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Kosmos 96 (Russian: Космос 96 meaning Cosmos 96), or 3MV-4 No.6, was a Soviet spacecraft intended to explore Venus. A 3MV-4 spacecraft launched as part of the Venera programme, Kosmos 96 was to have made a flyby of Venus; however, due to a launch failure, it did not depart low Earth orbit.

Kosmos 96
Artistic representation of the space probe falling in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania.
Mission typeVenus flyby[1]
COSPAR ID1965-094A
SATCAT no.1742
Mission durationLaunch failure
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type3MV-4
Launch mass6,510 kilograms (14,350 lb)
Dry mass960 kilograms (2,120 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date23 November 1965, 03:21 (1965-11-23UTC03:21Z) UTC[2]
RocketMolniya 8K78
Launch siteBaikonur 31/6
End of mission
Decay date9 December 1965 (1965-12-10Z)
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Semi-major axis6,606.5 kilometres (4,105.1 mi)
Perigee altitude209 kilometres (130 mi)[3]
Apogee altitude262 kilometres (163 mi)[3]
Inclination51.9 degrees[3]
Period89.2 minutes[3]
Epoch30 November 1965, 19:00:00 UTC[4]

The 3MV-4 No.6 spacecraft was originally built for a mission to Mars, with launch scheduled for late 1964. After it was not launched by the end of its launch window, the spacecraft was repurposed, along with two other spacecraft which were launched as Venera 2 and Venera 3, to explore Venus.[5]

A Molniya carrier rocket was used to launch 3MV-4 No.6. The launch occurred from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 03:21 UTC on 23 November 1965.[2] Late in third stage flight, a fuel line ruptured, causing one of the engine's combustion chambers to explode. The rocket tumbled out of control, and as a result the fourth stage, a Blok-L, failed to ignite.[5] The spacecraft was deployed into a low Earth orbit with a perigee of 209 kilometres (130 mi), an apogee of 261 kilometres (162 mi), and 51.9 degrees of inclination to the equator. The spacecraft was named Kosmos 96, part of a series typically used for military and experimental satellites in order to cover up the failure. Had it departed Earth's orbit, it would have received the next designation in the Venera series, at the time Venera 4.

Kosmos 96 was destroyed when it reentered the Earth's atmosphere on 9 December 1965.[3] Its reentry has been suggested as a possible explanation of UFO sightings over the United States and Canada, centred on Kecksburg, Pennsylvania; however analysis found the spacecraft probably reentered several hours before the sightings.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Interplanetary Probes". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  4. ^ "NASA - NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Trajectory Details". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  5. ^ a b Siddiqi, Asif A. (2002). "1965". Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000 (PDF). Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 24. NASA History Office. pp. 47–52.
  6. ^ "Cosmos 96". U.S. National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved 11 April 2013.