Russia’s Energia Donates a Soyuz Replica to Baikonur Museum
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
by AJ Plunkett
In honor of the upcoming 55th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, RSC Energia recently donated a full-scale mockup of a Soyuz TMA manned spacecraft to the Museum of the Baikonur. The museum is located at the Baikonur Cosmodome in Kazakhnstan, site of the historic launch of Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957, as well as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s venture into history as the first human in space almost four years later.
Sputnik, A First
An achievement of the former Soviet Union, Sputnik was the Earth’s first artificial satellite. It also was the answer to a challenge — and a bit of a shock.
Five years earlier, the International Council of Scientific Unions had decided to set July 1, 1957, to Dec. 31, 1958, as the International Geophysical Year because solar activity was expected to be at a high point during that time. The council called for satellites to be launched to map the Earth’s surface during this period. The United States eventually announced plans to launch such a satellite, but was caught by surprise, along with much of the rest of the world, when the Soviets did it first.
The Soviets not only did it first, but did it with flair. While the U.S. satellite was planned at a mere 3.5 pounds — that’s right, the oomph of a small hand weight — Sputnik weighed in at 83.6 kg, or 183.9 pounds. It was about the size of a beach ball, and took 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. Canadian scientists would be the first to record its maiden “beeps” back to Earth a few hours into its orbit.
55 Years of Firsts
In the 55 years since, the Baikonur Cosmodome has seen hundreds of launches of all kinds, from the first intercontinental ballistic missile, to the first module of the International Space Station, to the manned Soyuz TMA spacecraft that serves today as the only mode for human transportation to the ISS.
The museum at Baikonur is located next to two small cottages that once served as the residences of Gagarin and rocket designer Sergei Korolev, once described by the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine, as the “brilliant force behind the creation of the Soviet space program.”
Korolev’s original Special Design Bureau-1 has evolved through the years into what is today the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, or RSC Energia.
The Soyuz TMA mockup donated to the museum was unveiled in early July in a ceremony attended by several high-ranking space industry officials, including A.B. Krasnov, the head of the manned programs directorate of the Russian Space Agency, also known as Roscosmos, and V.A. Lopota, president and general designer for RSC Energia.
The mockup was delivered to the cosmodome’s spacecraft processing facility in its individual units — orbital module, descent vehicle, and instrumentation and propulsion compartment — and assembled by RSC Energia specialists before being moved for installation at the museum.
AJ Plunkett is a freelance writer in Virginia with experience in covering defense and aerospace industries as well as the military. AJ blogs via Contently.com.