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Victor Antanovich provided bulk of information for this section.

Picture credits:

RKK Energia;

Victor Antonovich;

Anatoly Zak;

NPO Lavochkin;











Kapustin Yar: Click with the right mouse (PC) or control click (Mac) on the map to invoke the interactive menu.

THE BEGINNING: German A-4 tests

Birth of the Soviet missile development program in the aches of the World War II predetermined the creation of the Kapustin Yar test range. The 1946 decree, officially founding the rocket industry in the country, directed the Ministry of Armed Forces led by Bulganin to propose the location for the Central Test Range for all jet-propelled weapons. The major factors which favored Kapustin Yar over other locations were the access by railroad, relative proximity to industrial infrastructure of the city of Stalingrad (Volgograd) on Volga River and land availability for the construction of the range. The future range designated the 4th State Central Range (4th GTsP) centered around the point 48.4 degrees Northern latitude and 46.5 degrees Eastern longitude. On October 18, 1947, the first rocket - German A-4 - blasted off from the range. Before the end of November 1947, total 11 A-4 missiles were launched.

LEARNING TO FLY: Early liquid-fuel ballistic missile tests

In the fall of 1948, Korolev's team returned to Kapustin Yar with 9 copies of its own version of the V-1 rocket designated R-1. By that time the new launch site located 30 kilometers from the processing area was built at the range, the initial road construction and housing was also completed. The first R-1 rocket was launched from Kapustin Yar on September 17, 1948, the first successful flight was achieved on October 10, 1948. In September 1949, a prototype of the R-2 rocket started flying from Kapustin Yar. The first R-5 ballistic missile blasted off from here on March 15, 1953. On Feb. 2, 1956, the R-5M missile for the first time was carrying a live nuclear warhead, which then detonated 1,200 km downrange. In the following years, R-12, R-14, and R-11 liquid-fuel ballistic missiles and their scientific and military derivatives were tested in Kapustin Yar.

BATTLEFIELD FIRE: The development of short-range and tactical missiles

On August 28, 1950, the Soviet Ministry of Defense ordered a creation of the special Test Directorate in Kapustin Yar responsible for testing of tactical missiles. In the following years, the stuff of the directorate tested several quickly proliferating families of battlefield missiles for the army, navy and air force. Among them were unguided anti-aircraft missiles Strizh and Chirok, battlefield rocket-propelled artillery systems Korshun, Filin and Mars; submarine rocket complex D-2 with R-13 missile. In 1959-1961, the directorate tested R-17 navy missile. During the same period Krug battlefield anti-aircraft missile was tested at the range. Since April 1961, the directorate tested Temp tactical missile complex. The next generation complexes Luna-M, Tochka, Oka and Tochka U with short range missiles all flown from Kapustin Yar.

BUILDING A MISSILE SHIELD: Tests of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems

First German anti-aircraft missiles Shmetterling and Wasserfal were tested in Kapustin Yar between 1947 and 1950. On June 6, 1951, the Soviet government ordered the creation of a special test range dedicated to the testing of S-25 anti-aircraft system (earlier known as Berkut). V-300 missile was launched from the range for the first time in October 1952. (89) In the following years, C-75, C-125 and C-300 anti-aircraft complexes were tested at the range. With the inception of the anti-missile defense program, Kapustin Yar became a launch site for the target missiles, which would fly in the direction of Sary Shagan range, the base for anti-missile interceptors.

WINGED PHANTOM: Burya intercontinental cruise missile test program

Since mid-1950s, designers of the cruise and ballistic missiles raced to develop vehicles with the intercontinental range. While the testing of the first Soviet ballistic missile was expected to be conducted from the new test range in Tyuratam, Kapustin Yar area was determined to be a starting point for the Burya cruise missile. The first (unsuccessful) launch of the vehicle took place on Sept. 1, 1957, from the launch pad near village of Vladimirovka, south-east of Kapustin Yar. Until Dec. 16, 1960, 17 or 18 giant cruise missiles blasted off from the site, before program was terminated in favor of R-7 ICBM.

SWORDS OF THE COLD WAR: Long range ballistic missile tests

A new stage in the arm race between the USSR and the US opened with the introduction of the solid-fuel ballistic missiles. Since April 1962, RT-1, the first Soviet ballistic missile using powder-like propellant blasted off from Kapustin Yar. The same launch pad at the range was used in September 1965 for the new version of the missile, known as RT-1-1963. The first prototype of the mobile launch complex with solid-fuel missile blasted off from Kapustin Yar in 1974. The previously built silos in Kapustin Yar were also used between February and July 1966 for the initial tests of RT-2 ICBM. With the end of the Cold War, Kapustin Yar also became a site for liquidation of the very same missiles, previously tested at the range.


KOSMOS-2: Tuning up anti-missile radars

At the beginning of 1960s, the special calibration satellites were developed for the Soviet anti-missile defense program. As with earlier target missiles, the small spherical spacecraft would be tracked by the experimental radar deployed downrange from Kapustin Yar at Sary Shagan test range. During 1960 and 1961, a silo for the R-12 IRBM in Kapustin Yar was converted into the launch complex code-named Mayak-1. It became the launch site for the two-stage 63S1 space booster, later known as Kosmos. The first (unsuccessful) orbital launch attempt from Kapustin Yar took place on Oct. 27, 1961, however only the third 63S1 rocket reached the orbit from Kapustin Yar on March 16, 1962. By 1965, two silo-complexes at Site 86, code-named Dvina, were converted for the Kosmos-2 launcher (63SM, 11K63).

KOSMOS-3: Testing small shuttle

In January 26, 1973, 11K65M rocket, now known as Kosmos-3M, took off for the first time from the surface-based launch complex in Kapustin Yar. Also since 1973, a special modification of the Kosmos-3M rocket, K65M-R, was launched on the sub-orbital trajectories from the 11P865M launch complex at Site 107 to test military reentry vehicles. The Kosmos-3M launches backed up the operations in Plesetsk in delivering Strela comsats and Taifun navsats into orbit. (70) Between 1980 and 1988, the version of the Kosmos 3M rocket, known as K65M-RB5, launched ten scaled prototypes of the reusable shuttle to test the aerodynamics of the future Buran orbiter. (67) Another version of the Kosmos-3M rocket (K65UP) flown from Kapustin Yar's complex 8P865P at Site 108 within Vertikal research program. On April 28, 1999, after 11-year break in orbital launches from Kapustin Yar, a Kosmos-3M rocket launched German and Italian satellites from Site 107.


ZNAMENSK: A secret city

Like most other Soviet test ranges, the residential area of Kapustin Yar started as a tent village. The first permanent military barracks, residential and administrative buildings were founded in 1951. By 1962, the settlement gained the status of the city with a classified name Znamensk. Unlike old village of Kapustin Yar, Znamensk were closed for outsides and it was not shown on the Russian maps.

KIK network: Eyes and ears of the range

On April 16, 1962, the ground control stations serving Kapustin Yar were formally organized into a special directorate. It included 29 different sites spread downrange from Kapustin Yar up to the Siberian town of Bratsk. In 1981, with addition of computerized flight control functions, the ground control directorate was reorganized into Scientific and Test Directorate for Measurements and Mathematical Processing.