The first spacecraft to Venus


For the first missions to Venus the Special Design Bureau No.1 (OKB-1 now known as RSC Energia) was preparing two spacecraft under the designation 1VA. The objective of the missions was to gain an experience of getting to Venus, conducting research on the way from the Earth to Venus and during approach to the Earth’s mysterious neighbor. It was impossible to prepare a descent vehicle structure and hardware for direct studies of the planetary atmosphere and surface within the time limits dictated by celestial mechanics.
The structure of the Venera-1 spacecraft was a cylinder with a spherical upper portion. The spacecraft was 2.035 meters in length, and 1.05 meters in diameter. The spacecraft had two solar arrays which charged silver-zinc storage batteries. Attached to the outer surface of the spacecraft structure was a 2-meter parabolic dish antenna, designed to transmit data to Earth at the 922.8 MHz frequency (32 cm wavelength). Installed on the spacecraft were scientific instruments: magnetometer, two ion traps for measuring solar wind parameters, micrometeorite detector, Geiger counter and scintillation detector for measuring radiation in space. Installed in the lower part of the spacecraft was propulsion system KDU-414, intended for correcting the flight path. The spacecraft mass is 643.5 kg.
The upper portion of the spacecraft was an air-tight spherical chamber filled with nitrogen under pressure of 1.2 atmospheres. Contained within this sphere was a so-called ‘pennant’, a small globe with outlines of the Earth continents. Inside the globe was a medal depicting the trajectory from Earth to Venus. The reverse of the medal carried the state emblem of the Soviet Union. This chamber was supposed to float on the surface of the hypothesized venusian ocean.

The insertion profile that was developed turned out to be universal, it remained the same for all the launches to Mars, Venus, for lunar soft-landing spacecraft. It involved the use of continuous acceleration with three rocket stages with intermediate insertion into an open orbit. At a certain point in this low intermediate Earth satellite orbit depending on the destination and launch date the fourth stage was fired. This fourth stage boosted the interplanetary spacecraft to the escape velocity. Upon completion of the boost phase and engine shutdown the spacecraft would start coasting. Its orbit on the way to its destination was monitored from Earth and was adjusted using its own fine-adjustment thrusters.

The launch took place on the night of February 3, 1961. At first glance, everything went off normally. Later it turned out that three rocket stages presumably worked normally and the low Earth orbit was reached. The fourth stage failed to fire on time. A commission was immediately set up to conduct detailed investigation, and a decision was made to speed up preparations for the launch of 1VA No.2. And the press ran the TASS announcement:
"A Soviet heavy Earth satellite is in orbit. Its mass is 6483 kilograms... The scientific and technical objectives of the launch have been attained".
The investigation into the causes of failure of the first launch to Venus revealed a fault in the mechanical current converter PT-200 at the end of the third stage burn. This converter provided power to the control system of the rocket stage Block L. It soon transpired that PT-200 was installed in a frame connecting Block I with Block L in an unpressurized location. And it was supposed to be used only in a pressurized compartment. Immediately before the launch of the next spacecraft the device was put into a pressurized case borrowed from an onboard storage battery. The resourcefulness of the team supporting the launches of our space hardware was just amazing!
The next launch was scheduled for February 12. At 7 hours 04 minutes a launch vehicle 8K78 was launched, where, for the first time, all four stages worked normally. The second 1VA spacecraft was finally injected into interplanetary trajectory. The initial orbital parameters of the spacecraft/upper stage stack were:

• Mass: 6 424,0 kg   • Inclination: 65°
• Perigee: 229,0 km   • Period: 89,6 min
• Apogee: 282,0 km      


At 9 o'clock 17 minutes the ground station 16 (NIP-16) received a victorious report from Yevpatoriya about the first teleconnection session passing normally. The second teleconnection session held at 16 hours 23 minutes confirmed that the apparatus is actually launched to Venus. The ballisticians from Moscow Ballistic Centre declared that the correction will be needed, and if it will be held, than ‘pennant’ of the Soviet Union will be at Venus!
The general triumph was saddened by newly received reports from Yevpatoriya. According to telemetry data there was recorded unsteady operation in the mode of permanent Sun inertial attitude (PSIA), which provided the solar arrays attitude necessary for storage batteries’ charge.
According to the logic of systems’ operation during PSIA failure there should be kept a coarse Sun alignment. Herewith all systems, consuming the electric power, except the temperature-control system and program timing device (PTD), are switched off. The designers’ mistake was that along with all systems there were also switching off onboard receivers, which had to get the control commands from the Earth concerning the beginning of the regular session. The next communication session was switched on only autonomously from the onboard PTD and only after five days. Five days of full uncertainty and painful expectation were to take place.
Nevertheless, not knowing about the designers’ doubts, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) announced to the world that the interplanetary station “Venera-1” was launched: «The successful launch of space rocket to Venus planet lays a route to the Solar System planets» - thus the first TASS message on the attempt to achieve Venus began with.

Газета "Правда" от 13 февраля 1961 г.  
"Pravda" newspaper of February,13 1961.

In five days during the session the PSIA failure was stated once more. Onboard, besides, there were not detected any other evident troubles. There still remained five more days until the next session. However, on February, 22 АМС 1VA didn’t establish the contact. The session on February, 17th was the last one from the distance of 1,9 million kilometers.
On February, 26 “Pravda” published after all the detailed material on the first flight to Venus without any authors’ signatures, without mentioning radio blackout.
The communication has not been restored. Silent «Venera-1», according to the ballisticians’ calculations, passed nearly 100 000 km from Venus in the end of May, on 1961st.
The communication loss was explained by failure of PTD, designed as a part of radiocomplex. On all the next АМС there were installed reliable event controllers of in-house development. But major event in order to eliminate failure was the decision hereafter never at all switching off command radio link receivers. It is unacceptable to economize “crumbs” of energy, while risking to lose all spaceship. This was the expensive price for getting experience of the apparatus first operation in interplanetary flight.
The launch of “Venera-1” automatic interplanetary station turned to be an important stage in developing space hardware. It was the first spacecraft intended for planets research. For the first time there was applied the technology of space vehicle three axis orientation, fixing on the Sun and the star Canopus. For the first time parabolic antenna was used to relay telemetry.
Note. In 1965th, in the lifetime of S.P. Korolev, all works concerning АМС "Venus" were transferred from OKB1 to the the manufacturing plant after S.A. Lavochkin.

The following spacecrafts for Venus research

The Soviet Program for Venus research continued up to the end of 1980th years. Venus research remains to be the only direction of planets’ researches, in which Russia has the forward positions. In Soviet period there were created automatic SC of Venera series, which were solving priority tasks for the first time in the world. Then to Venus there were launched 18 automatic SC and 8 АМС, fulfilled soft landing on planetary surface. Since that time there was no successful soft landing on the Venus surface made by automatic SC of other countries. After perfectly implemented Vega international program on Venus and Halley comet complex research (except landing apparatus, aerostat probes worked in atmosphere), NPO Lavochkin specialists in traditional cooperation with RAS (the Russian Academy of Sciences) cooperating organizations and institutes worked through the projects of Venus further research with maximal unification of SC main units and modules. However, due to the economical situation, formed in Russia, Venus space researches were entirely stopped.

The list of all successful launches of spacecrafts, transmitted data about Venus

The list of all successful launches of spacecrafts, transmitted data about Venus 

"Венера-3" - первый аппарат, достигший Венеры
Venera-3 – the first vehicle to reach Venus
After attempt to reach Venus by "Venera-1" vehicle, the Soviet vehicles of series “Venera”, “Vega”, the American “Mariner”, “Pioneer-Venera-1”, “Pioneer-Venera-2”, “Magellan”, the European “Venus-express”, the Japanese “Akatsuki” were directed to the planet. In 1970th Venera-7 SC implemented the first soft landing onto the planetary surface; in 1975th space vehicles “Venera-9” and “Venera-10” transmitted Venus surface’s first photographs to the Earth.
In 1982nd SC “Venera-13” and “Venera-14” transmitted colour images. The conditions on Venus surface didn’t allow space vehicles to work on the planet for more than two hours.

 Одна из первых фотографий поверхности планеты, полученных с аппарата"Венера-9"
One of the first photos of planetary surface received from “Venera-9” vehicle

Спускаемый аппарат «Венеры-13»
“Venera-13” descending vehicle

Цветное изображение поверхности Венеры, переданное "Венерой-13"
Color image of Venus surface transmitted by "Venera-13"

Since 1978th the automatic vehicles have been carrying out planetary surface radiolocation. As long as the clouds cover Venus surface from visual observations, it can be studied only by radiolocation methods. Nowadays there are rather detailed surface maps at scales 1:10 000 000 and 1:50 000 000.



Why does Venus research is attractive? 

Russia intends to return to the researches. Venus hides a lot more mysteries. The planet resembles the Earth.

Сравнительные размеры (слева направо)  Венеры, Земли и Марса
Venus, Earth and Mars relative sizes (from left to right)

This to a large extent defined high interest to Venus study as a planet of the Earth group. Both sister-planets have almost identical size, density, and, consequently, close composition. Both planets get nearly one and the same amount of Sun heat. It is supposed that both planets were formed under similar starting conditions in protoplanetary gas-dust disk, surrounded young Sun 4,5 – 5 milliard years ago. But there is no water on Venus, sulfuric acid rains fall, surface pressure makes up 90 Earth atmospheres, temperature is more than 400оС, and planet itself doesn’t have any magnetic field. Why does Venus, having similar with Earth space environment, differ so much from our planet - the scientists have to find it out. Venus study is attractive as from the viewpoint of fundamental science, as from the viewpoint of comparative planetology: Earth, Venus and Mars researches allow better understanding of early history of formation and development of Earth group planets and their atmosphere evolution, difference in the history of their tectonic activity. In particular it allows drawing parallels in future, showing possible ways of evolution of our Earth, its atmosphere and climate.
Venus is a candidate for terraforming, i.e planet's climatic conditions change in order to put atmosphere, temperature regime and ecological conditions in a state, suited for humans, animals and plants habitation. One of the plans stipulated to spray in the atmosphere of Venus genetically modified cyanobacterias, which, while processing carbon dioxide (composing 96% of Venus atmosphere) into the oxygen, would have significantly reduced greenhouse effect and would have decreased the temperature on the planet. However photosynthesis needs water, which is practically absent on Venus. Therefore in order to realize such project it is necessary to primarily deliver water to Venus.
Of course these are the tasks of the remote future, and in foreseeable plans of Roscosmos there is the launch of “Venera-D” station.

"Venera-D" mission composition, slide from the IKI (Space Research Institute) RAS site
"Venera-D" mission composition, slide from the IKI (Space Research Institute) RAS site

Also there is planned the Interplanetary station «Venus-Glob» development is also planned. Its structure includes: orbiter, a few landing and atmospheric modules, station, long-lasting in Venus conditions, balloon probes and Venus rover.
Unfortunately, these projects’ implementation terms were repeatedly postponed and delayed later than 2025th due to the reduction of the budget for the Russian space programs in terms of the economic crisis.
And while Venus observations continue by all the available ways. So, from the ISS there were received the photos of Venus passing over the solar disk.
Venus is situated closer to the Sun, than the Earth, therefore from the Earth there can be seen this unusual event, when a planet appears as a small black point against the huge celestial body background. During approximately two and a half centuries there happen only four passings - two on December and two on June. The photo reflects the event, happened on June 6, 2012.

Venus passing over solar disk, 2012th
Venus passing over solar disk, 2012th

Lately the attempts have been undertaken to organize mutual projects on Venus research. At the press conference in frame of forum "50 years of fundamental science in space: achievements and prospects", held in Moscow on September 28, 2015th, the Russian Academy of Sciences Vice President Lev Zeleniy told journalists that within the next few days a joint meeting of the American and Russian specialists on planning mission to Venus has to take place. The USA delegation has already come to Russia. "Relationships’ cooling between the two countries also partly influences on our work. It’s a painful matter. Venus group had to gather yet in last summer, but the meeting was postponed", - he continued. "We want to believe that communication of specialists will have the continuation, which will find an embodiment in the new international project."





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