Failed 1962 Mars Probe

Jim Varney (
Mon, 20 May 1996 21:28:21 -0700

          Common Name: Sputnik 29
             Intl Des: 1962 Beta Iota 1
           Catalog No: 00443

                 Type: Payload and R/B(s) (?)
                Owner: USSR
          Launch Date: 24.75 Oct 1962
        Dry Mass (Kg): 3900-6200
            Main Body: Cylinder; 2.9m by 7-16m
     Major Appendages: None
     Attitude Control: Unknown at time of event
       Energy Sources: On-board propellants

           Event Date: 29 Oct 1962
                 Time: Unknown
             Altitude: ~200 km
             Location: Unknown
       Assessed Cause: Propulsion-related

                Epoch: 62297.80327270
      Right Ascension: 336.4972
          Inclination: 65.1128
         Eccentricity: .0044520
      Arg. of Perigee: 92.2650
         Mean Anomaly: 229.0409
          Mean Motion: 16.15589719
    Mean Motion Dot/2: .01124103
Mean Motion Dot Dot/6: .0
                BStar: .0

     Debris Cataloged: 24
      Debris in Orbit: 0
      Maximum delta_P: Unknown
      Maximum delta_I: 0.6 deg

             Comments: Sputnik 29 (also known as Sputnik 22) was not
                       acknowledged at launch by the USSR and was probably
                       a Mars probe which failed to leave Earth orbit.
                       This was apparently the fourth orbital failure of
                       the SL-6 since 25 August 1962.  No SL-6 orbital
                       (3rd) stage nor final (4th) stage was cataloged
                       after launch.  Possible that orbital and final
                       stages never separated.  Sputnik 29 was officially
                       decayed 29 October 1962 but no debris were
                       cataloged before 11 November.  Consequently, delta
                       P cannot be calculated.  Source of the
                       fragmentation was probably the fully-fueled SL-6
                       final stage.

End quotation.

>When I sent my article in to the BIS (British Interplanetary Society),
>a Soviet space expert on the staff (never did find out who - any takers?)
>said this "threat" could not have happened, as the probe debris did not
>arc over the horizon view of North America after breaking up in orbit,
>thus it did not add a threat in the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

The investigators for the above report -- under contract to NASA -- 
unfortunately provide no information about the geographic location nor the time
of the explosion.

If you run the elements above at 1120 UTC for October 29, 1962, you can
create a "threat" scenario: Sputnik 29's orbit crosses Siberia, Alaska, Canada
and then the United States.  Such a path would roughly mimic that taken by
Soviet ICBM's.  I can imagine that a radar operator seeing 24 blips appear on 
the northwestern horizon that it might cause just a little
bit of excitement...

Of course, this is all just speculation because the above data doesn't tell
us if the explosion occurred before or after 1120 UTC.

Hope this is of interest,


Jim Varney      |  121^ 23' 54" W,  38^ 27' 28" N   |           Sacramento, CA
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