Military Review

An honest assessment of one tragedy


Without setting a global task to highlight the whole range of events that occurred on October 12, 23, at the Baikonur test site, the author would like to show the importance of an integrated approach to the development and testing of missile weapons, personally from his own experience and his colleagues. predecessors, as well as the work of all integrated services of industry and the Strategic Missile Forces on the example of only one event - a tragic catastrophe during the launch of the first P-1960 missiles.

At the same time, the author considers it necessary to note that he gave the word to the tragedy to the long-term chief designer of the Kharkov boxbox 67 (pb box A-7160, Electrical Equipment Design Bureau, Hartron OJSC), who led the team of the enterprise developer of the P-16 rocket control system (8K64) after the death of Boris Konoplev, twice the Hero of Socialist Labor, Academician Vladimir Sergeyev at the celebration of his 90 anniversary of 5 in March 2004.


The scale and consequences of this tragedy are widely described, for example, by Boris Chertok and Alexander Ryazhskikh, who were at the landfill at the time of the accident, albeit at other sites, and were directly involved both in the aftermath of the accident and in the work of emergency commissions investigating the causes of the disaster . Therefore, the author of this article allows himself only briefly to remind readers of these events and focus their attention on the analysis of the remaining documents.

Much less known are the memories of these events of the surviving direct participants, scattered mainly in the jubilee editions of enterprises and therefore unknown to the general public. In this regard, of great interest is the book of Nikolai Linkov "Rocket Kharkov", published in Kharkov a small edition about 15 years ago.

Nikolai Linkov worked for many years at Baikonur as the head of the Kharkiv joint expedition and was a direct participant in the events described below. In his book, he cites not only the memories of the surviving participants, but also the original documents of the emergency commission, which was headed at that time by the chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet Leonid Brezhnev.

The P-16 rocket (8K64) was a second-generation rocket and was developed under the direction of Mikhail Yangel in the year created in 1956 in Dnepropetrovsk OKB-552 (later Yuzhnoye Design Bureau). Rocket - liquid. The type of fuel is heptyl, developed at the Leningrad State Institute of Applied Chemistry under the leadership of Vladimir Shpak, later a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

As is known, the first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in both the USSR and the USA were liquid. Without going into the description of the merits of different types of fuel within the framework of this article, I would only note that solid fuel “mixed” fuel was first created in the USA and it was on its basis that the massive deployment of the Minuteman family-launched missiles began. In the USSR, however, the pioneer of combat missile technology, Sergey Korolev, and Mikhail Yangel, Vladimir Chelomei, and Victor Makeev, who later joined the rocket race, did not move away from the LRE missiles (for missiles for submarines). Yes, they probably could not, due to the need to quickly eliminate the huge backlog of nuclear-missile potential from the United States.

The first P-16 rocket was taken to the 21 ground launch pad in October, where in October 22 it was fueled and the necessary pre-launch checks were started.

In the filled state, the rocket could be only one day, after which it was necessary either to start up or to drain the fuel and return to the technical position.

In the process of electrical checks, naturally, flaws began to manifest themselves, since many operations were carried out for the first time, they were not preceded not only by checks on the technical position, but also on the OKB-552 complex stands and the 67 mailbox. Separate remarks were so serious that the rocket needed not only to return, we repeat, the fuel was drained to a technical position, but perhaps it was even possible to postpone its launch until complex inspections were carried out at the control system stand in Kharkiv KBE.

This would mean not only the impossibility of launching the P-16 rocket to commemorate the celebration of the next anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, but in general its launch in the 1960 year.


All this was perfectly understood by the leaders of all ranks present at the launch site, including the Chairman of the State Commission, Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR Marshal of the Soviet Union Mitrofan Nedelin.

Of course, it’s not for me to judge how he was guided in the last hours of his life, but I can describe his actions reliably by descriptions of surviving eyewitnesses.

Having settled down not in a stuffy and cramped bunker of the launch pad, but directly at the launch pad of the rocket, the Marshal and the Chairman of the State Commission, instead of being assumed as Deputy Minister of Defense and Chairman of the State Commission, immediately stop the tests, crush the leadership of the test site and numerous chief designers.

No opinions on the need to stop the tests were not allowed.

Were discussed only possible versions of the causes of problems and suggestions for additional, not covered by the documentation of the chief designers of technical checks. All the different opinions of dozens of representatives of numerous enterprises and military specialists who, naturally, were not even previously discussed with their immediate superiors, were heard from the voice.

In general, whether the Great Khural, or Novgorod Veche.

However, additional checks conducted positive results did not work. Representatives of the industry disagreed to consult with each other and for HF communication with enterprises.

A technical break came, during which the chief designer of gyroscopic devices and his specialists (who were silent until their observations at all did not have any observations to their gyroscopes, and during the electrical checks and even during the launch of the rocket could not be just physically), it is unclear why not what is on the launch pad, but also generally at the test site, proposed to carry out the “Bringing stepper motors to the initial mode”. The shy attempts of the chief designer of the control system and his two employees, Ivan Zhigachev and Evgeny Rubanov, were unsuccessful (and gyroscopes are not an independent rocket system, but an integral part of its control system). In general, a non-zero installation of gyroscopes does not affect the flight of rockets, theoretically it can lead to a small - 1 – 2% error in the accuracy of a missile’s target, while the accuracy of the first Р-16 launch was not even mentioned.

For this, all three have paid with their lives. Their remains, or rather what was left of them, are buried in the honorary alley of the 2 city cemetery in Kharkov, where the director of Khartron OJSC, the cemetery employees, who are paid for by the first author of this article from the funds of the charitable foundation, cares for the grave “Irina Sinitsina”, which he founded together with DOSAAF of Russia and the Federation of Aircraft Building Fund in memory of the crashed 23 September 2012 year in San Francisco at the age of 35 years of his daughter - captain of the Russian national parachuting team Irina Sinitsina.

But we will continue.

Hearing that something is not in its original state, the marshal resolutely stopped all unnecessary objections. All the chief designers meekly signed the corresponding decision and started the checks.

But the regime failed. It turned out that in order to conduct it, it is necessary to use an ampouled onboard battery of the second stage of the rocket. In normal mode, its activation was ensured by undermining the corresponding squib at the command of the missile control system in flight after completion of work and separation of the first stage.

It would stop here, but Russia has always been famous for its craftsmen. Immediately, right on the spot, they unraveled some kind of cable insert and repeated the mode, which, of course, was so successful that the chief designer of the rocket, being a heavy smoker, decided to take a smoke break.

On a cramped ground, fenced for some reason by a three-meter fence, which had only one opening for one checkpoint, at that moment there were more than 500 people. Fog hung over the platform, either from smokers or from heptyl vapors. Of course, for reasons of the strictest safety measures, smoking on the site was strictly forbidden, and Mikhail Yangel, as a disciplined person, meekly went down to smoke in secret in a bunker.

There he had the dubious honor of reporting first to HF personally to Nikita Khrushchev about the tragedy that had taken place and about hundreds of people who had been burnt alive. To the direct question: “Why are you alive?” Mikhail Kuzmich did not immediately give an answer.

Mikhail Yangel died 11 years later on the day of his 60 anniversary of 11 in October 1971, not from lung cancer, but from a sudden heart attack. And we are constantly being told about the dangers of smoking and even the strictest laws were passed.

“You can't understand Russia with your mind ...”

The emergency government commission under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, having worked for more than four months, wrote in its report that "the cause of the accident was the unauthorized launch of the second stage of the rocket."

As they say, verbally he added: “We should punish, but there is no one”

Guilty not found.

Nikolai Pilyugin (left) and Sergey Korolev in Kislovodsk in 1957. Photos from www.mosarchiv.mos.ruPERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Now, about what the chief designer of the missile complex is personally responsible for using the example of Alexander Nadiradze.

At the stage of coordination of tactical and technical requirements of the Ministry of Defense, he answers:

- first, for a clear formulation of the requirements for the rocket. At the same time, a personal weight stock (the stock of the chief designer) must be at the personal disposal of the chief designer, from which either kilograms of weight or some units of impulses (for example, thrust) are allocated in the process of design documentation, manufacturing prototypes and during their ground testing. As an example: the operational tactical complex "Temp" successfully passed flight tests and was recommended for adoption by the Soviet Army, but did not go into mass production. Alexander Nadiradze himself insisted on switching to mixed fuel. This is how the Temp-S complex appeared. It is not allowed to reduce the declared performance characteristics of the rocket. The non-observance of these requirements in the development of the Yuzhnoye Design Office of the RT-23 solid-fuel rocket led to the need to begin the development of the RT-23UTTH rocket during the flight tests;

- secondly, for the flexibility of formulations when specifying requirements for the Republic of Kazakhstan as a whole and its component parts. So, in the TTT MO number 001434 (001516) for the development of the complex "Topol" was not given:

- hard temperature range of use. He was replaced by geographically defined areas of application. Everything else was written in the document agreed with the General Directorate of Missile Weapons and the 4 Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense and mandatory for all developers under the name “Baseline Data of the Chief Designer for Operation and Combat Use”. The development of this document just as TTT MO envisaged;

- requirements for lowering or non-lowering combat readiness when conducting seasonal and other types of technical maintenance of equipment. They were replaced in the TTT by the wording: “The time of lowering and restoring when conducting technical readiness is chosen based on the need to ensure a given combat readiness ratio”;

- launch weight rocket. He was replaced by the wording on the need to comply with international agreements in the development of the Topol rocket as a modernized solid-fuel rocket RT-2P. The absence in TTT of separate requirements for rocket weight, rocket weight in the transport and launch container, launcher weight, and chassis weight (by decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers was given only the launcher weight with a rocket) led, on the one hand, to constant small disagreements between the lead institute and launcher developer and the lead developer of ground equipment at the OKB-1 Volgograd Barricades software (later and still independent TsKB Titan) and its young but talented chief designer Valer Ahn Sobolev, and later deputy of the USSR, and then the first deputy governor of the Volgograd Region, and his deputy Nikolai Aksenov, after many years headed the "Barricades". On the other hand, Alexander Nadiradze constantly and tightly controlled the weight report not only of the rocket, but of the entire launcher, while possessing the possibility of applying the principle of "carrot and stick" to the whole cooperation.

At the stages of development of design documentation and ground testing, he answers:

- for a reasonable combination of the total volume of ground testing of the rocket and its components with the amount of mining that is necessary to begin the flight tests of the rocket. Constant record of the results of ground testing in determining, in particular, the stages of flight tests. Hard control when making changes to the CD, primarily for the timing of the implementation of changes and improvements or shortcomings of the reserve. I will give only one example. The first launch of the “Speed” rocket on the 4-th GCS MO ended abnormally due to the burnout of the second-stage rocket body. In the very first hour after the launch, but after the emergency meeting of the State Commission, the Deputy Chief Designer of the Institute for propulsion systems Viktor Solonouc admitted that the need to thicken the hull was revealed during firing tests, the necessary changes to the documentation were made, but under the pressure of the serial plant he personally, without having informed the chief designer, agreed to the plant to introduce changes in the design not from the rocket No. 01L, but from some subsequent number. It is for this, and not for the accident itself, that Viktor Solonouz immediately received a severe reprimand with a warning about incomplete official compliance. Most of all, Alexander Nadiradze was worried that, after failing to report to the State Commission in a timely manner, he might be suspected by someone of a conscious lie;

- for the timely development of design documentation and especially for its timely transfer to production plants;

- for signing a personal report on the readiness of the rocket and the complex to the beginning of joint flight tests, even if they are of non-standard composition, but with a volume of ground testing carried out, which makes it possible in the first place to ensure the safety of the tests.

At the stage of joint flight tests, he must:

- it is reasonable to determine together with the developers of the main systems, first of all with the chief designer of the control system, the phasing of joint tests, preventing, on the one hand, delays in the start of tests, and on the other hand, to achieve full staffing of all systems and units of the complex at the final stage tests. A striking example of this is the creation of the Topol PGRK, described in detail by the author of this article in the article “With the Topol”, everything was not easy ”(see“ IEE ”from 02.10.15);

- strictly monitor the safety of the tests, especially during the immediate preparation of the missiles for launch. If necessary, without waiting for the relevant decisions of the State Commission, to suspend the tests, transferring the necessary checks to industry stands;

- have a strong technical leadership and seek the same from subcontractors;

- to be honest before the landfill and the State Commission.


And in conclusion, a little about the presidents, CEOs and general designers.

Briefly about politics. As is known, Mikhail Gorbachev put into circulation the foreign word “president” in the Soviet Union. Then, already in Russia, it was absolutely nothing, he was picked up by Boris Yeltsin, and then by the CIS states. I consider it necessary to note that the agreement in Belovezhskaya Pushcha on behalf of Belarus was signed not by the president of Belarus, but by the chairman of the Supreme Soviet.

The author of this article personally once suggested that Leonid Kravchuk and three times Leonid Kuchma introduce into the Constitution of Ukraine the name of the country's highest office - “Hetman”.

Unanimously refused!

Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Poroshenko, I did not offer anything.

And then the parade of sovereignties in Russia began. Of all the republics of Russia, only Karelia and Khakassia as the supreme head of the republic retained (elective posts) the name “Chairman of the Government”.

And in business, and in industry began ... God bless him, with business, I am about industry.

Sergei Korolev and Nikolai Pilyugin died chief designers.

Alexander Nadiradze - Director - Chief Designer of the Moscow twice Order of Lenin Thermal Engineering Institute.

11 days after the death of Alexander Nadiradze 4 September 1987, by the decree of the USSR Council of Ministers Boris Lagutin was appointed the general designer of the institute, and by the order of the Ministry of Defense Industry - the director.

The Institute was in a slight panic.

Mashbyuro stopped work.

The situation was saved by the Minister of Defense Industry Pavel Finogenov, who issued promptly, the very next day - September 16 1987 - an order appointing Alexander Vinogradov the first deputy director and chief designer of the institute.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

A similar situation occurred in March 11 1997, when Zinovy ​​Pak appointed Yuri Solomonov General Designer and Director.

I understood the nuances of the words “chief”, “general” a little later when he was appointed head of the Volgograd TsKB Titan Viktor Shurygin.

It turns out that in the contract for the appointment of the post manager's salary is not written in absolute terms, but as a coefficient multiplying the average salary of the company's employees. This coefficient varies and is directly dependent on the name of the position of the head.

The authors are endlessly grateful to Andrei Sebentsov for their invaluable help in preparing and writing this article.
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    MIKHALYCH1 13 December 2015 10: 54
    Romantics worked in the USSR ... These are the times, they were!
    1. 13 December 2015 11: 04
      This is soooooo !! yes Times were then healthy!
    2. bistrov.
      bistrov. 13 December 2015 11: 28
      Then the conversation was short. To do everything. And your health, you may or may not, did not interest anyone. Only the result was important. Then you put up with it. this result was given. This was in military construction until about 1985. Then general relaxation began.
      1. Lukich
        Lukich 13 December 2015 11: 37
        Quote: bistrov.
        Then the conversation was short. To do everything. And your health, you may or may not, did not interest anyone. Only the result was important.

        and be sure to any date or anniversary
      2. Ezhaak
        Ezhaak 13 December 2015 12: 45
        Quote: bistrov.
        And most surprisingly, this result was given

        But everything is correct. It was not without reason that young people were distributed after college, and they tried hard to educate their professions on the ground. Such juveniles were even forbidden to dismiss, even if he did not want to work. And how many people were attached not by knowledge, but by kinship, even though they tried to fight it. Even Soviet Jews had an expression like: Not so much good work to find, how much good place. And after all, they actively dragged theirs to themselves.
        Well, about the Jews, this is not only with us, it seems like this everywhere. In Amsterdam, the people arose, for which reason Europeans are not taken to process diamonds, only Jews are recruited. They were put in place, brazenly stating that Jews work better than the Dutch. And the Dutch fell silent.
  2. NordUral
    NordUral 13 December 2015 11: 09
    Something I did not understand what the dear author wanted to say. About the dangers of arbitrariness and about how Nedelin could not postpone the start, fearing Khrushchev’s wrath?
    1. Lelek
      Lelek 13 December 2015 11: 19
      Quote: NordUral
      Something I did not understand what the dear author wanted to say. About the dangers of arbitrariness and about how Nedelin could not postpone the start, fearing Khrushchev’s wrath?

      To judge the events of that time, one must live in that time. I do not advise you to judge from the position of "today" - you will be mistaken. fool
    2. WKS
      WKS 13 December 2015 11: 48
      Quote: NordUral
      Something I did not understand what the dear author wanted to say. About the dangers of arbitrariness and about how Nedelin could not postpone the start, fearing Khrushchev’s wrath?

      Apparently just shared his memories. One of my good friends and colleagues at that moment was near this start. After the explosion occurred and the fire shaft rolled into the steppe, managed to jump on the bandwagon of a truck and thereby remained alive. He also constantly shared (with whom it was possible) these terrible impressions.
    3. mervino2007
      mervino2007 13 December 2015 16: 28
      Quote: NordUral
      About the dangers of arbitrariness and the fact that Nedelin could not postpone the start

      Nedelin’s perseverance can be explained by Khrushchev’s pressure (HEAD-SUBMISSION relationship). But when you are the main one at this facility, you must be responsible for everything yourself. You (your personal qualities, as a LEADER) - the performer of the life and death of many people, should resist external circumstances. Otherwise, you do not correspond to the occupied place.
      But - at that moment still did not know much. Experience - a difficult son of mistakes, came after analyzing the consequences of this tragedy.
  3. dmi.pris
    dmi.pris 13 December 2015 11: 12
    Thank you for the article, it is technically accurate and correctly written ... Unfortunately, the "Russian maybe" still works, and everything connected with it ... Honor and glory to these people who made our country GREAT ...
    1. Lukich
      Lukich 13 December 2015 11: 38
      Quote: dmi.pris
      Unfortunately, the "Russian maybe" still works, and everything connected with it ...

      and this is already at the genetic level smile
  4. Anchonsha
    Anchonsha 13 December 2015 11: 17
    Whatever the harsh times, but nevertheless, positions in the branches of the military-industrial complex were occupied by active, initiative leaders who saw an idiot in Khrushchev and therefore did not always adapt to him.
  5. Stinger
    Stinger 13 December 2015 11: 22
    A similar situation occurred in March 11 1997, when Zinovy ​​Pak appointed Yuri Solomonov General Designer and Director.

    It was an absolutely right decision. Under the new conditions, the general designer without the ability to manage the finances of the parent enterprise is a reference without printing. Formally, responsibility for the technical policy is on it, and uncle manages the money. The director is always cowardly by definition, and the general designer can defend his point of view professionally.
  6. knn54
    knn54 13 December 2015 11: 22
    Senior colleagues (the Kommunar Production Association) spoke about the tragedy almost 40 years ago, and had to visit Baikonur, though only once.
    -Oh the mighty of this world.
    Something I recalled a joke:
    Our aunt Sarah is an economist. How is Karl Marx? No, aunt SENIOR economist, and Karl Marx is JUST an economist.
    PS I wonder how NIIAP (PO Box A 1001) is Pilyugin's child. There was a very, very serious "Office".
    1. Lukich
      Lukich 13 December 2015 11: 47
      Quote: knn54
      Something I recalled a joke:

      The Politburo Commission arrived in Baikonur.
      Soooo, the Americans have already sat on the moon, and you all spin around the ball. That's enough, tomorrow pour in the sun.
      meets the general designer.
      Mmmmm ... but it's hot there ...
      commission response
      in the Politburo, too, are not fools, fly at night
  7. Dragon-y
    Dragon-y 13 December 2015 11: 41
    They just decided to "crank" the stepping devices back to the "original" one without disconnecting the secondary circuits, the onboard batteries were connected, and the command to start the 2nd stage engine passed ...
  8. Lone wolf
    Lone wolf 13 December 2015 13: 44
    Quote: bistrov.
    Then the conversation was short. To do everything. And your health, you may or may not, did not interest anyone. Only the result was important. Then you put up with it. this result was given. This was in military construction until about 1985. Then general relaxation began.

    You might think differently now, not for golden parachutes, but for simple hard workers ???
  9. Kosmodrom
    Kosmodrom 13 December 2015 18: 19
    There was a technical break during which the chief designer of gyroscopic devices and his specialists (who were silent until then, since there were no comments on their gyroscopes at all during the electrical checks and even during the launch of the rocket could not be physically physically), it’s not clear why those present are not what’s but on the launch pad, but generally on the training ground,

    After this pearl, there is no desire to read the article further
    1. Leninsk
      Leninsk 14 December 2015 00: 26
      I agree to all 100% ..
  10. 33797
    33797 13 December 2015 19: 32
    Firstly, it happened on October 24, 1960. Secondly, the fact that everyone sought to complete the task by November 7 was said about 20 years ago. About personal responsibility is easy to argue after decades. Then it was preparing the first launch of such a rocket.