding events in space. Exactly 50 years ago in 1962, the first Dnepropetrovsk satellite DS-2 was launched by a new launch vehicle, named Cosmos (the second one in USSR after famous R-7 rocket, designed by S.P. Korolev).

Launch Vehicle

First works on development of launch vehicle intended for launch of small satellites were performed as far back as 1956 in Special Design Office 586 (OKB 586), at present known as Yuzhnoye SDO, (as an alternative option of OKB-1 project, directed by S.P. Korolev) however, after successful launch of the world’s first artificial Earth satellite onboard R-7 rocket, temporarily there was no need for one more space launch vehicle.

Later this idea was reconsidered, since R-7 rocket was too expensive and difficult to operate for launches of relatively small artificial Earth satellites. The preliminary design of a new two-stage launch vehicle on the basis of Dnepropetrovsk military ballistic missile 8K63, R-12 is the same missile (the most mass produced ballistic missile at that time) was finished in April 1960, governmental regulation for its development was signed in August 1960. Owing to competent designing and great enthusiasm the first rocket was already shipped to launch site in summer 1961 – less than a year since the regulation was issued.

In order to save time and costs the first stage was built on the basis of R-12 missile, modified for installation of second stage, and part of first stage’s design concepts was implemented in second stage. The RD-119 engine developed by OKB-456 (V.P. Glushko) and powered by unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine was accepted for the second stage.

Successful launch

The successful launch of 63C1 launch vehicle from a silo launcher of Mayak-2 launch complex was performed on March 16, 1962 at Kapustin Yar spaceport and first acting DS-2 spacecraft, developed by OKB-586, was injected into orbit. This event has opened a new phase in OKB-586 development that has also shown its capabilities in the field of rocket and space technology development and peaceful space exploration.

The DS-2 satellite was designed and manufactured in record time – about two months.

The satellite with mass of 47 kg, represented a spherical container inside which the Mayak double-frequency transmitter, intended for ionosphere and Earth atmosphere sounding using radio-frequency emission, and accumulator battery were installed and two couples of ribbon and rod antennas were located outside.


The DS-2 spacecraft, named in mass media Cosmos-1, has become the first satellite in Cosmos family of different purpose spacecrafts. Then followed the development and launch of a series of scientific spacecrafts (research satellites, small unified satellites, automatic unified orbital station – AUOS), defense satellites (positioning, calibration, radar surveillance) and natural resources monitoring satellites (Earth remote sensing satellites).

The Cosmos launch vehicle was operated at the following spaceports: Kapustin Yar (1962-1964 – Mayak-2 silo launch complex, 1964-1973 – Dviana reequipped silo launch complex) and Plesetsk (1967-1977 – Raduga launch complex).

The total number of Cosmos launch-vehicles launches is 165, out of them 143 were successful.

The way into space, paved by Cosmos LV, continued with other launch-vehicles developed by Yuzhnoye SDO: Cosmos-2, Cyclone-2, Cyclone-3, Dnepr, Zenit-2, Zenit-3SL, Zenit-2SLB, Zenit-3SLB. The Cyclone-4 launch vehicle is being prepared for the first launch from Alcantara spaceport (Brazil).