This week in Space History, July 3 1969 – Russian N1 Rocket Explodes after liftoff

During the Space Race, the Soviet N1 rocket was the Soviet answer to the Saturn V. The five-stage moon rocket was nearly as big as the Saturn V rocket (345 feet tall vs 363 feet for the Saturn V), although the N1’s 30-engine first stage produced more thrust than NASA’s Saturn V. The N1 was the heavy-lift vehicle for the Russian strategy of getting to the moon, called “Earth-Orbit Rendezvous.” Unlike the U.S. Strategy (which was called “Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous”), several launches were required to get the moon-venturing hardware into space. One launch would place the Soyuz capsule and cosmonauts into orbit, and another would loft a type of lunar landing vehicle. Those vehicles would rendezvous in Earth-Orbit (hence the strategy’s name), and then go off to the moon.

Saturn V vs N1

Saturn V vs N1, From

According to the documentary “BBC – Space Race,” on July 3 1969 (just days before the launch of Apollo 11) the Soviets launched the N1 rocket in an unmanned test. With 2,600 tons of fuel on-board, the N1 rocket exploded just seconds after launch, destroying both the rocket and the launch tower in the biggest explosion in the history of rocketry.

U.S. Space Shuttle Commemorative Coin

NASA’s Space Shuttle program will be coming to an end with the launch of the Shuttle Endeavour, currently scheduled for February 26, 2011. Our group is designing and developing The Space Shuttle Commemorative Coin. Follow and participate at, and join the collaboration at our FaceBook site.

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1 Response to This week in Space History, July 3 1969 – Russian N1 Rocket Explodes after liftoff

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | Space Race Leadership

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