Russia’s Znamensk test site is the birthplace of the Soviet Union’s space program, the spot where historic launches, including those with some of the first canine astronauts on board, took place.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, when the launches took place, Kapustin Yar was publically known – unlike the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which was hidden from western eyes.
The first rocket launched at the site, on Oct. 18, 1947, was the R-1 ballistic missile, based on the German A4. It was a military project, but also carried scientific experiments that ran at high altitudes.
The P-2 rocket that followed was the first Soviet rocket to use separate stages, which contributed to the light-weighting efforts. It was also made lighter by the use of aluminum alloy for the fuel tank supports.
Later rockets also included scientific experiments and live cargo: several dogs survived short flights in orbit before Laika’s famous orbital mission.
At the very least, the photographs are a glimpse into a secretive time in Russian space history. Kapustin Yar was also used to test the R-7 rockets that took Sputnik to orbit.