From the Control center Yuri Gagarin’s kept the crew informed on everything taking place on the now deserted launching site. Finally the command was given: “Stand by!” Now, It would be a matter or minutes before the launch. Commands followed in quick succession. The flight recorder was switched on, the engines started up. There was not much noise at first. But, after the command “Main Engine” the noise and the vibration grew stronger. The final command came at 07:30 UT “Start!”
The Space Age had barely begun when Soviet engineers started planning ways to destroy enemy satellites. Some Western analysts have speculated that a design for an anti-satellite weapon system was started at Korolev’s OKB-1 bureau as early as 1956…
“Dear friends, you who are close to me, and you whom I do not know, fellow Russians, and people of all countries and all continents: in a few minutes a powerful space vehicle will carry me into the distant realm of space. What can I tell you in these last minutes before the launch? My whole life appears to me as one beautiful moment. All that I previously lived through and did, was lived through and done for the sake of this moment.” Yuri Gagarin prior to launch of Vostok 1.
The launch vehicle for the Luna E-1 series was a modified R7 named Vostok. The Vostok had three stages. The first and second stage were the standard R-7 which we covered in Episode 9. A 5.1 meter long by 2.4 meter diameter third stage was added to the top of the R-7. The third stage weighed 1472 kg and was capable of delivering 54.5 kiloNewtons or 12,252 lbs of thrust. This was the probes booster stage that gave it enough speed to escape Earth’s gravity.