Voskhod Precursor Flight Series
By Marcia S. Smith, Formerly with the, Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service
Soviet Manned Space Programs: 1957-80
KOSMOS PRECURSORS TO VOSKHOD
On October 6, 1964, Kosmos 47 was put into an orbit 177x413 km and after just 1 day was retrofired to come back to Earth, while its carrier rocket flew for 8 days. Just 6 days later a manned flight (Voskhod 1) was launched with orbital elements of 178x409 km and also stayed up for 1 day.
On February 22, 1965, Kosmos 57 was put into an orbit 177x512 km. This time something went wrong, for the payload was exploded in orbit. Voskhod 2 did not follow as closely after this precursor as had happened the previous fall. One can surmise that it required a little time to determine that whatever went wrong with Kosmos 57 would be unlikely to occur in the manned flight to follow. Hence the followup flight was delayed 24 hours and then entered a 173x495 km orbit.
Voskhod 1 was launched on October 12, 1964, and based upon information released after the fact, it was determined that it was put up by an A-2 launch vehicle, which permitted increasing the payload weight from the 4,700 kg range to 5,320 kg. Voskhod seemed to be only a modified Vostok.
The principal modification of this first flight was removal of the heavy ejection seat on its rails. Then, within the approximately 2.5 meter sphere of the cabin, it was possible to place three seats side-by-side with the center seat raised. By this time such confidence had been gained in the reliability of the basic system, that the cosmonauts did not wear cumbersome protective space suits and helmets, but comfortable coveralls. This practice was followed until the Soyuz 11 tragedy, when the three-man crew died due to a pressure leak in their cabin. Without ejection seats, the landing of the ship with crew on board was eased by use of a final breaking rocket.
Voskhod 1 was the first multimanned flight. The crew was led by Col. Vladimir Komarov, accompanied by a military physiologist, Lt. Boris Yegorov, and a civilian technical scientist, Konstantin Feoktistov. Although the flight lasted only 1 day, the special crew made it possible to obtain much more comprehensive medical data and to operate more complex checks on the payload systems and external experiments. The flight also returned live television pictures from orbit.
There is an interesting political sidelight to this mission. While in orbit, Premier Khrushchev sent congratulations to the crew and promised to see them on the reviewing stands in Moscow on their return. They landed less than 24 hours later, but when they reached Moscow, Mr. Khrushchev had been replaced by Party Secretary Brezhnev and Premier Kosygin.
Still another variant of the original Vostok hardware was provided by this flight whch was launched on March 18, 1965 (see figure 10). Again the A-2 vehicle was used, and the payload weight was raised to 5,682 kilograms. Although no pictures of the actual payload have been released, the shroud view in the assembly building showed a large bulge well forward. This flight carried only two seats, and added instead an extendable airlock to permit egress into space without evacuating the main cabin of air.
RESERVE SOLID RETRO
- THRUST 12.000 KGF
- BURN TIME 2 SEC.
- SPECIFIC IMPULSE 225 SEC.
- MASS 143 KG
The ship was commanded by Col. Pavel Belyayev, the first cosmonaut with a naval air force background, accompanied by Lt. Col. Aleksey Leonov. Leonov won a place in history by becoming the first man to perform extravehicular activity (EVA). During flight he donned a completely self-contained life support system back-pack. Having switched to a supply of air enriched with oxygen in order to purge much of the nitrogen from his blood, he then entered the extendable airlock, sealed the hatch behind him, and then after depressurization opened the second hatch to look out into space. Finally he pushed free to float at the end of a tether line in the weightless, airless medium of space, with his eyes shielded from the Sun by a special visor. Beneath him in a few minutes passed a good part of the Soviet Union.
The event was recorded by a preplaced external television camera, and he also took along a handheld motion picture camera. As might be expected, his physiological indicators showed he was under considerable stress. In general, his suit was so cumbersome that he could do little more than float awkwardly at the end of his tether and wave for the cameras. Leonov moved away from and back to the ship four times, and "checked the ship for stability; as it turned out, blows can made it rock." He was supposed to photograph the spacecraft, but did not because he could not reach the device to move the camera which was attached to his thigh. (2) The whole event amounted to about 20 minutes exposure to the vacuum conditions of space, of which about 10 were outside the ship on the tether. Leonov explained later that he had some difficulties in his big suit getting back in without losing his camera, and Colonel Belyayev had to repeat the orders to get him to come in, as he not only experienced the tension of being the first to go out, but the same euphoria several American EVA astronauts displayed. He also reported that he could not get back in feet first, and had to enter the airlock head first and then turn around.
As had happened after previous Soviet flights, the claims of Leonov's EVA came under some dispute in the West. Complaints centered around analyses of the Soviet-released pictures which included not only blurred views, and the better motion pictures, but a number of sequences to fill in with simulation what would have been harder to provide during the real event. This explains the question "Who was holding the camera for the clear shots of his emergence from the airlock?" and also some process shots taken either in a water tank or with guide wires in another view. One can dispute particular pictures, but the total evidence that EVA occurred is reasonably compelling.
While preparing for reentry after 16 orbits, the crew discovered that the automatic orientation devices necessary for retrofire were malfunctioning, so they were authorized to orbit one more time and then make a manually controlled reentry. This moved the landing site into European Russia instead of Kazakhstan, and for some reason reentry was delayed long enough to carry the ship hundreds of kilometers north to Taiga where they landed amidst pine forest. It took several hours for the recovery team to locate the ship, and about a day for ground parties to cut through the forest to reach the cosmonauts and bring them home. As wolves howled nearby, the crew kept close to their capsule for protection.
After Voskhod 2, there were a number of statements which suggested that further manned flights would occur. One can only speculate whether fiscal economies led to a cancellation of these missions, or whether it was decided to apply the existing stock of launch vehicles to other programs while engineering a new manned ship. However, it appears that at least one more Voskhod flew, but it carried dogs rather than people.
Designated Kosmos 110, the spacecraft was launched on February 22, 1966, into a 904x187 km orbit by an A-2 vehicle and carried the dogs Verterok and Ugolek. A television monitor sent back pictures of the dogs, while telemetry from biological and cabin environment sensors reported other information. The flight set a duration record of 22 days, following which the dogs were successfully recovered. Data from this mission considerably expanded Soviet information on the more prolonged effects of weightlessness and radiation.
A. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1976-80, (WITH SUPPLEMENTARY DATA THROUGH 1983) MANNED SPACE PROGRAMS AND SPACE LIFE SCIENCES PREPARED AT THE REQUEST OF HON. BOB PACKWOOD, Chairman, COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION UNITED STATES SENATE, Part 2, OCTOBER 1984, Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D. C., 1984
2 Leonov, Aleksey. The Friendly Solar Wind. Komsomol'skaya Pravda, Mar. 18, 1983, p. 4.