The secret Soviet Moon rocket

Ten, nine ignition sequence start six five four three two one zero all engine running lift off , we have a lift off at that it's probably the most well-known peacetime battle between the United States and the Soviet Union in both technological and ideological terms of the 20th century and although the USA won the race to the moon, if you've been a betting person from the mid-1950's to the 1960's the chances are that you would have thought that the Soviet Union would have a very good chance of getting there first, so why didn't Russia put a man on the moon. At the time the Soviets were leading in the space race, they had already started with the launch of Sputnik, then launched several probes to the moon including one in 1959 that orbited and taken photos of the far side and by 1961 they put the first man into space, so when Kennedy made his now-famous "We choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962 to rally public support the Soviet leader Khrushchev’s response was silence, neither confirming nor denying that they had a plan for manned moon missions but at the time Khrushchev wasn't really interested in competing with the US over the moon, he was more interested in ICBMs the intercontinental ballistic missiles for strategic rocket forces of the Soviet Union but there were others in the Soviet Union that had harbored plans for a manned moon mission for a long time these included the man whose name was a state secret and the most powerful man outside the Kremlin when it came to space he was Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, off outside the inner circle of the top space scientists he was known only as the "Chief designer" or by his first two initials "SP" because the Soviet leadership feared that the Western powers would send agents to try and assassinate him. Korolev was the man who was behind many of the Soviet space successes and the head of the OKB1 the design bureau, he oversaw Sputnik and the manned missions including the first man in space "Yuri Gagarin". His authority extended over most everything to do with space his design group worked on missions to Mars and Venus, communication and spy and weather satellites, ICBMs and the soviet manned moon missions. Korolev have had a huge amount of control over the space program, in administrative power he was almost a one-man version of NASA, covering areas that in the US were done across multiple aerospace companies and flight centre's but even a man of his power and connections didn't get everything his own way. He had to continuously fight against rival designers and design groups. Although Korolyev wanted the moon missions himself, in 1964 the job was given to his rival, Vladimir Chelomei because of his patronage by Khrushchev but his lack of experience meant that the missions progressed slowly. The progress of Apollo on the other hand worried the chief designers and as a result of this and the infighting between the design bureaus meant that they were multiple overlapping designs for the moon missions at one point there were 30 different designs for launchers and spacecraft. In 1964 the Soviet Leader Khrushchev was replaced by Leonard Brezhnev, Korolev was given the complete control over the moon missions and pushed through his designs ahead of Chelomei’s and the decision finally to compete for the moon was given with the aim to land in 1967, the 50th anniversary of the october revolution and to get there before the Americans. This however created a problem for Korolev, in order to lift a payload weight of 95 tons he needed a very large rocket this new rocket will be called the N1, be as big as the American Saturn 5 and would require new large powerful engines similar to the F1 rocket engines used in the Saturn. Valentin Glushko was the leading rocket designer at the time and the head of the OKB 456 Bureau which had a near-monopoly when it came to rocket design and production. He specialized in making engines that used hypergolic propellants, these consist of a fuel and oxidizer that when mixed together spontaneously ignite when they come into contact with each other. Korolev thought these were too dangerous for manned missions due to the highly toxic and corrosive nature of the chemicals used to make up the fuel. Glushko said that it was not possible to create a new large engine design that used cryogenic fuel of liquid oxygen and kerosene and get it ready in time with limited resources and cash. He also cited that at the time the Americans had been working on cryogenic engines for the Saturn for 5 years and still hadn't got them to work reliably. There was also a personal problem between the two men Korolev blamed Glushko for denouncing him in the great purge under Stalin in 1938 leading to Korolev's near death serving 6 years in a Soviet labour camp. Glushko on the other hand considered Korolev's to be irresponsibly cavalier and autocratic towards things which were outside of his own of competence. This clash between them led to Glushko refusing to work for Korolev and caused delays the overall program Korolev was forced to find a new engine designer and gave the job to Nikolai Kuznetsov who was a leading jet engine designer but had not designed a rocket engine before. The Kuznetsov design bureau looked at the problem and realized that creating a rocket engine was not that different to the jet engines they were used to but they ran into the same problem as Glushko, in that the Soviets simply didn't have the industrial infrastructure that the Americans did to produce a new large engine. The solution they came up with was innovative but would have both negative and positive outcomes. Where the Americans used 5 large engines for the initial booster stage of Saturn, Korolev was forced to use 30 small but highly efficient engines arranged in a ring of 24 around the base and 6 at the center in order to achieve the thrust required. The design of these engines was very advanced and used a method called for closed-cycle system this was capable of boosting the efficiency power to levels to that which were believed impossible before. The Americans had known about the closed cycle system but thought it was too difficult and dangerous as the high-pressure high-temperature oxygen method could cause the engine to burn up, so they used for more reliable but less efficient open cycle system but with much larger engines. It had only been possible for the Soviets to create a closed-cycle engine because they had secretly developed advanced stainless steel alloys something which the Americans didn't know about at of the time. Using so many smaller engines allowed the N1 rocket to create more power than the Saturn but the likelihood of one or more of them failing and making a rocket unstable was much greater. One of the main problems was the complex fuel plumbing that was required to supply all the engines which in time proved to be a very fragile system. But just as the Soviets were working on the new engines, in 1966 Korolev died after undergoing a routine operation, this was a setback because Korolev had a unique set of abilities and connections and was the major driving force behind making sure that the moon missions would be delivered. The work of continuing fell to Vasily Mishkin, Korolev’s deputy but Mishkin didn't have the political astuteness or power of his old boss. The Soviets also didn't have the facilities to test all 30 of the engines of the main stage at once before they were mounted to the rocket. The Baikonur launch complex could also not be reached by heavy barges so the whole rocket had to be broken down into sections transported by rail and then rebuilt again at the launchpad. This meant that the development of the N1 rocket as a whole was still ongoing when it came to the launches, so it was almost expected that there would be failures. The Soviets planned 14 launches the first 12 will be unmanned and the last two would be the manned lunar missions. On the 21st February 1969 the first N1 rocket was prepared for launch. This would be the first time that the whole system had been tested in fact it was revealed later but only two out of every batch of six engines had even been run before the launch. This was in contrast to the Americans which were fully able to test their F1 engines before the Saturn was assembled. Once that have been done it was removed from the assembly building to the launchpad nearby, fully assembled tested and ready to go. Within seconds of the launch of the engine control system which was called Kord shut down 2 the 30 stage one engines, then self oscillating vibration started in the fuel system due to unstable combustion in some of the engines, this ruptured fuel lines which caught fire and burned through electrical control wiring, this then caused the KROD system to incorrectly shut down all of the engines 68 seconds into the flight and the rocket crashed 32 miles from the launch pad. After the investigation and subsequent modification, the second flight was due for the 3rd July 1969, the launch took place at 11:18 p.m. as the rocket cleared the tower the liquid oxygen turbo pump on engine number eight exploded causing a fire which triggered KORD to shut down all the engines except one, the N1 fell back onto the launch pad with nearly 2,300 tonnes of rocket fuel on board, the resulting explosion was one of the largest ever to happen and was the equivalent of 3.8 kilotons of TNT or a small nuclear bomb. It destroyed the launch complex, blasted debris over 6 miles away and was visible over 22 miles away. Some 30 minutes after the blast when launch crews were allowed onto the site they found droplets of unburned rocket fuel still raining down from the sky and afterwards it was discovered that 85% of the rocket fuel did not detonate which actually reduced the size of a blast. 17 days later Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon with the Apollo 11 mission and although the race for the moon had been lost, the Soviets carried on. The blast caused a two-year delay whilst the launch complex was rebuilt and further modifications were made to the rocket. In November of 1971 the third attempt also failed due to unexpected Eddie and counter currents in the base of the main stage causing the rocket to roll uncontrollably and ultimately break up due to the stress on its structure. One year later in November 1972 the fourth and final launch also failed 107 seconds into the flight after the program shutdown of the six centre engines caused a hydraulic shock wave to rupture the fuel pipes and start a fire, the main stage then exploded shortly afterwards. Although there had been four previous launch failures the Soviets had actually made huge progress and the design by trial and error was believed to have ironed out all the problems but by the time of the fifth launched in August 1974 the whole moon mission was cancelled by Brezhnev By this time the Americans had been to the moon six times and public interest in space was waning. One theory is that if the fifth launch had been successful it would have forced the Soviets to carry on the lunar mission where the main goal of beating the USA had already been lost. The cancellation of the project was therefore a way of sweeping a very expensive undertaking under the carpet. Vasily Mishkin was ultimately fired and replaced by Glushko but by 1976 the N1 rocket program was scrapped. The rockets were broken up to hide the failure and to make the U.S. think that the space race was still ongoing. It wasn't until Gorbachev's period of "Glasnost" when this cover story was blown and the true story of the failed Soviet moon mission became widely known about and why the Russians didn't put a man on the moon. But there is a strange twist to the end of this story, the NK 43 rockets that had been developed for the N1 were by the end much more reliable and the most efficient and powerful rocket engines for their size ever made. 20 years after they were meant to have been destroyed on order of a Kremlin, 60 of them were rediscovered and sold to be Americans for $1.1 million dollars each. A subsequent new larger model the RD-180 based on the technology of the NK 43 is now built by the Russians and used by the Americans for their Atlas 5 heavy launch vehicle. Thank you for watching I hope you enjoyed the video and if you did then please thumbs up, subscribe, share and comment and don't forget we have other videos available which you may also find interesting on the link was showing now so until the next time it's goodbye from me :-)

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