Kapustin Yar (Russian: Капустин Яр) is a Russian rocket launch and development site in Astrakhan Oblast, between Volgograd and Astrakhan. Known today as Znamensk (Russian: Знаменск), it was established 13 May 1946 and in the beginning used technology, material, and scientific support from defeated Germany. Numerous launches of test rockets for the Russian military were carried out at the site, as well as satellite and sounding rocket launches.
The 4th Missile Test Range “Kapustin Yar” was established by a decree of the Soviet Government “On Questions of Jet Propelled Weapons” on the 13th May 1946. The test range was created under the supervision of General-lieutenant Vasily Voznyuk (commander in chief of the test range 1946-1973) in the desert north end of the Astrakhan region. The first rocket was launched from the site on October 18, 1947; it was one of eleven German A-4s that had been captured.
The State R&D Test Range No 8 (GNIIP-8, “test range S”) was established at Kapustin Yar in June 1951.
Five atmospheric nuclear tests of small power (10-40 kt) were performed over the site in 1957-1961.
With the further growth and development, the site became a cosmodrome, serving in this function since 1966 (with interruption in 1988-1998). The town of Znamensk was established to support the scientists working on the facilities, their families, and supporting personnel. Initially this was a secret city, not to be found on maps and inaccessible to outsiders.
Evidence of the importance of Kapustin Yar was obtained by Western intelligence through debriefing of returning German scientists and spy flights. The first such flight reportedly took place in mid-1953 using a high flying Canberra aircraft of the RAF. Numerous circumstantial reports suggest this flight took place, using either a Canberra B2 or a PR3, but the UK Government has never admitted such a flight took place nor have any of the supposed participants provided direct evidence.
Kapustin Yar is also the site of numerous Soviet-era UFO sightings and has been called “Russia’s Roswell“.
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