Tragedy strikes

Things went well, and daily television broadcasts were sent back to Earth, until on 16 June a minor fire broke out. It was soon extinguished and was never a serious threat, but the scare led to the mission being cut short. Salyut 1 was put into automatic mode and its crew prepared to return to Earth, but then tragedy struck. As the re-entry module separated from the rest of the Soyuz 11 spacecraft, an explosive bolt forced open a pressure valve, allowing air to escape from the cabin and suffocating the cosmonauts before they re-entered the atmosphere.

The loss stunned the Soviet public, who had grown familiar with the cosmonauts through their broadcasts. It also grounded the Soyuz spacecraft, and with no other way of servicing the Salyut 1 station, its operators reluctantly allowed its orbit to decay, until it broke up on re-entry in October 1971.


During more than three weeks on the station, the crew adapted well to life in orbit. Volkov and Dobrovolsky decided to grow beards, but Patsayev shaved regularly.

salyut design

Vladimir Chelomei's original Almaz design - which formed the basis of Salyut - was a stepped cylinder with two segments 4.15m (13ft 7in) and 3m (9ft 10in) in diameter and 11.6m (38ft) long. A conical capsule at the forward end would allow it to be launched with a crew, but this idea was later abandoned. At the rear, a docking port would allow Chelomei's manned TKS ferries to approach. The Salyut DOS configuration developed at OKB-1 replaced the ring-shaped engine around the aft docking port with a Soyuz-based unit that sat centrally. As a result, a new docking system (with an airlock transfer compartment) was added to the forward end, giving the station a total length of 14.6m (48ft) The flown Almaz stations had fewer changes - the rear docking port was modified to accommodate Soyuz.

24 February 1977

Salyut 5 is abandoned following two successful manned missions.

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.

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