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Soyuz T13, T14 With Salyut-7 Series

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


Salyut-7, 1985 activities

1985 activities soyuz t-13 and t-14: resurrecting salyut-7; first crew rotation

In 1985, the Soviets finally accomplished what many Western an­ alysts had expected for years: the transfer of operations from one crew to another. The two-man Soyuz T-13 crew first occupied Salyut 7 and later was joined by the three-man Soyuz T-14 crew for a week of joint operations. Then one member of the T-13 crew returned to Earth with one of the T-14 crew members, while the other T-13 individual remained on board the space station with the other two members of the T-14 crew. This was not exactly what Western observers had anticipated—the replacement of one entire crew with another with no break in operations—but it accom­ plished the same purpose. The new crew's mission was terminated early because one of them became ill, but the procedures for trans­ ferring crew operations without interruption had already been demonstrated. Two resupply missions were flown (one of which was given a Cosmos rather than Progress designation for unknown rea­sons), and one large module docked with the station.

Soyuz T-13

Launched on June 6, 1985 at 10:40 Moscow Time, Soyuz T-13 car­ ried two cosmonauts using the call sign "Pamir": Col. Vladimir Dzhanibekov, the most experienced cosmonaut making his fifth spaceflight; and Viktor Savinykh, making his second. This mission already assured itself a place in the history books even before the crew transfer, since the two-man crew literally resurrected the space station.

Everything appeared normal with Salyut 7 at the end of 1984. A December 20th report in Izvestiya gave its orbital parameters as 387 x 386 kilometers and it had made 15,407 revolutions of the Earth during its 32 months in orbit. The report concluded "The sta­ tion's onboard systems are functioning normally." 141 All that changed by March, 1985, however. In a surprise announcement on March 1, TASS concluded a summary of the activities that had been conducted on the space station since 1982 with the statement: "As the planned program of work aboard the Salyut-7 orbital sta­ tion has been fulfilled, the station was mothballed and continues its flight in an automatic regime." 142 The phrase that the work of a mission "has been fulfilled" had always signaled termination of operations in the past. It appeared that Salyut 7 was finished. Western experts speculated that the fuel line repair work by Kizim and Solovyev had not been successful, or that a new space station was being readied for launch. 143 Two months later, reports in the Western trade press stated that an electrical problem had disabled the space station and it would not respond to commands from the ground, but that visual observations indicated that it was "stable and not tumbling." 144

Reviving Salyut 7

Thus it was quite a surprise in the West when Soyuz T-13 was launched in June to dock with the station. Not only was it thought that Salyut 7 would not be occupied again, but according to the Kettering Group, the launch took place outside the normal launch window parameters used on Soviet missions. 145 While the T-13 crew was effecting repairs, Soviet press reports provided few indica­ tions of the Salyut troubles, but Dzhanibekov detailed them after he returned to Earth. A personal account was written for the July 27, 1986 issue of the U.S. Sunday newspaper supplement Parade.

The Soviets knew that there were problems aboard the station because they had lost communication with it and the station had gone put of control, 146 but they did not know the extent of the dif­ficulties and the decision to mount a repair mission was made even though they did not fully understand what had happened.

The first indication of how bad things really were was when the crew approached the space station and found that the solar panels were not parallel as they should have been, but were turned at a 70-90 degree angle. 147 This meant either that the panels' orienta­ tion system was not working or the electrical supply had ceased, causing the panels to stop in that position. In any case, the station was without electrical power. They also noticed that the exterior of the station was no longer green, but gray tinged with rust, "the thermostating soft envelope had burned out."

The first problem was docking, no small feat since the radar on Salyut that would normally help guide them into the port was not functioning. It became clear why these two particular cosmonauts had been chosen for the mission. Dzhanibekov had docked with space stations several times previously, manually as well as auto­ matically, including one difficult docking with Soyuz T-6. 148 Savin- ykh had helped design the station, and was already in training to be part of what would have been the next crew to Salyut 7. 149 Dzhanibekov and Savinykh began training in March 1985 for the rescue mission. 1 5 °

To slow their closing speed, the crew took two days to rendezvous with the station instead of one. A special set of instruments had been developed for the docking which included an optical guidance instrument, a laser range finder, and a night vision device. Dzhani­ bekov later recounted that he had assumed manual control at a distance of 3 km from the station, and began watching the station from a side window to which designers had moved the controls of the spaceships especially for this mission. At a distance of 200 meters, he reduced his relative speed to zero so that he could move to the side and fly around the station. At that point Dzhanibekov moved to his regular seat and, looking through the sight, flew around the station and approached the docking mechanisms. 151 Cosmonaut Feoktistov lauded the new docking procedure, saying that it might enable maintenance work on satellites and the rescue of stranded space crews. 152 The manual docking was achieved at 12:50 MT on June 8.

The crew could not get an internal pressure reading because of the electrical failure, so opened a valve to equalize the pressure be­ tween the Soyuz and Salyut. 153 The crew donned gas masks (in case there had been a fire caused by a short-circuit which could have left toxic substances in the air) 154 and moved into the station. Upon entering, they did not initially notice anything awry, and re­moved their gas masks. When they attempted to turn on the lights, however, nothing happened. The fans were quiet and the voltage indicators on the storage batteries read zero. They noticed that it wasn't simply cool in the station, "it was cold, freezing," and there was frost on the windows and equipment. This caused them great concern since the station's instruments were not designed to func­tion at such temperatures. Due to the cold, the pressure had fallen to 714 mm Hg from its normal level of 780-800 mm Hg. 155

Using the Soyuz to communicate with ground control (in which they also slept until the station was repaired), they received in­ structions about reactivating the station. Fortunately, six of the eight batteries were still usable, and the crew discarded the other two. 156 Their first task was to connect the solar panels directly to the storage batteries to recharge them, working during the sunlit part of the orbit not only because that was when the solar arrays collected sunlight, but because it was too cold to work. "... we would have to 'run' into the transport ship to warm up. We would work about 40 minutes, and then we would go warm up." 157 Pre­ pared for the worst, they had brought special fur suits complete with gloves, but to work on the equipment they had to make long slits in the gloves, and their feet were especially cold. Recharging began on June 10. 158 "Finally, after a whole day of arduous work, we had the thrill of seeing the voltage needle tremble, move slowly off zero and begin to climb. You can imagine our joy when the lights came on. Salyut was alive—alive!" 159

Dzhanibekov was also glad that the ventilating fans were work­ ing again, noting that carbon dioxide build up had made him and Savinykh weary and caused headaches. Communications with ground control were also possible using the Salyut systems at this point. Monitoring of voice communications by the Kettering Group showed that the crew was still using the Soyuz frequencies at 11:16:27 MT on June 12, but that on the next orbit they were trans­ mitting from Salyut (12:46:07 MT). 160

The water supply on Salyut had frozen, so they tried to expose the water tanks to sunlight during the sunlit portions of the orbit. They had brought an eight day supply of water with them on Soyuz, but it was not until their llth day in orbit that the ice began to thaw. "[W]e had all the water we needed. In fact, we had too much, for water began to form on the cold parts of the casings and covered the windows and pipes. We had a lot of mopping up to do with towels, napkins, underwear."

Each of the station's hundreds of cables had to be checked. Dzhanibekov's most telling comment was that "One word best describes all of our repair and maintenance operations—pa­ tience. . . . The main thing in such operations is not to give way to nerves, although weariness gradually builds up into irritation— sometimes with yourself, sometimes with those trying to help you from the ground. You simply have to be able to pull yourself to­gether in the face of setbacks and mishaps."

In the end, they determined that a faulty charge-gauging device in one of the chemical batteries had failed, permanently breaking the connection with the solar panels. "This connection would not be restored without power from an outside source. Connecting the spaceship's power plant to the station was ruled out, because this might lead to the breakdown of the ship's own power supply system." 161

The Mission Continues

Once they had rejuvenated Salyut 7, the crew resumed the con­ duct of experiments and other operations. After determining that the automatic docking systems were functioning correctly, Progress 24 was launched on June 21 at 04:40 MT. It carried 2,000 kg of equipment and supplies, including new solar panels which were in­ stalled two weeks later, drinking water, and new chemical batter­ ies. 162 The cargo craft docked with the station on June 23 at 06:54 MT.

By June 25, the crew was performing experiments, starting off with remote sensing observations in the "Kursk-85" program. They continued to unload Progress, and after refueling the space station, it was undocked at 16:28 MT on July 15 and reentered the same day.

The next launch to Salyut was also somewhat of a surprise to Western observers. Cosmos 1669, a Progress variant, but not given the Progress designation, was launched on July 19, and docked with Salyut 7 at 19:05 MT on July 21. 163 Although the launch of a module had been expected, it had been anticipated to be of the much larger Cosmos 1443 class, not a Progress, and the docking an­ nouncement was accompanied by the statement that it carried ex­periments "to conduct scientific research in an autonomous flight and as part of an orbital complex." 164 This led some Western ob­ servers to speculate that it was a new class of spacecraft similar to the co-orbiting platforms planned for the U.S. space station pro­ gram. They suggested that this Cosmos would be separated from the space station and flown autonomously. 165 In fact, it appears that Cosmos 1669 was simply a cargo craft that delivered some bio­ logical experiments in addition to the usual complement of fuel, water and other supplies. It undocked at 01:50 MT on August 29 and reentered the following day. TASS did add that "in autono­ mous flight, tests continued on individual systems and installations of the satellite." 166 Several weeks later the Soviets explained that one activity conducted by Cosmos 1669 after originally undocking from Salyut 7 was a test to confirm the reliability of the docking system in preparation for the launch of the next crew. It backed away from the station and then redocked. It is not clear if the time of 01:50 MT for undocking was the first or second time. 167

Installing Another Set of Solar Panels

On August 2, the crew conducted an EVA to install new solar panels on the remaining original array. 168 The five hour EVA began at 11:15 MT. TASS reported that after installing the two new panels, they "installed an experimental model of a solar [panel] for researching the effects of outer space conditions on it." 169 The new panel reportedly was 4.5 meters long and 1.2 meters wide. They then moved back to the exit hatch and retrieved the samples left by the T-12 crew, and replaced them with a Soviet/French device to gather meteoritic dust in connection with observations of Halley's Comet 170 and another Meduza experi­ment. 171 Soviet press reports noted that the space suits used by the crew were improved, with illuminated control units and improved shoulder belts which enable the cosmonauts to expand the area in which they can work outside the station. A sturdier rubberized fabric also replaced part of the rubber shell. 172 Other reports said they had a greater field of vision, allowed greater mobility, and provided for monitoring the crew's health. 173

Soyuz T-14 Launch and First Crew Rotation

On September 17, 1985 at 16:39 MT, Soyuz T-14 was launched with a three-man crew (call sign Cheget): Lt. Col. Vladimir Vasyu- tin, commander; Georgiy Grechko, flight engineer; and Lt. Col. Aleksandr Volkov, cosmonaut researcher. This was the third flight for Grechko and the first for Vasyutin and Volkov. The ship docked with Salyut 7 and Soyuz T-13 at 18:15 MT on September 18. At 21:24 they entered the station and were greeted by Dzhanibekov and Savinykh. The docking announcement included the statement that Vasyutin and Volkov would remain on the station with Savin­ ykh, while Dzhanibekov and Grechko would return to Earth, 174 and a week later Krasnaya Zvezda reported that the original crew was intended to be Savinykh, Vasyutin and Volkov, 178 but the Salyut 7 problems surfaced during the crew's training, necessitat­ ing the rescue mission.

Soyuz T-13 Departs and Cosmos 1686 Arrives

The Soyuz T-13 spacecraft, with Dzhanibekov and Grechko aboard, undocked at 07:58 MT on September 25. The return to Earth was quite unusual in that the crew remained in the Soyuz for a day before landing. The extra day was spent in testing rendez­ vous methods unaided by radar signals from the station. After un-docking, Dzhanibekov fired the T-13 engines to separate the ship from the space station by several tens of kilometers. The T-13 en­ gines were then fired three times to bring it within 5 km of the space station at which point Dzhanibekov and Grechko guided it to within several hundred meters of the station. The experiment re­portedly was valuable for refining maneuvers that might be needed to come to the aid of disabled spacecraft." 176 They finally landed at 13:52 MT on September 26, 220 km northeast of Dzhezkazgan. It was noted that this was a new landing zone for spacecraft. 177 Dzhanibekov had been in space for 112 days 3 hours and 12 min­ utes; while Grechko's duration was 8 days 21 hours and 13 min­ utes.

Maintaining their quick pace, no sooner had the T-13 spacecraft returned than a new module was launched. This was a Cosmos 1443-class spacecraft and numbered Cosmos 1686. Launched on Sep­ tember 27, it was the first of the series to lack a reentry capsule and carried extra fuel instead. 178 It carried five tons of supplies (of which 3 tons were fuel) 179 and was heralded by the Soviets for its ability to control the space complex "for hours and even for days" freeing the cosmonauts "from the task of manual control." 180 It also carried one ton of scientific instruments, which by October 30 had been completely tested by the crew. 181 Included were spec­ trometers for astrophysical observations, and new materials proc­ essing equipment. The Soviets stated that Cosmos 1443 had proved its value as a space tug and recovery vehicle, and that Cosmos 1686 was "now being tested as a multifunctional orbital module which can deliver cargo into space, supply the station with power, assume control of the whole complex, and serve as a scientific laboratory or as a production-process 'shop.'" 182 Cosmos 1686 docked with Salyut 7 and Soyuz T-14 on October 2 at 13:16 MT.

On November 1, Pravda reported that Cosmos 1686 was main­ taining space station orientation for as long as a week at a time. It was also noted that on a rest day, when precise orientation was not required, Volkov asked that it be maintained anyway because it provided a "normal psychological climate." 183

Vasyutin's Illness Forces Early Mission Termination

Volkov's interest in maintaining a normal psychological climate became more apparent as time went by. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that beginning November 13, the crew began scrambling their conversations with mission control and incorrectly concluded that it was related to military activity. 184 As soon became clear, the scrambled transmissions were related to a medi­ cal emergency on board the station. 185 On November 15, TASS re­ ported that the crew was undergoing medical checks again, a rou­ tine announcement except that it contained the tell-tale clue that they were wearing the "Chibis" suits that cosmonauts don prior to returning to Earth's gravity. 186 No further announcement was made until six days later when the crew had returned to Earth. Soyuz T-14 landed 180 kilometers southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 13:31 MT on November 21. Unlike most missions, no announce­ ment was made of the time of undocking, and the return was an­ nounced only after the crew was on the ground. Vasyutin and Volkov had been in space for 64 days 21 hours and 52 minutes; Sa- vinykh's duration was 168 days 3 hours and 51 minutes.

The reason for terminating the mission was announced by the Soviets upon the crew's return: the crew's commander, Vasyutin, had become ill and required hospital treatment. 187 Vasyutin's ill­ ness was so severe that Savinykh had to assume command of the mission. 188 A Soviet reporter at the landing site commented that Vasyutin was pale, "but they are all generally rather pale after a flight." In response to the reporter's question of how he felt, Va­ syutin responded: "The main thing is to be back on Earth." 189 An observer at the landing site, identified only as Aleksey Arkhipo-vich, commented on Vasyutin's illness and gave an indication of other medical problems that had been encountered by previous crews:

Nothing comes that easily, everything comes with difficulty every discovery, every intervention into nature's secrets. Well, today we came up against another such fact—that is that the commander of the crew fell ill. Well, one could have expected it. We are happy that this has not happened before—there were cases of toothaches, and some kinds of colic, but what happened this time—a cold going into some new forms, a rise in temperature. This required the urgent intervention from earth, and the taking of the difficult decision to land. Of course, they very much wanted and would still like to work, but this is what had to be done, and now one can say that they were right. 190

Vasyutin was flown directly to Moscow, while Savinykh and Volkov took the usual route back to Tyuratam. There was much speculation about the nature of Vasyutin's illness, and the Soviets have never publicly clarified what was wrong. Western observers speculated that it could be kidney stones or appendicitis, 191 a cold that spread into his sinus cavity and lungs, or viral pneumonia. 192

Despite the commentary by Aleksey Arkhipovich quoted above about "a cold going into some new forms," subsequent descriptions suggested something worse. Pravda stated on November 23, two days after the landing, that the problem had worsened over a period of time: "At first he himself as well as his comrades in space and on the ground hoped that the attacks of pain could be over­ come." 193 On December 20, when Savinykh and Volkov returned to Star City, Moscow television reported that Vasyutin had left the hospital that day and shed a little more light on the matter, noting that Vasyutin had fought against an "inflammation" for three weeks with "a soaring temperature of up to 40 degrees Celsius" (104 degrees Fahrenheit). 194 This was the first mention of an in­ flammation, and the report indicated that the problem had devel­ oped long before the scrambled transmissions of November 13. A December 29 Pravda article went somewhat further through quotes from Savinykh's diary. The article noted that the first entry in the diary concerning the illness was on September 25, the same day Dzhanibekov and Grechko left. The first indications of Vasyutin’s illness were "anxiety in his behavior and loss of sleep and appetite. Then pain appeared." An October 28 entry noted that Vasyutin was in bad shape, "tense, a bundle of nerves." It was then that Sa­ vinykh and Volkov convinced Vasyutin to consult with ground con­ trollers, which he did, receiving instructions from medical special­ ists which made him feel better. The entry for November 2, howev­ er, indicated that Vasyutin was remaining in his sleeping bag while Savinykh and Volkov carried out the program. Orders to ter­ minate the mission came on November 17. 195

At the end of 1987, no further details had been released by the Soviets about what had gone wrong. At a meeting of the Interna­ tional Astronautical Federation in Brighton, England in October, 1987, Oleg Gazenko, head of the Soviet Institute for Biomedical Problems and the most prominent Soviet space physician, stated that he would not comment on Vasyutin's illness for reasons of medical ethics, but that Vasyutin was completely recovered. 196

At a press conference shortly after the landing, Savinykh la­ mented leaving so much work undone on the station. He noted that they had tested all of the equipment brought by Cosmos 1686 and had prepared proposals for improving that technology and develop­ ment new equipment. "But much work was left unfinished, and it was therefore with regret that we closed the hatch of the scientific module before our return." 197

The completion of work with Salyut 7 was left to the first crew of the new space station Mir, as recounted in the following chapter.



140 Trud, July 31, 1984, p. 3.

141 Izvestiya, December 20, 1984, p. 1.

142 TASS, 1208 GMT, March 1, 1985.

143 Salyut 7 Work "Fulfilled," TASS Says; Salyut 8 Seen Being Readied. Aerospace Daily, March 4, 1985, p. 12.

144 Electrical Problem Seen Disabling Salyut 7. Aerospace Daily, April 30, 1985, pp. 338-339.

146 Soviets Launch Two Cosmonauts in Soyuz T-13. Aerospace Daily, June 7, 1985, p. 210.

146. Unless otherwise noted, all the information for this section is from Dzhanibekov's article "Rescue in Outer Space," Parade, July 27, 1986, pp. 12-14.

147 Krasnaya Zyezda, September 29, 1985, p. 4.

148 After the mission, a Pravda article noted that on Soyuz T-6 (with French cosmonaut Chre tien aboard), Dzhanibekov had made "a quick decision to assume manual control about 1,000 meters from the station" which nobody had done before, and this could be why he was chosen for this mission. Dzhanibekov cited others who could have performed the mission, including Popov, Malyshev and Romanenko. (Pravda, October 8, 1985, p. 3.)

148 Pravda, October 8, 1985, p. 8.

150 Krasnaya Zvezda, September 28,1985, p. 4.

151 Pravda, October 8,1985, p. 3.

152 Pravda, August 5, 1985, p. 3.

153 Kidger, Neville. Salyut Mission Report. Spaceflight, December 1985, p. 470.

154 Krasnaya Zvezda, October 1, 1985, p. 3.

155 Perry, G. E. School Science Review (Association for Science Education, England), Decem­ ber 1986, p. 321.

156. pravda, August 5, 1985, p. 3.

157. Krasnaya Zvezda, October 1, 1985, p. 3.

158. Pravda, August 5, 1985, p. 3.

159 Dzhanibekov, V. Rescue in Outer Space. Parade, July 27, 1986, p. 13.

160 Perry, G.E. Personal communication.

161 Pravda, August 5,1985, p. 3.

162 Pravda, August 5,1985, p. 3.

163 It is unclear why this was not given a Progress designation. Neville Kidger reported in the December 1985 issue of Spaceflight that the Soviet media carried commentaries on July 20 about a docking between the space station and Progress 25. Kidger speculates that it may have been a matter of a mix-up at the TASS office, or early problems that threatened the mission and hence a Cosmos designation was deemed necessary (the Soviets often give failed satellites a Cosmos designation instead of a name, as with the Cosmos 557 space station launch that failed.)

164 TASS, 1710 GMT, July 21, 1985.

165 Kidger, N. Salyut Mission Report. Spaceflight, December 1985, p. 471.

166 TASS, 0930 GMT, August 30, 1985.

167 Pravda, September 19,1985, p. 2.

168 The T-9 crew had installed the first set of additional panels to one of the three main
arrays; the T-10 crew added another set.

169 TASS, 1411 GMT, August 2, 1985.

170. P ravda, August 3, 1985, p. 3.

171 TASS, 1052 GMT, August 9, 1985.

172. P ravda, August 3, 1985, p. 3.

173 Kidger, Neville. Salyut Mission Report. Spaceflight, December 1985, p. 471.

174. TASS, 1834 GMT, September 18, 1985.

175 Krasnaya Zvezda, September 28, 1985, p. 4.

176 Trud, September 27, 1985, p. 3.

177 Trud, September 27, 1985, p. 3.

178 Cosmonaut Valeriy Ryumin made this comment at Flight Control Center during a visit by
a U.S. congressional delegation of which this author was a member.

179 TASS, 2300 GMT, October 17,1985.
180 Soteialisticheskaya Industriya, October 3, 1985, p. 4.
181 Moscow World Service, 1600 GMT, October 30, 1985.

182 Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, October 3, 1985, p. 4.

183. Pravda, November 5, 1985, p. 3.

184 Soviet Scramble. Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 18, 1985, p. 13.

185 Space Return, November 25, 1985, p. 13. Transmissions Scrambled for Medical Talk Before Cosmonauts Return. Aerospace Daily, November 25, 1985, p. 124.

186 TASS, 1547 GMT, November 15, 1987.

187 TASS, 1144 GMT, November 21, 1985.

188 Izvestiya, November 22, 1985, p. 6.

189 Moscow Domestic Service, 1530 GMT, November 21, 1985.

190 Moscow Domestic Service, 1530 GMT, November 21, 1985. The reference to the toothache
was probably Romanenko on Soyuz 26; the colic reference is unclear.

191 Soviet Union Ends Space Mission Because of Commander's Illness. New York Times, No vember 22,1985, p. A4.

192 O'Toole, Thomas. Illness That Forced Cosmonaut's Return a Mystery to NASA. Washing ton Post, November 27,1985, p. A3.

193. Pravda ,November 23, 1985, p. 3.

194 Moscow Television Service, 1530 GMT, December 20, 1985.
198 Pravda, December 29, 1985, p. 3.

196 Private conversation, October 12,1987.