This Week in EUCOM History: February 6-12, 1959

February 9, 1959 -- The R-7 Semyorka beocmes operational

The R-7 Semyorka, the first intercontinental ballistic missile, becomes operational at Plesetsk, USSR.

An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a long range (greater than 5,500 km or 3,500 miles) typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more nuclear warheads).

The R-7 (Russian: Р-7) was a Soviet missile developed during the Cold War, and the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 made 28 launches between 1957 and 1961.

To the West it was known by the NATO reporting name SS-6 Sapwood and within the Soviet Union by the GRAU index 8K71. In modified form, it launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into orbit, and became the basis for the R7 family which includes Sputnik, Luna, Molniya, Vostok, and Voskhod space launchers, as well as later Soyuz/L/U/U2/FG/2 variants.

The widely used nickname for the R-7 launcher, "semyorka", means (colloquially, affectionately) "the digit 7" or a "group of seven" (usually people rather than inanimate objects) in Russian.

The R-7 was 34 m long, 3 m in diameter and weighed 280 metric tons; it was two-stage, powered by rocket engines using liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene and capable of delivering its payload at around 8,800 km, with an accuracy (CEP) of around 5 km. A single thermonuclear warhead was carried with a nominal yield of 3 megatons of TNT. The initial launch was boosted by four strap-on liquid rocket boosters making up the first stage, with a central 'sustainer' motor powering through both the first and the second stage. Each strap-on booster included two vernier thrusters and the core stage included four. The guidance system was inertial with radio control of the vernier thrusters.[1]

EUCOM’s stated mission during the Cold war to counter the Soviet threat of both conventional and nuclear war. The development of the first Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missile increased tensions in EUCOM’s AOR significantly.


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