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Marsnik program

The Marsnik program of unmanned spacecraft were the Soviet Union's first attempt at interplanetary exploration.

Marsnik 1 (also known as Korabl 4 and Mars 1960A) was destroyed in a launch failure on October 10 1960. It was reported by the NASA Administrator to Congress in 1962 to be an attempt at a Mars flyby probe. Some Soviet scientists involved with the program at that time claim no knowledge of this mission, stating that only the launch on October 14 (Marsnik 2, also known as Korabl 5 and Mars 1960B) was an intended Mars mission. However V.G. Perminov, the leading designer of planetary spacecraft at the Lavochkin design bureau, states that this mission was indeed intended for Mars, was identical to Marsnik 2.

After launch, the third stage pumps on both Marsnik launchers were unable to develop enough thrust to commence ignition, so Earth parking orbit was not achieved. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 120 km before reentry.

Mission Profile

The objectives of the mission were to investigate interplanetary space between Earth and Mars, to study Mars and return surface images from a flyby trajectory, and to study the effects of extended spaceflight on onboard instruments and provide radio communications from long distances.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The spacecraft was nearly identical to the Venera 1 design, a cylindrical body about 2 meters high with two solar panel wings, a 2.33 meter high-gain net antenna, and a long antenna arm, and had a mass of about 650 kg. It carried a 10 kg science payload consisting of a magnetometer on a boom, cosmic ray counter, plasma-ion trap, a radiometer, a micrometeorite detector, and a spectroreflectometer to study the CH band, a possible indicator of life on Mars. These instruments were mounted on the outside of the spacecraft. A photo-television camera was held in a sealed module in the spacecraft and could take pictures through a viewport when a sensor indicated the Sun-illuminated martian surface was in view.

Attitude was controlled by a Sun-star sensor with attitude correction performed by a dimethylhydrazine/nitric acid bipropellant rocket engine. The spacecraft orientation was to be maintained so that the solar panels faced the Sun throughout the flight. Power was provided by the two-square meter solar panels which charged silver-zinc batteries. Radio communications were made using a decimeter band transmitter via the high gain antenna for spacecraft commands and telemetry. Radio bearing was used to maintain the antennas' orientation to Earth. Images were to be transferred using an 8-cm wavelength transmitter through the high-gain antenna. A fourth stage was added to the booster, the Molniya or 8K78, the new launcher was designated SL-6/A-2-e.