Reinventing Salyut

3 April 1973

Salyut 2, the first Almaz station, reaches orbit, but control is lost 22 days later, before it can be occupied.

24 June 1974

Salyut 3 is successfully launched into orbit.

4 July 1974

The crew of Soyuz 14 join Salyut 3, staying onboard for 14 days.

26 December 1974

A Proton rocket launches the DOS station Salyut 4.

11 January 1975

Soyuz 17 is launched, carrying the first crew to Salyut 4.

25 January 1975

Salyut 3 breaks up on reentry after only one spell of occupation.

24 May 1975

Soyuz 18 takes a second crew to Salyut 4.

22 June 1976

The Almaz-based Salyut 5 launches successfully.

24 February 1977

Salyut 5 is abandoned following two successful manned missions.

The hiatus created by the Soyuz 11 tragedy gave Vladimir Chelomei's military Almaz project a chance to catch up with the hybrid space station under cover of the Salyut name.

The Soviet Union's next attempt at a space station launch, when it came, was to be another hybrid similar to Salyut 1. Launched in July 1972, the station was lost after a malfunction in the second stage of its Proton launch vehicle. Had it survived to orbit, this would have been Salyut 2 - but, as a failure, the Soviets simply ignored it.

Doubts about the reliability of the Proton rocket had forced Chelomei to adapt his original Almaz design so that it could dock with Soyuz, but by early 1973 the first Almaz and a new, upgraded hybrid were both ready. The Almaz station was launched first, and once in orbit on 3 April was officially announced as Salyut 2. Official press releases made no mention of the fact that this was a different type of station, intended largely as a manned spy satellite, but the difference in telemetry signals offered Western experts a clue to its true purpose. All seemed to be going well, and the first crew were preparing for launch, when Salyut 2 suddenly fell silent, victim of a catastrophic break-up in orbit.

As Soviet investigations soon traced the problem back to a fire that started in the Almaz propulsion unit, there was no reason to delay the hybrid station inside and outside salyut 3

(Left) Cosmonauts Pavel Popovich and Yuri Artyukhin pose in front of the Almaz station a few days before launch. Above them is the docking port, surrounded by the manoeuvring engines. (Above) A rare television picture from onboard a military Salyut shows Popovich and Artyukhin relaxing during free time. Even though it would operate in weightlessness, Salyut 3's interior was given a distinct floor and ceiling to help its crew adapt.

improved hybrid

The Salyut A design used three large solar panels that could rotate to face the Sun. It also had a new automatic docking system and improved water reclamation.

almaz construction

A military Almaz station nears completion at the Khrunichev factory near Moscow. Note the payload shroud, ready to be put in place before launch.

ready on the ground, and this was launched a month later, on 11 May. However, gremlins struck again as a fault in the propulsion system left the station spinning out of control, beyond hope of recovery. This time, the Soviets attempted to disguise the station as a failed satellite launch, named Cosmos 557.

Some success at last

Following these embarrassments, manufacture of both types of station was delayed for almost a year (in the interim, a pair of short-duration Soyuz-only missions kept up the Soviet presence in orbit). The next Almaz-type station was finally ready for launch in June 1974, and after a thorough orbital checkup this officially became Salyut 3. In early July, Pavel Popovich and Yuri Artyukhin docked with the station aboard Soyuz 14. As well as operating the reconnaissance camera, they conducted a number of remote-sensing experiments (see p.244) during their 16-day mission. Rigorous exercise meant that they returned to Earth in far better shape than previous long-duration cosmonauts. In late-August, Soyuz 15 set off, carrying a second crew intended for Salyut 3. But bad luck struck again, when the spacecraft was unable to make a successful rendezvous. Later in September, the station released a capsule containing the film from its cameras, and then it was left to its fate, breaking up in early 1975.

By this time, a new hybrid station (similar to Cosmos 557) was already in orbit. Salyut 4 was a significant advance for the programme, with a range of new features that made it more reliable and comfortable for the crew and a higher, more stable orbit. The first crew launched aboard Soyuz 17 on 11 January 1975 and stayed in space for a new record of 30 days, during which they adapted well to conditions and carried out a variety of experiments.

The launch of a second crew, on 5 April, ended in a dramatic escape after a rocket stage shut down prematurely and the Soyuz spacecraft had to make an emergency re-entry from an altitude of 180km (112 miles). A new replacement crew took off aboard Soyuz 18 on 24 May. Pyotr Klimuk and Vitali Sevastyanov remained in orbit for 63 days, but by the time they completed their planned tour of duty, the station was deteriorating, its windows fogged and mould growing on the walls.

Salyut 5 was the last Almaz station. Essentially the same as Salyut 3, this time the station carried materials science experiments as well as its main reconnaissance payload. The first crew, Boris Volynov and Vitali Zholobov, joined the station in July 1976, two weeks after its launch, and remained in space for 49 days. They left the station ahead of schedule after Zholobov in particular developed psychological problems. There were also suspicions of toxic gas in the cabin, but it was later reoccupied (after a failed attempt at docking by the crew of Soyuz 23), for a further 16 days by the crew of Soyuz 24.

pressurized hood with plastic visor connector for air and coolant lines utility pocket pleated knee boots are part of suit h the sokol spacesuit pressure gauge utility pocket pleated knee boots are part of suit h the sokol spacesuit pressurized hood with plastic visor connector for air and coolant lines pressure gauge

While Vostok-era cosmonauts wore pressure suits for safety reasons, by the Soyuz era the spacecraft had Pressure become a shirtsleeve environment. However, the loss of the Soyuz 11 crew changed all this, and a new suit, the Sokol, was introduced in 1973. Sokol was not intended for spacewalks - only for use in the event of an accident and during dangerous times such as re-entry. It is a two-layer suit, with a skin of rubberized synthetic material beneath an outer layer of canvas. The boots and hinged helmet chable are integrated into the suit, while the gloves are e acia e removable and lock into place on aluminium rings. Early versions of the suit came in two pieces that zipped together around the waist, but later variations (still in use today) are one-piece: the cosmonaut climbs into the suit through a V-shaped opening, an overlapping flap seals the inner skin, and zippers close the canvas layer. A ventilation system blows cabin air through the suit, but if pressure falls, it switches over to a bottled oxygen supply. The suit weighs 10kg (22lb) and is designed to keep the wearer alive for up to two hours in a vacuum. It is also intended to float in the event of an emergency splashdown.

Salyut Interior

life on salyut 7

(Above) The crew of Soyuz T-12, Vladimir Dzhanibekov, Svetlana Savitskaya, and Igor Volk relax onboard the station. (Below) Dzhonibekov with Viktor Savinykh during their mission to revive the station in 1985.

The latter generation of Salyut space stations incorporated the best features of the Almaz design - such as the environmental systems and gyrodynes (electrically powered stabilisers that oriented the station in orbit without salyut 6

29 September 1977

Salyut 6 reaches orbit.

10 December 1977

The crew of Soyuz 26 are launched on a 96-day mission to Salyut 6.

11 January 1978

Soyuz 27 docks to the spare port on Salyut 6, bringing two cosmonauts on a five-day visit.

22 January 1978

Progress 1, the first unmanned supply ferry, docks with Salyut 6.

19 June 1981

The Cosmos 1267 space tug docks with Salyut 6.

19 April 1982

Salyut 7 is launched.

14 May 1982

Salyut 7's commissioning crew arrive at the station aboard Soyuz T-5.

8 June 1985

Soyuz T-13 makes a manual docking with the deactivated Salyut 7 to bring it back online after a power failure.

17 November 1986

The final Salyut 7 mission is curtailed when Commander Vladimir Vasyutin falls ill.

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