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Final decision to launch Soyuz-1

On April 20, preparations of the first Soyuz mission reached the point of no return with crews officially confirmed and the hardware undergoing final checks.

Previous chapter: Preparing the Soyuz-1 mission

 

walk

Mishin, Komarov, Feoktistov, Gagarin and Kerimov walk toward the rocket at Site 1 in Tyuratam in early hours of April 23, 1967.

 

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April 20: Confirming the crews

On April 20, the payload section containing Soyuz-1 (7K-OK No. 4) arrived at Site 2 and was integrated with its RN 03 launch vehicle. In the meantime, the 7K-OK No. 5 spacecraft entered final operations, complicated by an electric discharge onto the body of the vehicle during the lowering of a cosmonaut chair in its position.

General Kerimov reconvened the State Commission at 16:00 local time. The gathering included Keldysh, Glushko, Pilyugin, Petrov and Barmin, who had landed in Tyuratam at 14:00 local time. The late group was not in the best mood, because they had to scramble to the launch site after some prodding from Ustinov. The summon was prompted by a complain from Mishin and Kerimov about the lack of participation in the activities, which they both saw almost as significant as the launch of Gagarin aboard the first Vostok spacecraft six years earlier. As Chertok later recalled, the reminiscence with Gagarin's pioneering launch was further reinforced by the refreshing spring weather with a warm breeze carrying fragrances of blooming flowers from the steppe. However, most veterans of the program agreed that the picture had seemed incomplete without Sergei Korolev and Leonid Voskresensky, who had both passed away in the previous two years.

The commission reconvened at 20:00 and formally confirmed the launch time, the primary and backup crews, as formally proposed for flight by Kamanin:

 -
7K-OK No. 4 (Soyuz-1) active
7K-OK No. 5 (Soyuz-2) passive
Launch time
1967 April 23, 03:35 Moscow Time (5:35 local)
1967 April 24, 03:10 Moscow Time (5:10 local)
Commander
Vladimir Komarov
Valery Bykovsky
Spacewalker 1
-
Aleksei Yeliseev
Spacewalker 2
-
Yevgeny Khrunov
Backup commander
Yuri Gagarin
Andriyan Nikolaev
Spacewalker 1 backup
-
Viktor Gorbatko
Spacewalker 2 backup
-
Valery Kubasov

During the April 20 meeting, all the officials confirmed the readiness of their respective systems for flight. Kirillov again reported on the status of testing at the launch site, but this time expressed no reservations.

Gagarin's assignment to the flight even as a backup raised some eyebrows. Just recently, Smirnov warned space officials that due to the critical importance of Gagarin for the Soviet propaganda, a special permission of the Politburo would be needed to let the world's first cosmonaut to fly again. However, Kamanin apparently convinced Ustinov that if Gagarin wanted a rather prestigious position as the head of the cosmonaut corps, he had to be actively involved in training. Such a political theater irritated Mishin, because he had no illusions about letting Gagarin into the actual flight.

Ironically, Gagarin was also a member of the flight control group, which was supposed to depart the launch site for Crimea a day before Soyuz-1 would lift off. To resolve this obvious schedule conflict, Mishin instructed Chertok and Raushenbakh to fly to the mission control center as scheduled, promising to bring Gagarin along after the liftoff.

April 21: First manned Soyuz arrives at launch pad

On April 21, 1967, at 07:00 local time, again exactly according to plan, the launch vehicle with Soyuz-1 (Vehicle No. 4) rolled out from the vehicle assembly building at Site 2 to the launch pad at Site 1.

The integrated tests began on the launch pad at 13:00, but due to a human error, the testing had to be repeated at 20:00 in the evening.

During the same day, the Vehicle No. 5 was enclosed into its payload fairing and entered final operations.

In the meantime, Chertok and a number of other space officials flew to the NIP-16 ground control station in Crimea, which would be the main nerve center of the mission.

April 22: Soyuz crews visit their launch pad

On April 22, 1967, at 9:00, the cosmonauts were brought from their training area at Site 17 to a hotel at the processing area at Site 2, just few hundred meters away from the vehicle processing building. An hour later, Mishin reviewed telemetry tapes with data of integrated tests of the launch vehicle and the spacecraft.

At 11:00, the launch personnel, the Soyuz crews and other officials held a meeting in the shadow of the Soyuz launch vehicle erected on the launch pad at Site 1. Kirillov, Feoktistov, as well as rank and file military personnel assured the cosmonauts that they could rely on the hardware. Komarov and Bykovsky then thanked the launch personnel.

This event left numerous photographs, some of which were published during the Soviet period, giving independent analysts early evidence that along with Komarov, a number of other cosmonauts were ready to fly.

At 15:00, Mishin met cosmonauts for another review of the upcoming flight.

Back in Evpatoria, Crimea, personnel and officials at NIP-16 control center, spent the day rehearsing operations during the upcoming flight.

April 23: Liftoff day

After a sleep period, which started in the middle of a previous day for many of the officials involved in the launch, the State Commission gathered for the "launch meeting" starting at 23:30 Moscow Time. Everything was declared ready for flight and the fueling of the launch vehicle was given go ahead. The operation was completed by 03:00 in the morning of April 23, 1967.

Komarov and Gagarin arrived to the pad by bus and they both rode an elevator of the access gantry to the top of the rocket. As described by Yaroslav Golovanov, Komarov was wearing gray pants and blue jacket. (246) The two cosmonauts exchanged "see you soon," and Gagarin watched as the entry hatch into Soyuz-1 was sealed behind Komarov.

Gagarin then went to the firing bunker where he and Nikolaev were in contact with Komarov via radio during the final preparations for liftoff, which went without problems.

Next chapter: Soyuz-1 lifts off

Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:

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The article and illustrations by Anatoly Zak

Last update: April 23, 2017

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confirm

Komarov confirmed for flight on April 20, 1967.


komarov

Komarov (left), Gagarin (center), Bykovsky (right) are arriving at Site 1 in Tyuratam for the meeting with the launch personnel on April 22, 1967.


komarov

ceremony

ceremony

ceremony

ceremony

Ceremony on the launch pad at Site 1 in Tyuratam on April 22, 1967.


Kirillov

Head of launch personnel Anatoly Kirillov Soyuz crew a successful flight.


soyuz

The Soyuz (11A511) rocket on the launch pad in Tyuratam.


komarov

Komarov (left) and Gagarin walk toward the Soyuz-1 spacecraft, shortly before its launch.