UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Salyut-8/Mir Material Experiments

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


Salyut-8/Mir 1986-87


Progress in developing a space processing industry was discussed by several Soviet scientists in 1986 and 1987. They could be said to be guardedly optimistic about the near term potential of space processing, and .bullish on the long term potential.

Prof. L. Leskov, one of the directors of the Pion research (see below), talked in general about the success of space-based materials processing experiments in March 1987. He said that although some experiments have shown that specimens of inorganic material can be obtained in zero gravity whose properties are better than on Earth, "in certain cases these properties have turned out to be worse than in earth-obtained specimens." 25 This is why he and his colleagues developed the Pion unit to develop an understanding of the dynamics of the process of heat and mass transfer and of crys­ tallization. As for when there would be industrial production of products in space, he estimated that "this frontier will be crossed about 1990." 26

Candidate of Technical Sciences Ye. Markov noted in March 1987 that cadmium sulfate crystals obtained on Salyut 7 had been used in laser screens for projection television. "You may be sure that we would never have obtained the quality we did if it hadn't been for space" according to Markov. He went on to say that although spa ceflight was expensive, it paid for itself. "The number of usable crystals per wafer grown in space is 10 times greater than the number obtained on Earth. Profit per wafer is 1,900 rubles for "space' ones. Isn't that convincing?" 27

In June 1987, Alexandr Dunayev, head of Glavkosmos, comment­ ed that pilot production experiments would be carried out at the end of "this five year period, and we can seriously talk about pilot production in the next 5-year period." 28 Three months later Moscow World Service reported that "Soviet technology to obtain super pure Pharmaceuticals and biological substances in zero gravi­ ty had practically reached industrial level." The report added that some of the product of electrophoresis experiments brought back to Earth in July 1987 by the TM-3/TM-2 crew was supplied to cen­ ters in Moscow and Leningrad for making flu vaccines. 29

Pion-M (Heat and Mass Transfer)

Prof. Leskov commented that thermocapillary convection "detracted] from the properties of materials obtained" in earlier furnaces (Splav and Kristall), and one of their disadvantages was that they were closed so that the "dynamics of phenomena occur­ ring in them could not be observed." Thus Pion was created with a "transparent tray that contains a model liquid through which a beam of light can pass. Non-uniformities distort the light beams" and film can record how the density of the medium changes during the course of an experiment. Particles are sprinkled in, and "in bright light they sparkle like sequins" and the movement of the particles can be traced. Pion experiments started in 1981: "Since then a substantial amount of material for analysis has been accu­mulated. But space always holds new surprises and presents scien­tists with new riddles to figure out." 30

The Soyuz TM-2/TM-3 crew started Pion-M experiments almost immediately after activating Mir in 1987; the Pion unit had been brought to Mir from Salyut 7. On March 6, they conducted the Vikhr (Whirlwind) series of experiments to study thermal capillary convection. 31

Another series of experiments were conducted under the name Kolosok by the TM-2/TM-3 crew for studying the formation of aer­osols and hydrosols in microgravity. The experiments were devel­ oped through the Soviet Academy of Sciences Institute of Physical Chemistry and were relatively simple, according to Leskov, who noted that all that was needed to be done was to shake a test tube and see how particles cling together. In the future, however, the experiments will use "precisely calculated ultrasonic pulses to produce measured effects at certain frequencies and intensities and in certain directions." 32 Leskov marveled at the success of the ex­ periments early in the mission:

Some of the results are amazing. In the ampoule with the air and particles of fluoroplastic-3, which are the size of a micrometer, for example, these particles banded together in such a way as to make the air pockets under glass look surpris­ ingly like trees. And in the ampoules with an aerosol mix of the air and particles of aerosil (a glass variety) there have appeared a kind of 'flying saucers.' Some of these formations are unexpectedly strong, so strong in fact they cannot be broken even by a one-gram piece of steel contained in the ampoule. I think that these new experiments * * * have moved us into a yet unexplored field of colloidal chemis­ try. 33

The aerosil apparently referred to silica aerogel, and it was also noted that glass pellets gathered into solid clumps. 34

Korund-lM (Materials Processing)

The Soyuz TM-2/TM-3 crew used the improved Korund-lM (Co­ rundum) device. It was delivered by Progress 28 and can operate with six specimens in sequence. 35 It is larger than its predecessors, weighing 136 kg, and was referred to as a "pilot-scale unit" instead of a research unit. It has a built in minicomputer so experiments can be conducted automatically. Temperature can be varied from 20 to 1270 degrees Centigrade and held steady within one-half of a degree. Experiments can last from 6 to 150 hours. Korund's output can be measured in kilograms of semiconductor materials. "Materi­ als produced in the Korund are to be used in electronics and in in­frared and laser equipment." 36

Ye. Markov noted that single crystals of cadmium selenide and indium antimonide produced with the first version of Korund on Salyut 7 had properties close to desired ones, and therefore those experiments would continue with the new Korund unit. 37 He added that the Soyuz TM-2/TM-3 crew would perform "exactly 48 experiments" involving "such rare and extremely valuable semi­ conductors as cadmium sulfide, zinc oxide, and gallium arsenide." When asked when they would proceed to industrial production, Markov answered:

By 1995, we hope to be able to obtain semiconductor materials for various pur­poses in amounts of 30-35 kilograms. These materials will be used in super-high- speed and super-large integrated circuits, in infrared and laser technology, in photo­cells for orbiting station's solar panels, and even for needs of medicine, which is waiting for sensitive infrared imagers, for example. Let me emphasize that this is a high priority direction for the advancement of Soviet science, and we are not run­ ning second to anyone here. 38

It was noted that there were initial problems with Korund on Mir: "during tests when the installation was switched on it turned out that one of the units was heating up from the air being emitted from the furnace. But once a protective screen and an air duct were installed the apparatus began to work perfectly." 39

Later in the mission, Markov noted that they were also working with silicon and gallium arsenide in an attempt to master the basic technology for producing crystals in space. "Gallium arsenide, in particular, will be used for creating radiation-stable ultrahigh- speed integrated circuits, with the view of applying them in mini - and microcomputers for space communication systems in future interplanetary flights, and for mini -and microcomputers of very high speed." 40 The second group of materials being studied in Korund are cadmium sulphide and selenide for use in electronical­ly excited lasers for projection television systems. The third group of materials, at an earlier stage of experimentation than those mentioned previously, involves obtaining materials in the form of tapes "which allows us to skip some individual operations in pre­ paring some semiconducting materials. Cutting, grinding and po­ lishing, which waste about 50 percent of these semiconductors, are made unnecessary * * * .” (41.)

Kristillizator (Materials Processing)

The Kristillizator device was mentioned for the first time in July 1987 when it was announced that the crew was assembling it and were about to turn it on to obtain temperature pattern characteris­ tics. This step may have been related to their earlier experience with Korund where they discovered that it was being heated by waste heat rejected during the experiments. Kristillizator can proc­ ess 19 different specimens, from glass to semiconductors, at the same time, with temperatures up to 1,000 degrees. Individual tem­ perature and pressure conditions and rate of movement through the unit are maintained for each specimen. 42

Experiments using the Kristillizator were part of the program during the visit of the Syrian cosmonaut. The Palmira experiment was for growing crystals from water solution, and involved two medical syringes connected by a plastic tube with a clamp from a dropper. The syringes were filled with solutions of different concen­ trations on Earth; in space the clamp was opened so they could mix by punching down the plungers of the syringes. "The super-pure so­ lutions were prepared using nuclear filters that were made in academician G. Flerov's laboratory of nuclear reactions at the Joint In­ stitute for Nuclear Research." 43 TASS reported that the experi­ ment was related to a desire to develop a synthetic bone and tooth tissue. The experiment was designed to obtain structures from nu­merous monocrystals when they come close together and merge in microgravity. The initial materials for this experiment were hy- droxylapatit (which forms the basis of bone and tooth tissue) and gypsum. 44

The Kasyun experiment studied the influence of microgravity on the crystallization of aluminum-nickel alloy. 45Afarmiya was de­signed to obtain single crystals of gallium antimonide.

Yantar (Spray Coating)

Although the Soviets had not at that time specifically mentioned the apparatus they were using, on May 22 TASS reported that the crew was performing experiments for applying metal coatings by electron beam vaporization. They sprayed a copper coating on a polymer film, and also worked with vaporization of a copper-silver alloy. 46 On June 26, the device was identified as the Yantar unit. Additional experiments were carried out with little detail on what was being done.

Svetoblok (Gel)

Svetoblok was used on Mir in July 1986 and July 1987. In the latter case, the Soviets reported that the crew was performing ex­ periments related to obtaining synthetic helium to be used on Earth for the electrophoretic cleaning of substances. 47 There was a Svetoblok-T experiment on Salyut 7; it is not clear if this is the same device or a new version.

Svetlana and Ruchyey (Electrophoresis)

The Kvant module carried a Svetlana automated electrophoresis plant for biotechnology experiments. 48 The first mention of using this device was during the Syrian mission where it was said the crew was producing antibiotics for livestock feed using Svetlana. 49 No further details were available at the end of 1987.

During the Syrian mission, the crew performed experiments with a unit called Ruchyey (Brook) to purify interferon and an influenza vaccine. It was said that this new device was more efficient and permitted better purification than earlier versions. 50

The Soviets had previously announced that the EFU-Robot device had been transferred to Mir from Salyut 7, but no mention of its use was made through the end of 1987.


25 Moscow Domestic Service, 0800 GMT, March 12, 1987.

26 Moscow Domestic Service, 0800 GMT, March 12, 1987.

27 Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 26, 1987, p. 2.

28 Moscow Domestic Service, 1530 GMT, June 27, 1987.

29 Moscow World Service, 0700 GMT, September 23, 1987.

30 Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, March 7, 1987, p. 1.

31 TASS, 1120 GMT, March 6,1987; TASS, 1846 GMT, March 6, 1987.

32 Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 7, 1987, p. 2.

33 TASS, 1846 GMT, March 6,1987.

34 Sotsialistcheskaya Industriya, March 7, 1987, p. 1.

35 TASS, 110 GMT, March 13, 1987. Apparently the Korund device delivered to Salyut 7 and barely used was not transferred to Mir with the other equipment.

36 Pravda, March 17, 1987, p. 6.

37 Pravda, March 17, 1987, p. 6.

38 Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 26, 1987, p. 2.

38 Moscow Domestic Service, 1200 GMT, March 20, 1987.

40 Moscow Television Service, 2150 GMT, May 29,1987.

41. Ibid.

42 Pravda, July 26, 1987, p. 6. Kristillizator was not included in the list of equipment trans­ ferred from Salyut 7 to Mir even though a Kristillizator device had been delivered shortly before the T-14/T-13 crew departed.

43 Pravda, July 26, 1987, p. 6.

4 * TASS, 1635 GMT, July 27, 1987.

45 Izvestiya, July 27, 1987, p. 1.

46 Izvestiya, May 23, 1987, p. 1.

47 TASS, 1142 GMT, July 10,1987.

48 TASS, 0908 GMT, March 31, 1987.

49 Izvestiya, July 27, 1987, p. 1.

50 TASS, 1635 GMT, July 27, 1987.

Page last modified: 10-04-2016 22:14:46 ZULU