Zenit sounding rocket

Since 1947, two Swiss companies, Oerlikon-Bührle Machine Tools Co and Contraves AG, started works on rocket propulsion for anti-aircraft missiles. These vehicles used liquid propellants (nitric acid and kerosene) in a first phase, then solid starting from the mid-1950s. The Micon anti-aircraft missile thus used a dual-thrust (45 kN then 22 kN) solid propellant motor providing a total impulse of approximately 900 kNs.

This engine was employed later in the Zenit sounding rocket. It was a single-stage vehicle, 42 cm in diameter, measuring 5.6 m high and weighing 610 kg at takeoff. It could send a 25 kg payload to 210 km of altitude or 130 kg to 115 km. At the time of its maiden flight from Salto di Quirra on October 27, 1967, it reached an altitude of 145 km. Later, it was launched with a British Cuckoo booster, from Salto di Quirra and Andoya.

27 Oct 1967SDQZenitUni. BernS (145 km)
30 Jul 1971SDQCuckoo-ZenitESRO Z82PF: Faulty stages separation, premature fairing ejection
13 Dec 1972ANDCuckoo-ZenitUni. BernS
Notes: AND = Andoya; SDQ = Salto di Quirra

Please contact
Jean-Jacques Serra <> for comments, corrections or questions