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Salyut-7 Experiments Part-4


As with previous space station missions, remote sensing contin­ ued to receive considerable attention on Salyut 7 from 1984 to 1986. By the end of the 237 day Soyuz T-10/T-11 mission, 4,400 photo­ graphs had been taken with the MKF-6M six-band camera, and an­ other 1,640 with the KATE-140 topographical camera. Among the practical benefits of remote sensing was a report that on April 8, the crew radioed a warning to ground control about the forest fire they had spotted in Burma. (74) After the Soyuz T-14 mission, it was stated that 16 million square kilometers had been photographed, and although no specific numbers were given, the Soyuz T-15 crew also conducted remote sensing observations.

Virtually all areas of the globe passing underneath the space station were studied. The space station's orbit took it over all parts of the world between 51.6 degrees north and 51.6 degrees south lati­ tude. In light of the vast areas that were covered, only special programs will be described here. The major observations were done by the MKF-6M camera built by East Germany, and the KATE-140 topographical camera, in addition to visual observations by the crew.

Soviet press reports continued to herald the value of space remote sensing, noting, for example, that "Photographs from space have already helped discover a number of deposits of oil, gas, coal, and metal ores." (75) The cosmonaut crews were trained on airplane flights and made logs containing specific assignments, methodological instructions, and maps and space photographs indicating ob­jects to be observed. An interesting note made in Pravda in July 1984 said that the first and second bands on the MKF-6M have "heightened focal depth in studying the ocean floor." While it is well known that many observations are made of the ocean, the ref­ erence to studies of the ocean floor seemed new. (76)

Indian "Terra " Observations

Following the tradition established with earlier crews that in­cluded representatives from other countries, during the Soviet/ Indian mission a special set of Earth observations was conducted with the Indian cosmonaut. Forty percent of the Indian territory was studied using visual observations in addition to the MKF-6M and the KATE-140 cameras. Special areas of interest included: An­ daman, Nicobar and Laccadive Islands (looking for oil and gas-bear­ ing areas in shallow water); ring structures on the Indostani penin­ sula and blocks of forests and forest plantations in the central part of the Indostani peninsula; ice and snow coyer on the Himalayas; the Indian Ocean (to identify areas of high biological productivity); the Arabian Sea; the Bay of Bengal; the west coast and desert zone of India; the Ganges River valley (for water-management studies); New Delhi and Agra. A total of 1,000 MKF-6M pictures and 200 KATE-140 photographs were obtained. (77)

Gyunesh and Black Sea Observation Programs

Two international observation programs were performed during 1984 and continued in 1985.

Gyunesh was described as assisting in the preparation of long term forecasts for members of the Council for Mutual Economic Aid. The observations used sensors on the space station, aircraft, ships at sea, and the ground. Among the areas studied were the Greater Caucasus mountains, river valleys of Azerbaijan, and the Alazani valley. The Caucasus were chosen because of the many nature zones concentrated there. The "whole world is there in min­ iature" according to Cosmonaut Solovyev. In addition to perfecting methods of remote sensing, the data gained from the program were used to provide farmers with recommendations, maps and charts for management of agricultural lands, pastures and reservoirs. The countries that participated in the program were Bulgaria, Hunga­ ry, the German Democratic Republic, Cuba, Mongolia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. 78 Gyunesh reportedly was part of an international space project called "Study of Geosystem Dynamics by Remote Methods. (79)

The Soyuz T-13 crew in 1985 continued work under the same general program as Gyunesh, but called Kursk-85. Bulgaria, Hun­ gary, Vietnam, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia participated in assessing crop conditions and developing forecasting methods for crop yields. (80)

The Black Sea was studied because it is a model for the ocean, with eddy currents, rising water columns, river outflows and shelf zones. Studies related to the Black Sea used sensors on the space station, the automated spacecraft Cosmos 1500 (with a side looking radar), airplanes, and the research ships "Mikhail Lomonosov" and "Professor Kolesnikov." Bulgaria, the German Democratic Repub­lic, and Poland participated in the Black Sea studies. (81) In 1985, it was stated that the research was expected to yield information on the relationship between the air and the water basin "which in a number of cases determine the weather in a vast region," and that another reason for the interest in the Black Sea was that it was a major area of human activity and scientists want to understand how human activity affects the sea. (82)

Observations of Special Interest

In 1985, the cosmonauts conducted a series of observations under the name Cupola to evaluate atmospheric pollution over industrial centers. In August 1985, the city of Zaporozhye was specifically named as an object of the studies. (83)

Also in August 1985, the Soviet media announced the Soyuz T-13 crew had spotted a range of ancient volcanoes in the Kyzylkum desert. The brief report noted that the space photographs showed ring structures dozens of kilometers in diameter encircling the crater of ancient volcanoes. Geologists were interested since these types of structures often indicate the presence of polymetallic ores. (84)

Another interesting observation by the Soyuz T-14 crew was a volcanic eruption in Colombia. Savinykh stated that they did not see the eruption, but they knew something was happening because "that night, suddenly, on the equator we saw silvery-colored clouds which shouldn't exist at all." He continued: "I was totally confused at first, racking my brains. What is this, silvery colored clouds at the equator?" On the next orbit, he did not see the clouds at all, but observed them on the next one. He described them as "so bright and white. A thinning white layer, this belt. . . . And in the morning we heard the report that in Colombia, precisely at the same spot, there had been a lot of material thrown up into the at­ mosphere. We observed it every day for 3 consecutive days." (85)

At the end of Soyuz T-14, Pravda noted that Savinykh was a graduate of the Moscow Institute of Engineers of Geodesy, Aerial Photography and Cartography and that the Institute's President, Vasiliy Bol'ahakov, had communicated with Savinykh while he was in space. Savinykh was asked to study the Aral Sea in particular, observations "which were begun as far back as Salyut 5." Bol'aha- kov commented that comparisons of past and present data would allow important conclusions to be drawn about the future of the region, and that the Talas-Fergana fracture and the condition of Lake Issyk-Kul' were of special interest. (86)


Speculation about military uses of Salyut continued in the West, but the Soviets (not surprisingly) made no mention of such activities. The U.S. magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology re­ ported in January 1985 that Salyut cosmonauts "have conducted extensive manned military space operations in support of Soviet military ground, sea and air exercises." The magazine did not iden­ tify which Salyut crews were involved, but went on to enumerate some of the specific experiments. According to Aviation Week Salyut cosmonauts "participated in observation of Red Army exer­ cises involving broad release of aerosols like those that could be smoke for concealment, gases or mists involved in fuel air explosive tests. The cosmonauts played at least a monitoring and assessment role in these tests and possibly a command and control role as well." Cosmonauts have "observed Soviet ABM test exercises," and "cosmonaut observations have been an integral part of some Soviet naval exercises, with some surface ship activities specifically co­ ordinated with overflight of the space station. The Soviet cosmo­ nauts performed at least an intelligence role and possibly a com­ mand and control role as well." Cosmonauts and sensors "used in military-oriented laser tests, where ground-based lasers have been used to illuminate the station." Cosmonauts have "used hardware delivered to the station to demonstrate space-based laser target ac­ quisition and laser target tracking." (99) There is no information in the unclassified literature to confirm or deny these comments.



74 TASS, 1025 GMT, April 8, 1984.

75 Moscow World Service, 0800 GMT, February 29, 1984. 78 Pravda, July 12, 1984.

77 Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, April 7, 1984; TASS, 1025 GMT, April 8, 1984; TASS, April 9, 1984; Moscow Television Service, 0655 GMT, April 23, 1984.

78 Moscow Television Service, 1430 GMT, August 30, 1984; Bakinskiy Rabochiy, August 30, 1984.

79 Vechernyaya Moskva, August 30, 1984; TASS, 1026 GMT, August 13,1985.

80 Krasnaya Zvezda, June 25,1986, p. 1

81 Ibid.

82 TASS, 1132 GMT, September 24,1985.

83 TASS, 1126 GMT, August 16, 1985.

84 Moscow Domestic Service, 0720 GMT, September 5, 1985.

85 Moscow Domestic Service, 1630 GMT, November 26, 1985.

86. Pravda, November 22, 1985, p. 4.

99 Salyut Cosmonauts Support Military Exercises. Aviation Week and Space Technology, Jan­ uary 28,1985, p. 22