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OPS "ALMAZ" Salyut-5




Salyut 5 was launched on June 22, 1976 and deorbited on August 8, 1977 after completing 6,630 Earth orbits. This is generally considered to have been a military Salyut and was placed into an initial orbit 260 X 219 km. A capsule was ejected, as one had been with Salyut 3, by Salyut 5 on February 26, 1977, the day after the last crew left. According to the Soviets, this contained "the materials of research and experiments," (31) probably exposed film.

Three crews were sent to Salyut 5, one of which (Soyuz 23) could not dock and became the first Soviet spacecraft to (inadvertently) splash down in water instead of landing on solid ground. The other two crews, Soyuz 21 and Soyuz 24, remained for 48 days and 18 days respectively. There is some indication that the first crew returned earlier than expected.


Soyuz 21 (Baikal) was launched at 1309 GMT on July 6, 1976 carrying the crew of Col. Boris Volynov and Lt. Col. Vitally Zholobov. By 1800 GMT, the ships was in an orbit 253x193 kilometers. Maneuvers were made on the 5th and 17th orbits, followed by docking with Salyut 5 at 1340 GMT on July 7.

After 48 days of work onboard the space station, the crew undocked from the space station at 1512 GMT on August 24, and landed at 1833 GMT. Circumstances surrounding the landing led some Western experts to conclude that the cosmonauts had encountered a problem and returned early. Among the factors were the unusual landing time (just after midnight local time), the landing site (which was more than 300 km from the area where the 5 previous Soyuz craft were recovered), and the fact that the Soviet press had reported on August 17 and 18 that the cosmonauts were experiencing "sensory deprivation." (32) Aviation Week concluded that the cosmonauts were forced to return early because of an acrid odor from the Salyut 5 environmental control system. (33)


Soyuz 23 (Radon) was launched at 1740 GMT on October 14, 1976, with the announced mission of continuing work onboard Salyut 5. The crew was composed of Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Zudov and Lt. Col. Valeriy Rozhdestvesnkiy.

According to the Soviets, at 1858 GMT October 15 the ship was put in its automatic regime for docking, but the procedure had to be canceled because of an operational malfunction of the approach control system. It was unclear whether the ship did not have a backup manual rendezvous procedure, or if there was insufficient time to implement it. This was seen as a repetition of the Soyuz 15 docking failure with Salyut 3.

The crew landed at 1746 GMT on the surface of Lake Tengiz, 195 km southwest of Tselinograd, in a snowstorm with temperatures which fell to —20 degrees C. The craft landed approximately 2 km from the northern shore, and the shore itself was described by the Soviets as a "quagmire" into which a spacecraft could sink. Rafts with recovery crews were dispatched, but they encountered ice and could not reach the spacecraft. Helicopters were then used to tow the craft to shore, which despite its consistency, was able to support both the ship and the recovery teams. After emerging from the spacecraft, one observer commented wryly that with such large steppes in Kazakhstan the cosmonauts had "to go and land on purpose in a lake," to which Zudov jokingly replied that it was appropriate, since out of the entire cosmonaut corps his flight engineer was the one seaman." (34)

The Soviets did not state how long the recovery operation took, but since the Tass announcement of the recovery was not made until 10 hours after they had splashed down, there was some speculation that it had taken quite some time.


Nearly 4 months elapsed before the Soviets made another attempt to dock with Salyut 5. The Soyuz 24 (Terek) crew, Col. Viktor Gorbatko and Lt. Col. Yuriy Glazkov, was launched on February 7, 1977 at 1612 GMT. Orbital corrections were made on the 4th, 5th, and 17th orbits and docking was achieved on February 8. Docking was accomplished manually rather than using the automatic system that had previously failed, and no docking time was announced. They entered the station at 0546 GMT on February 9.

After 16 days on the station, the crew returned to Earth on February 25, landing 36 km northeast of Arkalyk. The Soviets did not announce the time of landing, but it must have been 0938 GMT based on other data published by the Soviets. (35) There was speculation that the crew had returned so quickly because the military data they had obtained was needed.36 If true, this might also explain why the unmanned reentry capsule was separated from the space station only 1 day later. The Soviets had announced on February 16 that the cosmonauts were halfway through their mission however, so the return was expected.

The Soviets reported that the cosmonauts tried a new system for changing the atmosphere in the station. The system was described as a multifunctional combined system" which could supply compressed air to control the station's stabilization system and compensate for leaks in the compartments when necessary. The reference to changing the atmosphere in the station lent some credence to the previous speculation that the Soyuz 21 crew encountered some sort of odor in the station forcing their early return, although the Soviets announced the air had been quite satisfactory and the test was related simply to future missions where such an exchange might be desired. With hindsight, it seems likely that this was a test of procedures to be used on Salyut 6 for replacing air lost when airlocks were opened, for EVA or garbage disposal with air brought up by Progress. A 1983 article in Krasnaya Zvezda described the operation as being complex and requiring the development of torqueless nozzles to prevent the station from losing its orientation while the air is being vented into space. (37)

The Soviets also reported that the cosmonauts had fixed an onboard computer and replaced other units in the station.


As noted earlier, Salyut 5 is classified by most Western observers as a military Salyut, suggesting that its primary mission was reconnaissance photography. The Soviets, however, discussed other experiments onboard the station, with a great deal of emphasis on Earth resources photography, a close cousin of reconnaissance.


Tests using the Polinom apparatus continued on these missions. Tests of the cosmonaut's taste perceptions were conducted, along with many others, including: An experiment called Impul's for comparing the threshold of sensitivity of the vestibular apparatus to electrical irritants on Earth and in space to "improve methods of selection and training of cosmonauts"; use of a mass meter to determine the crew's mass while in space; an experiment called Levkoy for studying the effects of weightlessness on blood circulation; use of an autonomous blood analyzer for studying changes in blood components during flight (Soyuz 24 only, during the Soyuz 21 flight, reports were that blood was collected for analysis back on Earth); measurements of the heart's bioelectrical activity, blood pressure, and temperature; and measurements of respiration rate and the depth of breathing, the respiratory capacity, and pulmonary ventilation.

After returning to Earth, the Soyuz 21 crew took a few days to readapt to Earth's gravity. After 4 days, they were reportedly still "resting" and that each day they felt better, and that for the first time their schedule included "setting-up exercises, three walks, and even a fishing trip." The Soyuz 24 crew stayed up for a comparatively short time, and had reportedly fully adjusted to Earth's gravity after 1 day. They commented that they wished they had had a "back expander" since the body had a tendency to bend forward.

Other biological

The cosmonauts sprouted crepis seeds and the sprouts were fixed for subsequent genetical research on Earth. They studied the effects of zero G and radiation on plants, mushrooms, and animals. The station had an aquarium with two guppies and Danio rerio

fish, and the behavior of the fish was filmed. In addition, experiments were conducted with the Danio rerio fish, which were carried to the station as eggs and born there, to study the formation of the vestibular apparatus in weightlessness.

Earth resources

According to Soviet press reports, the cosmonauts took pictures of the Earth's surface to find areas of likely mineral deposits, to study seismic activity, explore the danger of mud currents in mountains, explore areas where hydroengineering structures were to be built, and study areas adjacent to the eastern section of the Baykal-Amur railway line then under construction. They used both black and white, and color film.

During the period between the Soyuz 21 and 24 flights, the station automatically took pictures of the Earth "in the interests of science and the national economy."

The Soviets reported that a total of 65 million square kilometers were photographed during the Salyut 5 missions.


The crew used an improved, handheld spectrograph to make photographs of the Earth's daytime horizon to study atmospheric constituents. This was the RSS-2M, which replaced the RSS-2 and RSS-1 used on earlier flights.

An infrared telescope-spectrometer was used to study the atmosphere over ocean areas, and to look at the Sun and the area near the Sun. The cosmonauts also observed the formation of storms and hurricanes.

Materials processing

A number of materials processing experiments were performed on Salyut 5. The Kristall (Crystal) device was used to study crystal growth in weightlessness, and it was later reported that aluminopotassic alums had been grown. The Sfera (Sphere) experiment

studied the melting and ha rdening of molten metals in zero-G. The cosmonauts tried soldering stainless steel with a manganese-nickel solder in the Reaktsia (Reaction) experiment, and the results were reported to have been of high quality. On the Earth, solder does not spread evenly over the seam and it was hoped that in space this problem would be alleviated. Using the Diffuzyia instrument, the cosmonauts tried to produce an alloy of dibenzyl and tolane (38) more homogenous than on Earth.

The Potok (Flow) device was used to evaluate the possibility of building capillary pumps in space for liquids without using electricity. The experiment consisted of two interconnected vessels which were used to study the flow of liquid from one to the other through a narrow channel under the influence of capillary and surface tension. This was thought to be related to the development of space tankers (probably the Progress series).


The sixth Soviet space station, Salyut 5, was launched in 1975. Since it had characteristics similar to Salyut 3, it is classified in the West as a military space station. Two crews successfully occupied the station (Soyuz 21 and Soyuz 24), while another crew (Soyuz 23) was unable to dock. A capsule was ejected and recovered the day after the final crew left.

The crews conducted several experiments in addition to their ob­servations of the Earth. Some were related to materials processing, including use of the Kristal furnace (advanced versions of this fur­ nace were flown on later space station missions) for growing crys­ tals from potash alums; studies of mass transfer in a melt (tolane- dibenzyl); the crucible less solidification of a eutectic (lead-tin-zinc- cadmium); brazing of metals using exothermic heat sources (stain­ less steel, manganese); and studies of the influence of capillary forces in microgravity and behavior of gas inclusions in a liquid (copper, air, water). (7)

Also during this period, the Soviets flew a separate mission, Soyuz 22, which was not intended to dock with the space station. This flight was the first piloted mission to carry instruments made outside the Soviet Union. Specifically, it tested the MKF-6 multi-spectral camera built by East Germany for studying the Earth's surface in six spectral bands. Variants of the MKF were later flown on both Salyut 6 and 7.



7. A historical review of Soviet space-based and sounding rocket materials processing experi­ ments is contained in: Avduyevsky, V.S. ed. Scientific Foundations of Space Manufacturing. Moscow, MIR Publishers, 1984. (In English). Although detailed results of specific experiments are not provided, the book and its companion volume "Manufacturing in Space: Processing Problems and Advances" published by MIR in 1985 (also in English) give a fairly comprehensive overview of the status of materials processing in the Soviet space program.

31. Tass, March 1 and 2, 1977.

32. Izvestiya, Aug. 17, 1976; Pravda, Aug. 18, 1976.

33. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Oct. 18, 1976, p. 13.

34 Izvestiya, Oct. 19, 1976, p. 2.

35. A 1982 ssian book, Kosmos book, “Kosmos,” contains a table listing the duration of all manned spaceflights which can be calculated. The book was published in Leningrad.

36. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Mar. 7,1977, p 20

37. Krasnaya Zvezda, Sept. 17, 1983, p. 3.

38. Tass, 1624 GMT, Aug. 11, 1976. The correct word is probably toluene.

Page last modified: 10-04-2016 22:14:33 ZULU