Venera 1


Venera 1 (Russian: Венера-1 meaning Venus 1), also known as Venera-1VA No.2 and occasionally in the West as Sputnik 8 was the first spacecraft to fly past Venus, as part of the Soviet Union's Venera programme.[1] Launched in February 1961, it flew past Venus on 19 May of the same year; however, radio contact with the probe was lost before the flyby, resulting in it returning no data.

Venera 1
Venera 1 (a) (Memorial Museum of Astronautics).JPG
Mockup of the Venera 1 spacecraft
Mission typeVenus impactor
Harvard designation1961 Gamma 1
COSPAR ID1961-003A
SATCAT no.80
Mission duration7 days
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft1VA No.2
Launch mass6,424.0 kilograms (14,162.5 lb)
Dry mass643.5 kilograms (1,419 lb)
Start of mission
Launch dateFebruary 12, 1961, 00:34:36 (1961-02-12UTC00:34:36Z) UTC
RocketMolniya 8K78
Launch siteBaikonur 1/5
End of mission
Last contact19 February 1961 (1961-02-20)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric
Perihelion altitude1.019 AU
Aphelion altitude0.718 AU
Period311 days
Flyby of Venus
Closest approach19 May 1961
Distance100,000 km (62,000 mi)
1961 CPA 2556.jpg  


Venera 1 was a 643.5-kilogram (1,419 lb) probe consisting of a cylindrical body 1.05 metres (3 ft 5 in) in diameter topped by a dome, totalling 2.035 metres (6 ft 8.1 in) in height. This was pressurized to 1.2 standard atmospheres (120 kPa) with dry nitrogen, with internal fans to maintain even distribution of heat.[citation needed] Two solar panels extended from the cylinder, charging a bank of silver-zinc batteries. A 2-metre parabolic wire-mesh antenna was designed to send data from Venus to Earth on a frequency of 922.8 MHz. A 2.4-metre antenna boom was used to transmit short-wave signals during the near-Earth phase of the mission. Semidirectional quadrupole antennas mounted on the solar panels provided routine telemetry and telecommand contact with Earth during the mission, on a circularly-polarized decimetre radio band.

The probe was equipped with scientific instruments including a flux-gate magnetometer attached to the antenna boom, two ion traps to measure solar wind, micrometeorite detectors, and Geiger counter tubes and a sodium iodide scintillator for measurement of cosmic radiation. An experiment attached to one solar panel measured temperatures of experimental coatings. Infrared and/or ultraviolet radiometers may have been included. The dome contained a KDU-414 engine used for mid-course corrections. Temperature control was achieved by motorized thermal shutters.

During most of its flight, Venera 1 was spin stabilized. It was the first spacecraft designed to perform mid-course corrections, by entering a mode of 3-axis stabilization, fixing on the Sun and the star Canopus. Had it reached Venus, it would have entered another mode of 3-axis stabilization, fixing on the Sun and Earth, and using for the first time a parabolic antenna to relay data.


Venera 1 was the second of two attempts to launch a probe to Venus in February 1961, immediately following the launch of its sister ship Venera-1VA No.1,[2] which failed to leave Earth orbit.[3] Soviet experts launched Venera-1 using a Molniya carrier rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch took place at 00:34:36 GMT on 12 February 1961.[4]

The spacecraft, along with the rocket's Blok-L upper stage, was initially placed into a 229 × 282 km low Earth orbit,[1] before the upper stage fired to place "Venera 1" into a heliocentric orbit, directed towards Venus. The 11D33 engine was the world's first staged-combustion-cycle rocket engine, and also the first use of an ullage engine to allow a liquid-fuel rocket engine to start in space.


Three successful telemetry sessions were conducted, gathering solar-wind and cosmic-ray data near Earth, at the Earth's Magnetopause, and on February 19 at a distance of 1,900,000 km (1,200,000 mi). After discovering the solar wind with Luna 2, Venera 1 provided the first verification that this plasma was uniformly present in deep space. Seven days later, the next scheduled telemetry session failed to occur. On May 19, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km (62,000 mi) of Venus. With the help of the British radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, some weak signals from Venera 1 may have been detected in June. Soviet engineers believed that Venera 1 failed due to the overheating of a solar-direction sensor.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Venera 1". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
  2. ^ NSSDC Chronology of Venus Exploration (NASA Goddard Space Center), accessed August 9, 2010
  3. ^ NSSDC Tentatively Identified (Soviet) Missions and Launch Failures (NASA Goddard Space Center), accessed August 9, 2010
  4. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  5. ^ "Venera 1 launches toward Venus, February 12, 1961". AspenCore, Inc. Retrieved 2020-06-06.

External linksEdit

  • The Soviet Exploration of Venus
  • NSSDC Master Catalog - Venera 1