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OPS "Almaz" Series Salyut-3


By Marcia S. Smith Formerly with the, Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service

1971-1975 & 1976-1980


Soyuz 14 and 15 with Salyut 3

In 1974 the Soviet Union launched their second successful space station, Salyut 3, which remained in orbit for seven months. Two crews were launched to dock with the space station. The first docked successfully and conducted joint experiments for 14 days, while Soyuz 15 was unable to achieve 'a link-up.

Salyut 3

Salyut 3 was launched June 25, 1974 into an orbit 270 x 219 km, inclined at 51.6° and with a period of 89.1 minutes. This Salyut was of an improved design (details will follow) and had several characteristics about it which suggest its mission was military rather than civilian. This is considered the first operational military space station, and a capsule was ejected from the station and recovered on September 23, 1974.

All four men sent to work with Salyut 3 were from the military: usually in the Soyuz program Russian crews are comprised of both military and civilian persons. On board was a 10 meter focal length high resolution camera, (12) and the Russians announced that for the first time Salyut 3 was constantly oriented toward Earth with the help of an electro-mechanical stabilization system. Although this could simply indicate Earth resources photography, as the Russians announced, the low orbital parameters of the space station and the long focal length camera with its folded optics suggest high resolution photography of a nature not needed for Earth resources work. Also, during the successful docking of Soyuz 14, the crew transmitted on the 121.75 MHz frequency normally used by Soyuz missions, but once they entered the space station the frequency was changed to 143.625 MHz (Salyut 3 itself transmitted fifteen spacecraft hardware parameters on 19.946 MHz, previously used by Salyut 2).

The Russians announced that Salyut 3 was 21 meters long (seepage 188) with an internal volume of 100 cubic meters. The aggregate weight of the Salyut/Soyuz system remained at over 25 metric tons. On September 23, after hosting the crew of Soyuz 14 and then being unmanned for more then two months, a module separated from Salyut, went through a reentry procedure, and was recovered, quite likely indicating that photography had continued on board Salyut automatically.

Salyut 3 functioned for more than twice its design life, reentering the atmosphere by command over the Pacific on January 24, 1975 . By December 25, 1974, after completing 2,950 revolutions around Earth (by 1500 GMT), the space station had hosted 400 scientific and technical experiments, had 8,000 control commands transmitted to it, more than 200 dynamic operations were performed, there had been 70 television and 2,500 telemetric communication sessions, 500,000 firings of the stabilization engines, and 5,000 kilowatt hours of power had been produced by the solar panel energy supply system. An atmospheric pressure of 835-850 mm Hg and a temperature of 21-22°C were maintained throughout.

Some of the changes to Salyut were:

(1) Miniaturized circuitry in control loops;

(2) A more efficient power supply and life support systems, including better thermal control. Solar panels capable of rotating 180° were substituted for the stationary kind used on Salyut 1 so the station itself did not have to be constantly turned to face the Sun. Although there were only three panels instead of the four on Salyut 1, they were larger

(3) A general redesign of the interior. The single, large four-meter diameter working compartment was subdivided into control, working and living sections, with a corridor along the left side of the ship, from front to back, connecting the various sections to each other and the entry tunnel. All the sections were served by the same life support system, and there were no pressure bulkheads between them.

In a scheme to make the cosmonauts' new home more familiar, the floors and ceilings were painted different colors (dark for the floors, light for the ceiling) with Velcro-like material on the floor to permit more ease in walking.

The living quarters, which occupied the narrow front portion of the space station just forward of the control compartment, had four windows. Besides being equipped with a special sofa for medical experiments, there was one fixed position and one swinging bed (coming out from the bulkhead to conserve space). There were hot and cold water sources, a table for eating, storage space for clothes, linen and entertainment gear (which included a tape recorder for music, a chess set and small library), and a shower and toilet.

Soyuz 14: 16 day mission

— On July 3, 1974 , at 1851 GMT, Soyuz 14 (Berkut or Golden Eagle) was launched into a 270 x 219 km orbit, inclined at 51.6°, and with a period of 89.1 minutes. Piloted by Col. Pavel Popovich and Lt. Col. Yuriy Artyukhin, the ship's mission was to dock with Salyut 3 for joint experiments. When orbit was achieved, Soyuz was 3,500 km behind Salyut. After four orbital corrections, the cosmonauts were in a position for docking, and 100 meters from the station the crew took manual control. Their speed at this point was 1 meter per second, which was reduced to 0.3 meter per second by the time the ships were 40 meters apart. Using the usual probe/drogue docking system, the ships soft docked at 2100 GMT July 4 (midnight Moscow time), followed by hard dock and pressure verification. When the crew discovered that the pressure inside their ship was slightly lower than that of the space station, they raised their pressure to match. During the docking procedure, both cosmonauts wore the pressure suits they had worn during lift-off and removed after orbital insertion. At 0130 GMT July 5, Flight Engineer Artyukhin entered the Salyut, turned on the lights, and checked the life support systems.

Soyuz 14 differed from other manned Soyuzes in that there were no solar panels. Intended only as a ferry craft to take crews back and forth to the space station, internal battery power was considered sufficient for the short time it would be in solo flight, and removal of the panels created a more maneuverable ship. A porthole below the control panel between the two crew members allowed a clear view of the docking approach (although a television image was also provided on the control panel) and manual control of the ship was provided by two handles resembling automobile gear shifts (although much smaller). The left stick controlled the up, down, left, right, forward and backward motions, while the right controlled rolls along the main axis.

Two very interesting aspects of the flight surfaced in Russian news reports. First was Vladimir Panarin's announcement that this Soyuz had a water recovery capability. A practice exercise was described where the cosmonauts exited the spacecraft after “splashdown” into the water wearing red notation jackets. They carried packs with food water and a miniature radio, and flares to be released both into the air and water to mark their location. The cosmonauts were then helped into lifeboats, which had remained alongside the capsule and the crew during the entire drill.

The second development worth noting was an announcement that this was the first mission to be in continuous communication on all channels-voice and telemetry-with the manned space flight center near Moscow . The mission had tracking support from the Kosmonaut, Yuriy Gagarin in the western Atlantic and the Kosmonaut Vladimir Komarov Cuban waters, assisted by the Molniya satellite. Western sources were skeptical of the report, however, since during several communication sessions the space crew was heard to use the Gagarin and Komarov call signs rather than that of the space flight center, and at one point Popovich said he would relay greetings from the Komarov to Moscow .

The work of the Soyuz 14/Salyut 3 crew included: studies of geological--morphological objects of the Earth's surface, of atmospheric formations and phenomena with the aim of obtaining data for the solution of economic tasks (in other words Earth resources photography); studies of the physical characteristics of outer space, medico-biological research to study the influence of space on the human organism; and tests of the station's improved design the cosmonauts reportedly had similar eating tastes, with a typical breakfast consisting of bread with ham, cottage cheese with black currants a honey bun, coffee with milk, and vitamins. Popovich was an avid football fan, so when the world football game was broadcast over the radio, he was given extra work so he wouldn't be tempted to listen in.

An exact copy of Salyut 3 was occupied on the ground to duplicate the actions of the space crew in case any problems developed. For example, when one of the space crew complained of a ventilator that was causing a draft and asked if it could be turned off, the ventilator on the ground-based Salyut was turned off to see if it had any effect on life support systems or other instruments. When no problems developed, the plan was approved. .

During their trip in space, the cosmonauts received a congratulatory message from American astronauts visiting Star City in preparation for the July 1975 Apollo-Soyuz joint mission. Several solar flares erupted from July 4-8, but did not affect the crew or the station, although close watch was kept on dosimeter readings to ensure the crew's safety. The normal daily schedule was eight hours of sleep, eight of work, and the remaining eight for exercise, rest, cleaning and making log entries.

After undocking from Salyut 3 at 0903 GMT July 19 and firing their retrorockets as planned, the crew of Soyuz 14 landed at 1221GMT just 2 km from their planned target 140 km southeast of Dzhezkazgan , Kazakhstan . .

Salyut-3 Experiments performed on this mission included:

Medical—With the Polinom-2M equipment, the cosmonauts studied blood circulation to the brain and blood velocity in the arteries before and after physical activity. They also took samples of exhaled air for study on Earth to determine the level of energy expenditures at rest and while active. For physical conditioning, a universal trainer was provided to mimic walking, running, high and long jumping, and weight-lifting. These exercises were performed every morning and evening. The trainer consisted of a running track or treadmill and a special suit with elastic pulls attached to the belt. The other end of these pulls was attached to the track so that the crew member was pulled onto the apparatus with a force equal to 60% of his body weight. This force was transmitted not only to the waist and legs, but to the shoulders as well, an improvement over the Skylab bicycle according to Russian medical experts, since all muscles were thus exercised

Other 'Biological .—A microbiological cultivator was on board and the crew daily sowed bacterial cultures into a growth medium to show the development of bacteria in space.

Earth Resources .—Listed as one of the prime projects on this flight, the cosmonauts spent a great deal of time photographing the Earth's surface and atmosphere. This was described as Earth resources work (of a civilian nature) but the station's characteristics equally or better fitted military reconnaissance work.

The areas mentioned by the Russians as being photographed by the team were: Soviet central Asia , the Pamirs, the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea , the Caucasus , the Ustyurt Plateau, and the Atlantic Ocean where research into global atmospheric processes was being carried out in connection with the international Tropex-74 program (this area was simultaneously photographed by the Meteor satellite). Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that objects were placed outside the Tyuratam launch facility during passes by the space station to test the reconnaissance potential of the station.


The crew made observations of the polarization of solar light re-flected by the Earth and its atmosphere during the night, twilight and day horizons for studying the dynamics of the development of optical phenomena. There also was a spectral investigation of the atmosphere with an RSS-2 spectrograph to measure the global distribution of gas aerosol components and other atmospheric pollution.


For autonomous navigation, there were measurements of the angular position of celestial bodies relative to atmospheric dust layers and the horizon. An improved Vzor of the type carried on Vostok and Voskhod was used for determining methods of orienting the ship in transitional lighting conditions (going in and out of the Earth's shadow), and orbital orientation when the Sun is low above the horizon and Earth is incompletely illuminated. If one marks the real horizon with a line marked on the instrument and the Sun is in a definite position on the screen, the ship will be oriented correctly.

System checks

Another major duty of this mission was the checking of ship's systems. The cosmonauts were assisted in evaluating the exterior of the station by an optical instrument hinged to the outside which could relay images to them and to Earth via a television system. They also checked life support systems, including the parameters of Salyut 3's atmosphere and the water regeneration block, thermo-regulation systems, and radio communication. Television

There were several television transmissions, one of the most interesting of which showed effects of vibration on various pendulum instruments. Since some high-precision instruments are affected by these vibrations, yielding incorrect readings, engineers were quite interested in this demonstration.

Soyuz 15 Failed Docking Attempt

—Launched by an A-2 vehicle on August 26, 1974 at 1958 GMT, Soyuz 15 (Dunay or Danube ) was reportedly a continuation of the scientific research and experiments started by Soyuz 14. Its initial orbit was 230x180 km. .

Altering the orbit to 275 x 254 km with a period of 89.6 minutes and an inclination of 51.6° on the second day of flight, the mission almost immediately ran into trouble when attempts to dock with Salyut 3 were unsuccessful. The pilots, Lt. Col. Gennadiy Sarafanoy and Eng. Col. Lev Demin, made repeated approaches to the space station, but each time the ship came within 30-50 meters of its target, the automatic reaction control system aboard Soyuz made excessively long burns, causing it to close too fast. The first public report of the trouble was made by the Kettering Group after visual observations showed that the two craft were still separate after the time they should have docked, and monitoring of the telemetry which confirmed that no docking had occurred.

Since the ferry version of Soyuz does not have solar panels for energy but only chemical batteries, its life in space is limited to about 2.5 days. Thus Soyuz 15 was forced to land at night on August 28. The tracking ship Morzhovets, stationed in the Atlantic near St. Helena Island , reported the correct firing of the retrorockets and at 2010 GMT the cosmonauts landed 48 km southwest of Tselinograd in adverse weather conditions. Despite the emergency nature of the landing, rescue teams located the ship quickly and 17 minutes after touch down reached the crew.

The official Russian version, according to General Shatalov, was that the mission of Soyuz 15 was to test the automatic docking system aboard Soyuz for future tanker spacecraft missions to space stations Thus when the automatic docking system failed there was no attempt to dock manually, although the cosmonauts could have done so. Usually Soyuz closes to within 100 meters of the space station and then manual control is activated. Shatalov stated that even if docking had been accomplished, the cosmonauts would then have undocked and repeated the exercise for practice, rather than enter the space station for an extended visit. .

Western observers are skeptical of Shatalov's explanation if for no other reason than that to send a ship into space simply to practice docking techniques when an extended stay is possible is an extremely wasteful exercise. Also, the mission was announced as a continuation of Soyuz 14's work, and indeed both crew members were once again members of the military. So the Russian version that Soyuz 15 was only a docking exercise and that the repeated approaches to Salyut were meant only to gain further information on the malfunction in the reaction control system, are viewed with a great deal of doubt, which the Soyuz 20 flight does little to allay.




12. Major Redesign Marks Salynt-3, Aviation Week and Space Technology, New York . July 15, 1974 , P. 293.

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