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Soyuz Follow on Flight Test & Manned Missions


By Marcia S. Smith*


2. Kosmos 496

After the long pause in man-related activities caused by the death of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts, the Russians launched, without announcing much more than routine parameters, Kosmos 496. This was on June 26, 1972 , with an apogee of 342 km and a perigee of 195 km. at an inclination of 51.6°. The flight was recovered after six days. TASS in Moscow noted that it used the 20.008 MHz frequency common to the Soyuz. On the basis of orbital calculations from Perry in the United Kingdom , Sven Grahn in Sweden was not able to find signals on 20.008 MHz, but did discover that each time the ship reached the radio horizon of Yevpatoriya in the Crimea , the ship sent signals on 922.75 MHz, which had been used in the manned program previously. There were three carriers with high-speed commutated telemetry sidebands. The strong inference was that the Russians were testing an improved Soyuz to correct the problems of Soyuz 11, and further manned flights could be expected.

5. Kosmos 573

After the failures of Salyut 2 and Kosmos 557 to operate for extended periods and to be visited by manned Soyuz, the Russians did send up another unmanned test craft. This was Kosmos 573, launched on June 15, 1973 , almost a year after Kosmos 496, and flying in a very similar orbit. TASS, Moscow , announced it as having an apogee of 329.2 km, a perigee of 196.2 km, and an inclination of 51.6°. Again, they announced that it used the 20.008 MHz frequency common to man-related flights. This time the ship stayed up only two days, the pattern Soyuz 12 was to follow.

6. Soyuz 12

Soyuz 12 (Ural) was the first manned flight by the Soviet Union after the tragic deaths of the Soyuz 11 crew in 1971. The Russians delayed their manned program for two years to check systems and spacecraft design to ensure the incident would not occur again. Soyuz 12 was primarily a test of the new designs, including introduction of a new launch escape rocket, so the only experiment scheduled was Earth photography.

Launched into an initial orbit of 249 x 194 km at 1218 GMT on September 27, 1973 , the ship was piloted by Lt. Col. Yasiliy Lazarev and Flight Engineer Oleg Makarov. It was inclined at 51.6° and had a period of 88.6 minutes. In a test of the control systems, the orbit was changed to 345 x 326 km. 91 minutes on the second day of flight. Sven Grahn suggested that this forecast the flying of a Salyut at higher orbit, and his prediction was confirmed by the placement of Salyut 4 in late 1974.

Both days were devoted to checking onboard systems and photographing the Earth in various spectra, using a nine-objective camera. As the spacecraft photographed a region of the planet, airplanes simultaneously took pictures of the same area for comparison purposes to discover what distortions were introduced by the atmosphere.

Soyuz 12 landed September 29, 1973 at 1134 GMT, 400 km south-west of Karaganda , Kazakhstan . To be on the safe side, the cosmonauts wore pressure suits during reentry, as they have for all missions following Soyuz 11.

7. Kosmos 613

On November 30, 1973 , Kosmos 613 was sent to a 295 x 195 km orbit inclined at 51.6°. No purpose was given beyond the routine, but Western observers noted it seemed like a Soyuz. "Without announcement, the orbit was raised on December 5 to 396 x 255 km, still at 51.6° inclination. Signals were found on 922.75 MHz, typical of man-related flights. On reaching the higher orbit, little was heard from it, and it appeared to be in powered-down condition. Then toward the end of the flight, it became electronically active again, and recovery was made after a total flight duration of 60.1 days on January 29, 1974 .

With the advantage of hindsight, it now seems likely that this was a first long-duration test in powered down condition for the flight of Soyuz 18 which will be described below.

8. Soyuz 13

Soyuz 13 was launched on December 18, 1973 at 1155 GMT and code named Kavkaz ( Caucasus ). Primarily conceived as an orbiting astronomical observatory, the cosmonauts aboard, Major Petr Klimuk and Flight Engineer Valentin Lebedev, had undergone extensive training at the Byurakan Observatory in Armenia on the operation of the astronomical equipment on board (Orion-2). On the fifth orbit, Soyuz 13 was put into a 272 x 225 km orbit, inclination 51.6°, period 89.22 minutes.

Since the orbit was similar to that planned for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, some speculated that this flight was a demonstration mission. But Salyut 2 and Kosmos 557 had failed shortly before this flight and it is quite possible that the Russians decided to modify the Soyuz so that Salyut-like experiments could continue until another space station was orbited. Two modifications were made to the Soyuz ship: the addition of the Orion-2 system which was mounted outside the ship in the position of the docking assembly, and the orbital section was transformed from a place for rest and relaxation into a space laboratory.

Klimuk and Lebedev remained in space for eight days, landing on December 26 at 0850 GMT, 200 km southwest of Karaganda , Kazakhstan . Five minutes later they were outside walking around.

The main projects for the mission were: astrophysical experiments with Orion-2, research into the production of protein mass in space with Oazis-2 (both of these had predecessors on Salyut 1), experiments with higher plants, biomedical checks with the Levka apparatus, earth observation, and navigation.

Medical—The. Soviets are especially interested in blood circulation to the brain in a weightless environment (blood tends to redistribute itself towards the upper part of the body in the absence of gravity). In the Levka (Lion's Cub) experiment, the cosmonauts stretch a special expander with a force of 15 kg at a rate of 30 times per minute. The heart responds by pumping more blood, and electrodes on the cosmonauts measure the response in cerebral vessels. The response is recorded by telemetric devices.

Other Biological —-Oazis-2 consists of two interconnected cylinders for the study of regeneration. One cylinder cultivates water-oxidizing bacteria which use hydrogen from water electrolysis for growth. Oxygen is formed here and passes into the second cylinder containing urobacteria (which break down urea). The urobacteria absorb the oxygen and release carbonic acid which in turn is passed back to the first cylinder and used for synthesis of biomass. Thus the waste products of one type of bacteria are the initial material used by other bacteria to accumulate protein mass: regeneration. During Soyuz 13’s flight the biomass increased 35 times. This is important for long duration spaceflights where food, air and water might be regenerated so vast quantities of these perishables need not be carried on board.

Higher plants studied during this mission were chlorella and duckweed. Chlorella absorbs carbon dioxide and returns oxygen to the air. So the Russians want to see how well it grows in space, since animals. including people, exhale carbon dioxide and need oxygen to breathe. Duckweed is interesting because in the winter it goes into hibernation and exists in the form of turions, small bodies with inhibited vital activity. In the spring the turions multiply by division and again become duckweed. The cosmonauts put turions into a vessel and added kinetin to restore the vital activity. They then added a nutrient to see how the duckweed would assimilate it.

Earth Resources —The cosmonauts again studied natural formations on the surface of the planet as well as the atmosphere. For the former, a nine lens camera which exposes three strips of film simultaneously photographed several areas of Earth. Two of the films are sensitive to visible light, the third to infrared. Each lens has color filters so many spectra can be taken and selection can be made as to which are the most valuable for specific missions.

An RSS-2 spectrograph studied the atmosphere by photographing day and twilight horizons. This can lead to better weather knowledge and information on air pollution. In addition, the spectrograph recorded the reflection of solar radiation from natural formations on Earth.

Astrophysical — Orion 2, unlike Orion 1, was mounted entirely on the outside of the ship and had a wide field meniscus telescope which could cover nil area 20 degrees square. A canopy surrounded the telescope to protect it from temperature extremes as the ship traveled into and out of the Earth's shadow, and the optical components were made of crystalline quartz. A window in the canopy opened during observation, with exposure times ranging from 1 to 20 minutes.

Designed by Grigor Gurzadyan of Armenia , the telescope is mounted on a three-axis platform which can stabilize the system with an accuracy of 2-3 seconds of arc. This is vital for successful observation. Pointing is accomplished by positioning the spacecraft within a few degrees of the area to be studied. The two reference stars are then found, whereupon Orion-2 itself takes over with an automatic pointing system accurate to 3-5 angular seconds. The instrument has 13 electric motors for drive. Although some of the Onon-2 system is automatic, both cosmonauts are needed for these experiments; one to orient the ship, the other to work Orion.

Also mounted on the Orion system is an instrument for studying X-ray emissions from the Sun. These studies were done on the 65 th orbit. The camera has several channels and can take photographs simultaneously in several ranges of the X-ray band, and has a 70 degree field of view. Observations were carried out at the same time from Earth for comparison purposes.

During the mission, the cosmonauts made 10,000 spectrograms of more than 3.000 stars in the constellations Taurus, Orion, Gemini, Auriga and Perseus. The spectrograms were in spectral classes from 2 000-3 000 angstroms (these cannot be studied from Earth since the atmosphere absorbs emissions less than 3,000 angstroms) and the stars were of the 10th magnitude generally, although the cosmonauts were able to photograph some even of the 12th. Special sensitive film was supplied by George Low of NASA for this project.

Navigation —Experiments were continued into autonomous navigation, specifically to determine the accuracy of control systems and the testing of new instruments for orientation using the Earth and stars.

9. Kosmos 638, 656, and 672

Kosmos 638 was launched on April 3, 1974 into a 325 x 195 km orbit inclined at 51.8°, that intended later for the Apollo-Soyuz test Project (ASTP). It stayed up ten days before recovery. Kettering found signals on 20.008 MHz.

Kosmos 656 was launched on May 27, 1974 into 354 x 194 km orbit. This time the inclination was 51.6°, that used for ferry flights to Salyut stations. The mission lasted just two days, suggesting that it was like Kosmos 573 and Soyuz 12, probably ferry versions of Soyuz without solar panels. .

Kosmos 672 was launched on August 12, 1974 into a 239 x 198 km orbit, inclined at 51.8°. The orbit was adjusted to the ASTP position approximately, when apogee was moved to 238 km and perigee to 227 km. Later, like Kosmos 638, it was confirmed by the Russians to be an ASTP test flight.

10. Kosmos 670

Kosmos 670 is worth a special look because it differed from other unmanned Soyuz flights of the period. It was launched on August 6, 1974 , into a 307 x 217 km orbit. What was unique is that the inclination was 50.6°, not used on any other flight launched by an "A" class vehicle. The flight lasted only three days before recovery. In some respects, its external flight parameters hardly distinguished it from military recoverable observation flights. The inclination was close to that which Western published rumors had predicted would be that used by the big "G" class vehicle. There was speculation that this might be the first test of a ferry vehicle to a new large space station to be put up by the G-l at some future time. Without more information, no firm conclusions can be drawn. This was apparently the last flight test conducted for the then being cancelled manned lunar program of the former Soviet Union .

12. Soyuz 16

Soyuz 16 (Buran or Snowstorm), announced as a precursor flight for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, was launched December 2, 1974 at 0940 GMT and piloted by the prime ASTP backup crew, Col. Anatoly Filipchcnko and Nikolav Rukavishnikov. It was a test of the new systems installed for the joint mission and most importantly; the docking procedure. Some biological and photographic experiments were aboard, including some to be repeated on ASTP.

Modifications to the Soyuz included the docking gear, flight and attitude controls, radio communication systems, some new controls added and consoles modified in the orbital module, addition of an automatic gas analyzer, and changes in the life support system to enable it to handle four people (two cosmonauts and two astronauts). Tests were made of the changes in pressure and air composition that would be used during ASTP. The Russians operate in space under normal atmospheric pressure (760 mm Hg) and a nitrogen-oxygen air content. The United States , however, works in a pure oxygen atmosphere at low pressure (260 mm Hg). In order to minimize the amount of time required for adjusting in the docking module air-lock, the Soviet engineers agreed to reduce their pressure to 520 mm Hg and increase the percentage of oxygen to about 40%. These alterations were practiced during Soyuz 16 and the cosmonauts suffered no ill effects.

NASA was told in advance that this would be an ASTP test, but did not know the exact date and time of launch, since the Russians insisted such information be secret and NASA refused to keep the news from the press. Once the launch was announced, joint tracking exercises were arranged. The tracking stations were: Bermuda and Tananarive (NASA operated); Antigua , Grand Turk , Eastern Test Range , Canton Island , Kaena Point ( Hawaii ), Kwajalein and Ascension (DOD operated). Mission control in Houston did not operate for this exercise.

The Russians have never announced the initial orbit for Soyuz 16, but NORAD stated it was 137 x 190 nautical miles (352 x 254 km). On the fifth revolution this was altered to 223 x 177 km, with an inclination of 51.8° and a period of 88.4 minutes. As an ASTP test, the craft had to achieve a 225 km circular orbit, and this was accomplished by two more bums: to 240 x 190 km at an unspecified time, and on the 17th and 18th orbits to the final 225 x 225 km, with a period of 88.9 minutes. Although the Russians state that these corrections were part of the planned program in order to test fully Soyuz's systems, some speculate that the initial orbit may have been a trajectory error.

Docking exercises were of primary importance for Soyuz 16. A special practice imitating ring attached to the ship was moved away so Soyuz could maneuver and dock with it (the ring was pulled onto Soyuz with a force equal to that of Apollo). The docking equipment incorporated some of the Soyuz/Salyut gear, for example a spring-mechanical type of shock absorber as opposed to the hydraulic type used by the United States . Some twenty technical operations were planned and carried out to test coupling, link-up and hermetic docking, beginning in the 32nd orbit. The tests were successful.

Filipchenko and Rukavishnikov landed 300 km north of Dzhezkaziran at 0804 GMT on December 8 after six days in orbit. Other experiments carried out during the mission include:

Earth Resources .—Photographs of the Earth were taken for the study of natural resources, and of the horizon to determine the composition and limits of the atmosphere.

Astrophysical .—Photography of the Sun and stars was carried out in preparation for an ASTP experiment which used Apollo to block out the Sun and create an artificial solar eclipse for Soyuz.

Bioloqical. —There were five biological experiments conducted.

(1) The growth of microorganisms in space. Microbes were put in a nutrient medium the first day in space and the cosmonauts watched for their growth. There was a lag for the first few days, but the microbes soon became adjusted to the environment and grew normally.

(2) A determination of what direction sprouts would grow in without the Sun's rays.

(3) The study of fish. In previous experiments, scientists discovered that adult fish lost their sense of spatial orientation in a gravity-free environment. On this mission, Daniorerio fish eggs were brought along. When the fish hatched, they exhibited no orientation problems as the adult fish had.

(4) Samples of microbes were taken from different parts of the Soyuz craft and from the cosmonauts themselves (hair and skin) to test microbial transfer. This was repeated on the ASTP mission to determine if any contamination occurs when one space crew is visited by another, as might happen in long-duration space stations.

(5) Zone-forming fungi were studied for two reasons. First, these fungi develop a new growth ring every 24 hours on Earth and scientists wanted to see how often one would grow in space where a "day" is only 90 minutes long. In addition, the fungi were placed inside a device called "Ritm" which had a dosimeter mounted on the outside to measure the amount of radiation entering the flask to see if it had any effect on the fungi. During ASTP, fungi were flown on both ships to see how different amounts of radiation in various areas of space would affect the organisms, since Apollo and Soyuz would travel in different parts of the sky except for the time they were docked together.

14. Soyuz 19, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Due to the significance of this first joint space mission, the subject is treated separately in the annex to this chapter.

15. Kosmos 778 .

On September 29, 1975 the Russians launched Kosmos 772 into a 320 x 201 km orbit, inclined at 51.8°. Soyuz-type telemetry on 20.008 MHz was monitored in Kettering and Akrotiri , Cyprus . Like the Soyuz ferry ships, Kosmos 772 had no solar panels, but it remained in orbit for three days, like Kosmos 670 and a day longer than most other missions of its kind, suggesting either greater battery capacity or lessened electrical loads such as that which would be associated with a one-man crew. Some speculated that it might be a system test for return to three-man crews.

16. Soyuz 20 with Salyut 4

In mid-November the Russians launched an unmanned Soyuz 20 to dock with Salyut 4. After several days, they announced that on board the ship were biological specimens for parallel experiments with the Kosmos 782 mission. Since that places Soyuz 20 under the biosat category, the discussion of this flight is deferred to that section

S0YUZ 20

After termination of the Soyuz 18 mission, Salyut 4 remained in orbit, prompting speculation that a third crew might be sent to work on the space station. This would have been a new feat, since the life-times of the Salyut 1 and 3 were limited, and each actually hosted only one crew.

On November 17, 1975 the Russians did indeed launch another Soyuz mission to dock with Salyut 4, but surprisingly this was unmanned. Since during the Soyuz 15 mission the Russians had indicated that they were developing a tanker spacecraft to refuel space stations in orbit, preliminary speculation centered around the possibility that Soyuz 20 was the first such mission. There were many doubts, however, since there was no indication that the Salyut was equipped with a docking port on the service module end, assumed a necessity for fuel transfer. All speculation ended, however, when Soviet ASTP technical director Konstantin Bushuyev, on a post-ASTP visit to Houston , stated that it definitely was not a refueling mission. He said only that the craft would conduct automatic rendezvous and docking tests and check out modifications to the Soyuz for that purpose. A few days later, on December 4, the Russians announced that Soyuz 20 was carrying out parallel biological studies with Kosmos 782. Aboard Soyuz 20, were turtles, Drosophila, cactuses, gladioli bulbs, vegetable seeds, corn and legumes. Soyuz 20 and Kosmos 782 had different microclimates for the specimens aboard, so comparison studies could be performed.

Soyuz TM

Designed and manufactured by RKK Energiya, the Soyuz TM is capable of carrying three cosmonauts and has a gross weight of just over seven metric tons, a length of seven meters, and a maximum diameter of 2.7 m. The spacecraft consists of three main sections: the orbital module, the command and reentry module, and the service module. Two solar arrays (10.6 m span) provide, electrical power for the typical 50-hour journey to Mir and can be interconnected with the space station's electrical system to furnish additional 1.3 kW. The nominal flight time for Soyuz TM spaceship is 5-6 months (References 86-90).



•Ms. Smith Is an analyst in science and technology. Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.

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