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Salyut-7 Experiments Part 1


Many of the experiments on Salyut 7 from 1984-1986 were con­ tinuations of those performed earlier on the space station, or were similar except that they used new versions of the equipment. In­ cluded were the Isparitel (Vaporizer) experiments for spray coating materials, the Tavria electrophoresis experiment and its successor EFU-Robot, electrophotography experiments conducted in the air­ lock, and the microdeformator experiments on the outside of the space station. New experiments, such as the test of the URI device for welding and spray coating during EVA, were also primarily ev­olutionary designs of equipment (URI was an advanced version of Isparitel, for example). The Gel experiments were the only ones in this category that did not have readily apparent predecessors on earlier flights.

Isparitel-M (Spray Coating)

The Isparitel device used by the Soyuz T-10/T-11 and subse­quent crews was an improved model of the one used on earlier flights, and designated Isparitel-M. Described as an electron beam gun, it could shoot electrons at a refractory crucible filled with silver, copper, gold or a copper-silver alloy. The metal vaporizes and settles on a metal or glass plate, forming a mirror-like coating. The "M" stood for modernized and the new model could deposit coatings as thick as tenths of a millimeter, its capacity was larger, and its vaporization speed higher. It could perform eight different kinds of work simultaneously involving the deposition of coatings on a stationary substrate or a tape made of polymer film and drawn over the stream of vapors, and the vaporization of plastics, particularly fluoroplastic, and alloys. A March 13, 1984 report stated that the Isparitel-M could be converted into a "pistol" that could work like a hand paint sprayer, and "one variant of such a 'pistol' has already been perfected." (1) This may have been a refer­ ence to the URI device used by Dzhanibekov and Savitskaya on their EVA (see below).

V. Lapchinskiy, head of a laboratory at the Institute of Electric Welding, commented that Isparitel-M was a new device more than a modernized unit, and already was "almost semi-industrial." (2) It weighed 34 kilograms and consisted of two units: the operating unit, including several replaceable crucibles; and an information-and-measuring complex, allowing the monitoring of the vaporiza­tion process as well as programming the necessary operating pa­ rameters automatically. The new device could handle a broader range of substances, including silver, gold, copper, a copper-silver alloy, a number of other metals and alloys, and nonmetallic mate­ rials such as plastics. Lapchinsky commented that he and his col­leagues thought several square meters could be covered with a thin metallic film, but the immediate task was to work out optimal rou­ tines and test an alloy, not to achieve maximum speed. (3) He con­ cluded that the work with Isparitel-M could pave the way for re­ conditioning spacecraft coatings in orbit.

The Soyuz T-ll/T-10 Soviet/Indian crew conducted Isparitel ex­ periments called "perepkhlazhdeniye" (super-cooling) to study su­per-cooling in the solidification of molten metals and investigate possibilities of obtaining special forms of metallic materials "glassy alloys" in zero gravity. For these experiments, an auxiliary unit was built by Soviet specialists, while the Indians prepared the silver-germanium alloy specimens that were used. (4) Press reports explained that on Earth, super-cooling had to be done by melting one side of the alloy with a laser while the other side was cooled with liquid helium, and that the product of "this complex and costly process is a metal that holds up well to effects of radiation" and could be used in the walls of nuclear reactors, and in turbine blades of airplane engines, for example. For the latter application, it was noted that "a 100 degree increase in the temperature tolerance of turbine blades permits a 30 percent reduction in fuel con­ sumption." Thus, this experiment was said to represent an initial step toward the industrial production of super-durable materials capable of withstanding radiation and chemical stresses. (5) An Indian press report on April 9, 1984 indicated that the furnace was not working well, but that the cosmonauts eventually overcame the dif­ ficulty during the seven-day visit to Salyut 7. (6)

Welding, Spray Coating and Space Construction on EVA

During the Soyuz T-12 visiting mission, cosmonauts Dzhanibekov and Savitskaya performed a series of welding and spray coating ex­ periments while on EVA using a tool that could also be used for welding, cutting and soldering. A derivative of the Isparitel-M, an improved version was subsequently used by the Soyuz T-15 crew. Called URI, it was developed by V. Lapchinskiy, who had also worked on the Isparitel-M. The URI was based on the Isparitel's electron beam gun which weighs 1.5 kg (Isparitel itself weighs 30 kg). Before taking it into space, it was tested in a zero gravity air­ plane flight.

The URI included converters and a control system that could be fastened with clamps to the handrails on the outside of the station and Lapchinskiy described it as looking like a hand held camera with two lens barrels: one for cutting, welding and soldering metals; the other for applying coatings. It fit into a box half a meter square. On one side of the unit were four folding, board-type specimen holders; each could hold six specimens, two of stainless steel and four of titanium. The electron beam was focused with the aid of a lens onto the specimens which then could be cut, welded or soldered. The other barrel was for spray coating speci­ mens with silver and had a built-in crucible for melting the silver. (7)

Some of the problems that had to be overcome before using the URI were described by Vladimir Nikitskiy, described as an organiz­ er of the welding experiment. The station's onboard voltage had to be converted into voltage sufficient for the electron gun; methods had to be developed for controlling the high temperature generated by the gun and protecting the space suits; and the size and weight of the gun had to be minimized. (8) The temperature of the URI was monitored by a pistol shaped non-contact infrared thermometer.

The first experiments were done by Savitskaya and Dzhanibekov in 1984. Their work was monitored via television. First, Savitskaya cut a titanium sample 0.5 millimeter (mm) thick, then she welded samples 1 mm thick, spider-ed, and then sprayed a thin layer of silver on anodized aluminum. (9) The thickness of the samples varied. Dzhanibekov also performed experiments, and in total, six welding experiments were done, two with titanium and four with stainless steel. Six cutting experiments were performed, three of titanium and three of stainless steel. There were also six soldering experi­ments using tin and lead solder, and two experiments in applying a silver coating to anodized aluminum. All were returned to Earth for study.

During a post-flight press conference, Savitskaya concluded that "At least as far as the outer appearance goes, the welded joints obtained in space are in no way inferior to good industrial samples on Earth. Good samples of applied silver coating were also obtained." Dzhanibekov discussed the ramifications for future space activities, noting that the samples were very diverse:

... for example, a nut and bolt fastening. There is a thread there and if they are done to some geometrical rule, with some sort of margin, then there are materials which in a vacuum in space, rapidly coalesce and form an absolutely firm connec­tion; the results cannot be undone by any means, as diffusion processes take place and for certain materials these are very active. Yet other pairs of metals are com­ pletely unaffected, so these kinds of fastenings can be used there for such ordinary tasks as are encountered on Earth. [The instrument] will be used in the future to construct very large and complex structures which simply cannot be raised from the Earth. . . In the future, I hope that we will be able to weld and clad structures, and assemble various specific sections. Eventually this will enable us to have the possi­ bility of thinking about the construction of cities in space orbit, real cities. (10)

Academician B. Paton reported on the work in November 1984 and left some question as to how successful the experiment had been. He commented that in studying the results:

. . . one must not disregard the anxiety of persons who were working in open space, and the setting, which was entirely different from that of an earth pressure chamber, as well as the very fact that such welding was being performed in orbit for the first time. Therefore one must give a very high appraisal of the specimens of metal joined by the method of hand electron-beam welding in space, despite the fact that certain defects are present. There is no doubt that in upcoming missions, it will be possible to begin performing practical work using this method. It is not a simple matter to burn through a thin sheet of metal in zero gravity. In these conditions, the cutting of plates requires good focusing of the electron beam, steady movement of the tool, and in some cases returning to sectors that have been cut poorly. It is encouraging that the cosmonauts handled the cutting of metal well. The soldering process proved to be more complex. But even here the cosmonauts managed to obtain several good specimens. The spraying of coatings did not present special diffi­ culties for the cosmonauts, and the specimens obtained in orbit, at least externally, can satisfy the requirements of the most rigid standards. (11)

The Soyuz T-15 crew performed additional experiments of this nature when they were onboard Salyut 7 in 1986. During EVA, they conducted additional welding experiments using an improved version of the URI based on recommendations by Dzhanibekov and Savitskaya that made it easier to operate. (12)

The T-15 crew also performed a space construction experiment with a hinged metal lattice work girder. The intent of the experi­ ment was to determine how to fold and refold the girder, and to test its strength. Two instruments were mounted on the girder the second time it was extended: the "Fon" (Background) device for measuring the atmosphere around the structure, and an instru­ ment to monitor the vibrations of the frame. Fon was described as a magnetic discharge converter weighing 3 kg and capable of dis­ tinguishing between molecules that had escaped from the Earth's upper atmosphere and those created in the vicinity of the space station. (13) Solovyev commented that this was the first time the station’s lion's atmosphere was studied in real time. (14) Kizim "climbed" the frame like a stepladder, commenting that it rocked, but was firm. (15)

Tamping and Svetoblok-T Gel Experiments

The Soyuz T-12 crew conducted the Tamping experiment related to developing sealing materials for use in oil and gas wells. As de­ scribed by Cosmonaut Volk at a post-flight press conference, the aim of the experiment was to clarify the "detailed mechanism of the initial stage of the formation of gels in colloid suspensions or, to put it simply, the initial stage of hardening of cement under similar linking solutions." Using a device developed by Moscow's Gubkin Institute of the Petrochemical and Gas Industry, three samples were prepared in space: water, dicalcium silicate, and co­ rundum quartz; water, tricalcium silicate, and corundum quartz; and water, dicalcium silicate, quartz, and liquid glass. They were prepared over 10 days, hardened on board the station, and re­ turned to Earth. According to Volk, "today, one can only say that the kinetics of hardening of such suspensions in space and on Earth differ substantially." (16)

Cosmos 1669 brought the Svetoblok-T experiment for forming a "polyacrylamide gel by means of photoinitiation." (17) It was de­ scribed as creating a "molecular sieve" with pores of different sizes for use on Earth to separate biologically pure substances by electro- phoresis. (18)

Korund, Magma-F, and Kristillizator (Materials Processing)

In November, 1985, after Cosmos 1686 had docked and its scien­ tific equipment checked out, the Soviets mentioned three new ma­terials processing devices. It can be assumed they were brought to Salyut 7 on Cosmos 1686. They included Korund and Magma-F, as well as Kristillizator. The latter was said to have improvements over previous devices in areas such as the precision of measure­ments and temperature control, range of rates of movement of specimens, data-recording capacity, and control of experiments. It was developed jointly with Czechoslovakia. (19) Vasyutin's illness, which terminated the Soyuz T-14 mission prematurely, prevented the crew from working with this equipment extensively.

The T-15 crew worked with Kristillizator briefly when they vis­ ited Salyut 7 in 1986. At that time it was described as being used for studies of mass and heat transfer (apparently similar to the Pion experiments) and of crystallization in weightlessness. (20) Korund and Kristillizator experiments were conducted on Mir, but apparently with new equipment. No further mention of Magma-F was made.

Tavriya (Electrophoresis)

Electrophoresis experiments using the Tavriya device were con­ducted by the Soyuz T-12 crew throughout their stay. Press reports noted that they were a follow on to earlier experiments that had produced samples 15-20 times more pure than on Earth, and that the Soyuz T-12 crew was creating more of the influenza vaccine that had been produced in 1983 by the Soyuz T-9 crew. (21) The T-12 experiments were conducted by Savitskaya, who described them in a post-flight press conference. They were done for several scientific- research organizations:

. . . the Shimyakin Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, which asked us to refine two batches of human interferon synthesized by Soviet scientists under the leader­ ship of Academician Ovchinnikov by means of genetic engineering. A number of in­ stitutes and the Ministry of Health asked us to refine three batches of influenza preparations. Institutes engaged in increasing agricultural productivity asked us to isolate effective organisms that produce a food antibiotic for animals which is both a medicine and a growth stimulant for animals. At the request of the Kiev scientific institutes, which are engaged in the creation of new medicines and preparations, we refined a preparation made from human blood protein. (22)

Sixty ampules were obtained and returned to Earth. The Pasteur Scientific Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Leningrad was also identified as using results of this work. (23)

The status of moving into industrial production with space elect rophoresis was assessed differently by various Soviet scientists. Candidate of Medical Sciences A. Lepskiy was quoted as saying that results have shown it "possible and economically advanta­ geous to obtain in space super-pure biological preparations in quan­ tities sufficient for practical employment in public health and agri­ culture." (24) Another report stated that "The Tavria installation in­ corporates some new systems and equipment which are essentially a prototype of future semi-automatic installations for space biotech­ nology," (25) while Savitskaya termed it "an experimental industrial unit." (26) Cosmonaut and doctor of technical sciences Konstantin Feoktistov asserted that space station research was "promoting the creation of a space industry," proceeding "fairly intensively" and in "a number of instances passing from the trial and experimental stage to semi-industrial production." He added, however, "This ap­ plies specifically to the growing of high-quality monocrystals on board the Salyut station," (27) rather than to electrophoresis. Acade­ mician Oleg Gazenko, head of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, gave a cautious assessment, saying space electrophoresis "is still in the experimental stage." (28)

In 1984, the Genom experiment was conducted. It was described as an electrophoresis experiment that separated fragments of DNA molecules to study their links. This is difficult to do on Earth be­ cause of thermal convection. Samples were taken of nearly 700 DNA fractions for subsequent analysis. Ultraviolet photography was used to follow the course of the experiments. (29)

EFU-Robot (Electrophoresis)

The Soyuz T-14 crew delivered a new automatic electrophoresis installation called EFU-Robot that was a successor to the Tavriya instrument. (30) Developed by the Institute for Bioorganic Chemistry, it could be programmed by a crew member to select samples of sub­ stances purified in the course of experiments and automatically transfer the samples from the unit's working chamber to ampules, using syringes. Albert Krashenyuk, head of a department at the Leningrad Scientific Research Institute of Vaccines and Serums, said that the experiments would yield immune serums and that one such serum had already been used to obtain a fundamentally new preparation for diagnosing influenza with high accuracy. (31)

The EFU-Robot device was transferred from Salyut 7 to Mir by the Soyuz T-15 crew.

electro photograph and Microdeformator (Deterioration of Materials in Space)

The Electro photograph experiments continued in 1984 and 1985. Aleksandr Kravtsov, a science associate of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics, discussed earlier experiments con­ducted by the Soyuz T-9 crew in 1983. Those experiments showed that the breakdown of materials exposed in space proceeds at an uneven rate. The Soyuz T-12 crew brought "not only model materi­ als but also structural ones and individual components of these ma­terials." Highly sensitive black and white film and color film were used to record changes in the structure of the materials while ex­ posed to space conditions in an airlock, and it was noted that previ­ ous experiments had proven that color film with a layered struc­ ture provided the most information. (32)

Procedural changes were made in the conduct of these experi­ ments starting with the Soyuz T-10/T-11 crew. Specimens were ex­ posed for longer periods of time, (33) and, based on Kizim's recom­ mendation, the station was rotated so the airlock pointed toward the Sun during the experiments, reducing the time needed to ensure the requisite temperature conditions in the airlock from 6 hours to a few minutes. A press report stated that Kizim was able to remove samples only 10 minutes after closing the hatch, while Kravtsov commented that the chamber had been opened for 40 hours during the experiment. (34)

An experiment called Torsion was conducted in May 1984 to study the influence of space conditions on structural materials. The report stated that an instrument in the station's airlock was used, and this may well have been part of the electro photograph series. It was described as determining changes in the physical-mechanical characteristic of materials "by means of evaluating parameters of free damped vibrations that were periodically transmitted to the specimen'. (35)

While on board Salyut 7 in 1986, the Soyuz T-15 crew installed the microdeformator experiment which was designed to operate "permanently there in space with samples which it will stretch, squeeze, and so on; hi other words it will test the properties of the metal, its strength characteristics." (36) The microdeformator was de­ scribed as a small tensile-stress machine for testing specimens of an aluminum-magnesium alloy. "Changes in the specimens to the point of creep are measured." (37) In an August article in Pravda, B. Paton and Yu. Semenov commented that the results of the micro­deformator experiment would permit development of a mathemati­ cal model that would forecast how materials respond in space over a 25-year period. (38)


Occasionally, Soviet press reports mentioned experiments that were never further described. In September 1985, for example, a press report referred to the Birtuza and Analiz devices for studying the process of growing crystals. (39) In October 1985, the first men­tion in several years was made of use of the Pion device for study­ing heat and mass transfer, especially into the possibility of ther mocapillary flow control by means of temperature field variables. (40)

The Soyuz T-15 crew in 1986 retrieved specimens left by previous crews on the outside of Salyut 7. One experiment was called Spiral for studying the effects of space on cable products and materials. Another, called Istok was to determine changes in the characteris­ tics of threaded connectors such as nuts and bolts. A third, called Resurs, assessed the effects of space conditions on structural metal materials. (41)



1. Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, March 13, 1984, p. 4

2 Rabochaya gazeta, March 14,1984.

3 Rabochaya gazeta, March 14, 1984; Pravda Ukrainy, March 27, 1984.

4. Komsomolskaya Pravda, April 8, 1984.

5 Trud, April 11, 1984.

e Delhi Domestic Service, 0240 GMT, April 9, 1984.

7 Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, July 27, 1984; Izvestiya, July 27, 1984.

8 Komsomolskaya Pravda, July 31,1984, p. 2.

9 Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

10 Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

11 Pravda, November 5, 1984, p. 3..

12 Pravda, August 16, 1986, p. 3.

13 Pravda, June 1 1986, p. 6.

14 Solovyev, V.A. Manin Space. Paper presented to the 38th Congress of the International
Astronautical Federation, October 10-17, 1987, Brighton, England. IAF-87-77, p. 4.

15 Moscow Domestic Service, 0800 GMT, May 31, 1986.

16 Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

17 Izvestiya, August 7, 1985, p. 1.

18 Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 21, 1985, p. 2.

19 Pravda, November 12,1985, p. 3.

20 Izvestiya, June 18,1986, p. 1.

21 Izvestiya, July 22, 1884.

22 Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

23 Leningradskaya Pravda, Juhy 28, 1984.

24 Izvestiya, July 22, 1884.

25 TASS, 1130 GMT, July 24, 1984.

26 Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

27 TASS, 1435 GMT, October 3,1984.

28. Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984

29 TASS, 1414 GMT, August 24, 1984.

30 Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 21, 1985, p. 2.

31 Leningradskaya Pravda, October 13, 1985, p. 2.

32 Izvestiya, July 26, 1984.

33 TASS, 1130 GMT, July 24,1984.

34 Pravda, July 26,1984.

35 Krasnaya Zvezda, May 27, 1984, p. 1.

36 Moscow Domestic Service, 0800 GMT, May 31, 1986.

37 Pravda, June 1,1986, p. 6.

38 Pravda, August 16, 1986, p. 3.

39 Moskovskaya Pravda, September 4,1985, p. 1.

40. TASS, 1557 GMT, October 15,1985.

41 Trud, May 29,1986, p. 3.