Space development in the USSR began in 1921, marked by the construction of the Gasdynamic Laboratory in Leningrad. It was there that the active development of rockets began. The development was based on the designs of researchers K.E. Tsiolkovsky, I.V. Meshchersky, N.I. Kibalchich and Y.V. Kondratyuk.
The task of the designers and engineers was to translate theoretical calculations into reality. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the engines were massive and could not provide enough power to overcome gravity. Through the efforts of the scientific staff of the laboratory in 1933 in the USSR made an experimental run of the created rocket, which had an impressive effect. In the same year, the Russian Scientific Research Institute was established in Moscow to develop long-range rockets.
In the early 40's priorities had changed, the development of outer space moved into the background and the designers faced the question of creating military technology in terms of power and armor ahead of enemy equipment. The heroic act of a Soviet pilot presented the designers with the latest German bomber equipped with secret developments, which included a supernova V-2 cruise missile. On the basis of Vau, designer S. Korolev's team created the R-1 rocket.
After the end of World War II, the USSR plunged into a cold war with America. All material and labour resources were thrown in to speed up the restoration of the Union. The government realised that the capacity of the US military was superior to that of the Soviet arsenal. In the shortest possible time the domestic designers had to create technologies superior to those of the enemy.
Thus, in 1957, the R-7 missile, designed by Korolev according to innovative schemes, appeared. Two unnamed test sites, future Plesetsk and Baikonur, were established specifically for launching the missile. The R-7 was supposed to be used to deliver nuclear weapons to the US. The country's leadership showed no interest in conquering near-Earth space, but at the request of Korolev, it agreed to test the rocket with the launch of the first satellites.
Sputnik-1 was successfully launched into space in October 1957. In November of the same year, a second satellite, Laika, a dog, was launched into earth orbit. The flight ended with the animal's death, but it proved that it was possible for a living organism to remain in space. The successful launch of the satellite was discussed in the world media. Thanks to the effect, Sergei Korolev was given unrestricted authority over the space programme.
The next steps in space exploration were the launch of a series of autonomous Moon stations in 1959, which reached the natural satellite and photographed its back side.
In the early 1960s, the design bureau and SKB, led by M. Yangel and V. Chelomey, became involved in the space programme. The bureaus were engaged in designing rockets with long-stored fuel. Together they designed Vostok-1, a single-seater spacecraft. The first flight of Vostok took place in April 1961 with Yury Gagarin on board. In the race for human space primacy, the USSR was 23 days ahead of America. Vostok spacecraft of various series flew with cosmonauts on board until 1964.
In 1965 the first Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov was in outer space. After being in outer space for more than 12 minutes, he successfully returned aboard.
From 1965 to 1966, the USSR launched the "Moon" and "Venus" satellites. The purpose is to investigate the atmosphere and soil of the neighbouring planet and the Earth's satellite. The mission was carried out by Luna-9 with a soft landing and Luna-10, which became an artificial moon satellite. The Venus 7 made a successful landing on a neighbouring planet.
An important event in 1967 was the automatic docking of Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188. Cosmos 188 was not only able to detect and approach a previously launched drone, but also to reunite the system during the docking.
The long-awaited conquest of the Moon was the landing of the Soviet Lunokhod 1 on the surface of the satellite in 1970.
1971 saw the launch of the first orbital station, Salyut-1, and the soft landing of a satellite on the surface of Mars.
The desire of the Soviet government to get ahead of rivals in space conquest, to demonstrate the power of the country, was reflected in the generous funding and encouragement of proposed space projects. Some of the projects the USSR undertook together with the Americans. The Soyuz-Apollo programme involved docking Soviet and American spacecraft in 1975. The rendezvous was successfully carried out.
The Soviet Union's breakthrough in space exploration was the launch of the multi-module Mir station, which entered orbit in February 1986. The station's modules were gradually added, the station lasted for 15 years.
The final step in the space history of the USSR was the launch of the space shuttle Buran. This unique spacecraft was well thought out and launched into orbit by an Energia rocket in 1988. Having made a few revolutions around the Earth, it automatically landed at the launch site.
The collapse of the USSR, economic perestroika, had a negative impact on the space programme. The military space programme lost some of its funding and many unique projects had to be terminated. Promising long-term projects perished along with the USSR.