Manned spacecraft "Soyuz-19"
Like almost all space developments of the Soviet period, the Soyuz spacecraft had a dual purpose. On the basis of this ship, variants of military vehicles were also developed. One of these ships was the Soyuz 7K-VI, which was developed in the USSR in 1963-1968 under the Star program. Soyuz 7K-VI was a special multi-seat military research manned spacecraft. The ship was distinguished from civilian variants by the presence of armament - a 23 mm quick-firing aviation guns adapted for use in outer space.
The appearance of the "Union"
Work on the creation in the USSR of a rocket-space complex for manned flights and lunar flyby began on 16 on April 1962 of the year. The creation of a new spacecraft for the ambitious Soviet lunar program was conducted by employees of the OKB-1 under the guidance of outstanding designer Sergey Korolev (today RSC Energia named after S. P. Korolev). By March 1963, the shape of the descent vehicle was chosen, which in the future will become the “Union”. Gradually, Soviet engineers based on the project of a lunar spacecraft created the 7K-OK apparatus, designed to accommodate three astronauts orbital spacecraft, designed to test various maneuvers in Earth orbit and to dock two spacecraft, transferring astronauts from one ship to another. Instead of fuel cells, considered earlier, the ship received memorable solar cells.
Creating a new spacecraft, Soviet engineers paid much attention to the organization of favorable working and living conditions for astronauts at the stages of launching into space, the flight itself and the descent from Earth orbit. Structurally manned spacecraft "Soyuz" included three main parts. Among them, the orbital or household compartment was distinguished, which served as a scientific laboratory where it was possible to conduct research and experiments, the same compartment was used for cosmonauts to rest. The second compartment was the cockpit - the descent module, in which the astronauts who took their places, returned back to our planet. In addition to the places for the three astronauts, there were all the necessary life support systems, ship control and a parachute system. The third compartment of the Soyuzov was the instrument-aggregate compartment in which the propulsion systems, fuel, and utility systems of the ship were installed. The power supply of the spacecraft "Soyuz" was carried out at the expense of solar batteries and batteries.
The Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft before docking with the ISS
The tests of the first Soyuz spacecraft began at the end of 1966. The first flight of the device, designated Cosmos-133, took place on November 28 1966 of the year. The second flight of 14 in December of the same year ended with the rocket explosion with the ship on the launch pad, the third flight of the 7K-OK apparatus (Cosmos-140) took place on February 7 of 1967 of the year. All three flights were completely or partially unsuccessful and helped the specialists to detect errors in the ship’s design. Despite the lack of fully successful launches, the fourth and fifth flights were planned manned. It couldn't end well, and the launch of Soyuz-1 23 on April 1967 ended in tragedy. The launch of the Soyuz-1 from the very beginning was accompanied by a number of abnormal situations, there were serious remarks to the work of the onboard systems of the ship, so it was decided to withdraw the device from orbit ahead of time, but the landing system crashed after landing of parachute systems due to the parachute systems failure cosmonaut Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov was killed. Despite the tragedy, work on the creation and further improvement of manned spacecraft "Soyuz" continued. The ship had an obvious potential that allowed it to remain in service in 24, besides, on its basis, the Soviet military planned to create a number of military vehicles, which also prevented the program from closing, despite the failure of the first launches.
The first projects of the military "Unions"
Back in 1964, in Kuybyshev (today Samara), the work of creating the world's first manned orbital interceptor 3K-P or Soyuz-P began at the Progress plant in branch No. 1 of the OKB-7 plant. A year earlier, due to the large load, all materials on new versions of the Soyuz for military use were transferred from OKB-1 to Kuybyshev. At the Progress plant, the work on the creation of new versions of the military "Soyuzov" was led by Dmitry Kozlov, the lead designer of the enterprise.
It is easy to guess that the 7K-P spacecraft was based on the construction of the Soyuz ordinary spacecraft (7K), but with some changes. Initially, the space interceptor did not plan to install any weapons. The main task of the crew of a manned spacecraft would be the process of inspecting foreign space objects, primarily satellites belonging to the United States. It was planned that the crew of the spacecraft 7K-P would go into open space for this, where, if necessary, it would be possible to put the probable enemy’s spacecraft out of operation or to place the vehicles in a specially designed container for later sending to Earth. At the same time, it was quickly decided to abandon the idea of such use of the ship and crew. The reason was that all the Soviet satellites of that period were equipped with an explosion system, the Soviet military assumed that the American satellites had the same system, which constituted a threat to the lives of the astronauts and the interceptor ship itself.
Projects of the military "Unions": 7K-P, 7K-PPK, 7K-R, 7K-VI ("Star"), "Soyuz-VI" (from left to right, render: astronautix.com)
The project of the Soyuz-P spacecraft was replaced by the full-fledged combat spacecraft, which received the designation Soyuz-PPK. This version of the "Union" designers decided to equip the batteries of the 8 small missiles "space-to-space", all the rockets placed in the bow of the ship. This concept involved the destruction of the spacecraft of a potential enemy without reconnaissance. The ship was not very different from the civilian versions of the Soyuz in size, its length was 6,5 meters, the diameter was 2,7 meters, and the habitable volume of the ship was calculated for two cosmonauts and was 13 cubic meters. The total mass of the space interceptor was estimated at 6,7 tons.
Simultaneously with the work on the creation of the Soyuz-PPK interceptor in Kuibyshev, work was being done on the creation of an orbital reconnaissance aircraft, called the High-altitude explorer. This ship was also known under the designation 7K-VI and was developed in the framework of the project with the code designation "Star". The basis was still the civilian Soyuz 7K-OK, but the filling of the ship was completely different. The military ship 7K-VI was supposed to carry out visual observation of the enemy’s satellites, conduct photo-intelligence, and, if necessary, hit the enemy’s spacecraft. At the same time, work was also being done on the creation of the Soyuz-R warship in the reconnaissance version.
Remote cosmonaut of the Soyuz 7K-VI military spacecraft
Already in 1965, the projects 7K-P and 7K-PPK were decided to close. The reason was that in OKB-52, which was headed by prominent Soviet designer Vladimir Chelomey, in parallel, they worked on the creation of a fully automatic fighter jet of IP satellites, the concept of which was more suited to the Ministry of Defense. After this, the main theme of the Kuibyshev branch No.3 of OKB-1 was the project of the reconnaissance spacecraft 7К-Р. It was planned that the "Soyuz-R" will become a full-fledged orbital station of small size, on which a complex of equipment will be installed for conducting radio intelligence, as well as photo intelligence. The prototype for the ship was once again the base model of the Soyuz, first of all its instrument-unit compartment, but instead of the descent and home compartments it was planned to install an orbital compartment, with the target equipment installed. But this idea was not realized by the Soviet designers. The project of the Soyuz-R reconnaissance spacecraft lost the competition of the Almaz reconnaissance station, which was chosen by the competition commission and supported by representatives of the Scientific and Technical Council of the USSR Ministry of Defense. At the same time, all the developments of the Progress plant in Kuibyshev under the Soyuz-R project were transferred to the OKB-52 for further work on the Almaz project.
"Union 7-VI" and the program "Star"
The longest of the military options for using the Soyuz spacecraft was the project of the high-altitude explorer 7K-VI. The Star program was initiated on 24 August 1965. The Soviet leadership forced the flight of the American spacecraft Gemini-4, which took place in June of the same year, to accelerate work on the creation of military orbital systems for various purposes. The flight of the Americans alerted the political and military leadership of the USSR, since in addition to the scientific and technical program, the crew of the Gemini-4 spacecraft made a series of experiments in the interests of the Pentagon. Among other things, the crew observed launches of ballistic missiles, photographed the Earth’s surface on the night and day sides, and also in practice worked out a process of approaching the space object, which was the second stage of the American Titan II rocket. In fact, it was an imitation of the inspection of the satellites of a potential enemy.
Model of the ship 7K-VI. Photos were taken in the branch №3 OKB-1 in 1967 year. Photo: TsSKB-Progress
At the first stage of the Star program, the military unit 7K-VI was not much different from the civil manned ship 7К-ОК. The ship also consisted of three compartments, which were installed one after the other in the same sequence. However, in 1966, the leading designer of the Progress plant, Dmitry Kozlov, decided to completely revise the project. A new version of the military researcher suggested a change of layout, the descent vehicle and the orbital compartment should be swapped. After the changes, the capsule with the astronauts was placed on top. Under the astronauts' seats there was a hatch leading down to the cylindrical orbital compartment, the compartment itself increased in size. The crew of the ship was to consist of two people, the maximum mass - 6,6 tons.
A distinctive feature of the new military "Union" was the presence of weapons in the form of a fast 23-mm automatic Nudelman-Richter X-gun, which was adapted for use in space. The gun was mounted on top of the descent vehicle. The designers adapted the tool to work in vacuum conditions. The main purpose of the automatic cannon was to protect the military researcher from interceptor satellites and ship inspectors of a potential enemy. To aim the automatic cannon at the target, the crew had to turn the entire ship, and to aim, use the sight. Especially for testing the possibility of using the gun in space, large-scale tests were carried out on a dynamic stand specially built for this purpose. Tests have confirmed the possibility of using the gun in space, the return from the shooting would not lead to somersaults of the 23K-VI apparatus.
Model of the ship 7K-VI. Photos were taken in the branch №3 OKB-1 in 1967 year. Photo: TsSKB-Progress
The main device of the ship 7K-VI was supposed to be an optical visor OSK-4 with a camera. Vizir planned to install on the side window and use for military research. With his help, the astronaut could observe and photograph the surface of our planet. Also in the side window could accommodate special equipment designed to monitor the launch of ballistic missiles called "Lead". Feature of the design was the rejection of the use of solar panels. Kozlov decided to abandon this heavy and large structure, which was constantly necessary to focus on the sun. Instead, it was planned to install two radioisotope thermogenerators on board the military "Union". The electrical energy required to power the systems of the ship was converted from the heat generated during the radioactive decay of plutonium.
Despite some success, the project “Star” was also not brought to its logical conclusion. Even in spite of the fact that by the middle of 1967, a wooden model of the future ship was made in Kuibyshev, and they also worked on a draft design and assembled a full-size model 7К-VI. At the same time, the date of the first flight of the new military ship was approved - the end of 1968 of the year. However, in January 1968, the project was closed. The initiator of the Zvezda program closing was V. P. Mishin, who held the post of chief designer of TsKBEM - Central Design Bureau of Experimental Mechanical Engineering (this was how OKB-1966 was called from 1 onwards). Mishin's arguments were quite convincing, the designer noted that it was not worth duplicating the already existing ship 7K-OK, which could always be improved up to the installation of weapons and solve the same tasks. At the same time, one of the main reasons could be the unwillingness of engineers and the management of TsKBEM to lose the monopoly on manned flights.