The fate of "Almaz"
Almost forty years have passed since the Soviet military space station Almaz was put into operation in a manned mode. True, it should be noted right away that the station launched into space is the “Almaz”, as well as what it was actually intended for, the public learned much later. And then, in 1974, an official statement was made about the launch of an orbital station called Salyut-3, at which Soviet cosmonauts were engaged in conducting research and experiments exclusively for peaceful purposes.
Scientists have long dreamed of a time when it would be possible to arrange entire space settlements in orbit around the planet. One of the first scientists who described in detail not so much the space station as the living conditions at this station was K. Tsiolkovsky.
Back in 1923, the German scientist Obert Herman published his article entitled “Rocket in the Planetary Space”. In this work, for the first time, suggestions were made regarding the creation of a manned space station to conduct observations of the Earth and meteorological changes, use it as a communications satellite, and a gas station for spacecraft. The scientist was convinced that it was necessary to create artificial gravity on board the station in order for the crew to work normally.
Five years after the appearance of Hermann’s work, in 1928, a large number of articles appeared in one of the German editions, which were devoted to orbital stations. The author of all these works was Guido von Pirke. Unlike the work of Herman. In these articles there was not a single proposal regarding the design of the station itself, but they presented a serious analysis of the necessary characteristics that a spacecraft must possess in order to make a successful flight to the planets and to near-Earth orbit.
In 1928, even a whole book appeared, completely devoted to orbital stations. Its author was the captain of the Austrian army, Potochnik, who took the pseudonym Herman Nordung. The author was convinced that the station should have in its structure three compartments (residential compartment, observatory and power plant), interconnected by means of air hoses and electrical cables. The book also proposed to launch a space laboratory into orbit with an orbital period equal to 24 hours.
By the way, in most of the books on space flight that appeared in 30-s, space stations were mentioned. But at the same time, most of the authors were confident that the appearance of stations would be possible only if the person was able to go beyond the atmosphere. Therefore, they paid little attention, but the main problem was how to overcome gravity.
Then the Second World War began, which forced scientists to abandon orbital stations for a long six years. And during this period of time references to them could be found only in science fiction books. Thanks to this, after the war, specialists returned to the idea of creating an orbital station. And the real features of these ideas began to acquire with the advent of the space age.
In the Soviet Union, one of the first developments in this area was the program to create a manned orbital station called Almaz, the concept of which was formulated at the beginning of October 1964 during the meeting of the enterprise management by the Designer of the OKB-52 Vladimir Chelomey. It was assumed that the station will solve defense, scientific and national economic problems. However, first of all, the designer saw in it a powerful enough tool for conducting operational space reconnaissance.
On October 27, 1965, an order of the Minister of General Machine Building of the Soviet Union appeared. At the same time, work began on the creation of the system. The project of the station in a draft version was completed in 1966. At the same time, the Ministry of Defense chose Almaz to be implemented as an intelligence system. And the Resolution of the Council of Ministers and the Central Committee of the CPSU of August 14, 1967 determined the timing of development and tactical and technical calculations.
Initially, it was planned to launch the station together with the return vehicle for the crew. This solution had a great advantage, because the work on board could begin immediately. But it soon became obvious that this option also had a very significant drawback - the presence of a heavy vehicle as part of the station significantly reduced the weight of reconnaissance equipment, which was necessary for research.
Therefore, in the end, the final draft design of "Almaz" consisted of a base unit without a returnable vehicle, as well as a transport supply ship, which was equipped with this device. The project was approved in 1967 by the Inter-Agency Commission.
It should be noted that all the equipment that was developed for the complex was the most complex and advanced at that time. So, for example, as the main means of observation, it was planned to make a unique camera, with a diameter of mirrors of the order of 2 meters and a focal length of about 10 meters.
It was assumed that "Almaz" will operate in a manned mode. And the crew will change every three months. Three cosmonauts worked in stages. At the first stage, one of the astronauts worked with a camera, the other one was engaged in training on simulators, and the third rested. A shift took place every 8 hours. In addition, the transport supply ship was supposed to deliver necessary supplies to the station, in particular, food, water, photographic film. While the ship was still in the manufacturing process, these functions were planned to be assigned to the Soyuz ship.
While developing their station, Soviet specialists were well aware that in the United States of America at the same time they were engaged in the creation of satellite interceptors and satellite inspectors. Therefore, the developers of "Diamond" began to think about the need to create protection against enemy attacks. The station was equipped aviation Nudelman-Richter PR-23 cannon, firing range of which was about 3 kilometers, and rate of fire - about 950 rounds per minute. At the same time, in space, recoil during shooting was compensated by the inclusion of rigid orientation engines or marching engines. This gun was exclusively a defense tool, and use it as weapons no one planned to attack the space stations and ships of the enemy. Besides, it was very difficult to do that. Therefore, in the documents there is only one mention of the real test of the gun. This happened at the end of January 1975, when all the programs were completed aboard the Almaz-2 (Salyut-3) station. Then the only salvo was given.
But this is later, because at the end of 60's, the flight of the Salyut-3 was not even dreamed of. Then the main were a few other questions. At the beginning of the 1970 of the year, two flight and eight stand station blocks were manufactured, and in addition, on-board systems were actively tested. The cosmonaut training for Almaz, which was held at the Cosmonaut Training Center, was started.
The first group of astronauts for the station was formed in 1966 year. Its structure included L. Demin, L. Vorobyev, V. Lazarev and A. Matinchenko. The group was headed by the Soviet pilot-cosmonaut P. Belyaev, who by that time had already been in space on the "Rise-2". However, since at that time Almaz existed only on paper, the preparation was theoretical.
In 1968, V.Rozhdestvensky, V.Preobrazhensky, A.Fyodorov, V.Scheglov, E.Hludeev and O.Yakovlev were also included in the group of cosmonauts for Almaz, and at the end of the same year G.Dobrovolsky and V. Zholobov. The following year, V. Isakov, S. Gaidukov, V. Kozelsky joined the group. P. Popovich became the head of the cosmonaut training center. In 1970, he was replaced by G. Shonin, and V. Alekseev, Y. Glazkov, M. Burdaev, V. Zudov, A. Petrushenko, M. Lisun, G. Sarafanov, N. Porvatkin were transferred to the “diamond” group. , Estepanov.
Thus, at the beginning of 1971, the "diamond" group became the most numerous in the center of military astronauts for the entire period of its existence. This is testimony to the great importance attached to this top-secret military program. In the future, the crews were constantly changing, so there is no possibility to talk about all of them.
As for the creation of the complex itself, it was carried out in difficult conditions. That is why among the main issues that worried the military was the problem of prompt delivery of reconnaissance data to Earth. For such purposes, the use of a transport ship was not very convenient, because the timing of their landings did not often coincide with military needs.
To solve this problem, the development of “information descent capsules” was started, which, as most specialists believed, could become exactly the object for which the entire station was built. The crew had to equip the capsule with a film, and shoot it through the launch chamber at the right moment. Processing of the film was carried out in terrestrial conditions.
At first glance, everything looked as if everything was provided for in the Almaz project: acceptable working conditions, powerful intelligence equipment, and a means of prompt information delivery. Moreover, the rocket, which was supposed to bring the station into space, had long been ready and successfully flown.
But in 1970, at the time when Almaz was almost ready, some work on the complex was transferred to RSC Energia (at that time - TsKBEM). This enterprise hastily engaged in the creation of a long-term orbital station, which, under the name Salyut, opened the era of orbital stations. A work on the "Diamond" stopped. For this reason, the further fate of the complex was not very favorable. However, in 1973, the first orbital station "Almaz" was ready. She was taken to Baikonur. And so that the likely opponents (read - the Americans) did not guess what the true purpose of the device was, he decided to assign the name "Salyut-2".
Initially it was planned that the crew would be sent into space ten days after the flight of the station. However, just before the start of the launch, Energia received an urgent message that the start was postponed for technical reasons. What exactly these reasons were, is still unknown. Since the launch vehicle was already fueled, the management decided not to delay the launch, but instead to extend the duration of the autonomous flight of the station. Thus, 3 on April 1973, the orbital station "Almaz", which was called the "Salute-2", was put into orbit. For two weeks, it was successfully in space, but on the night of April 15 there was a depressurization of the compartments, and soon telemetry data stopped. The unit itself began to rapidly lose height. There are suggestions that the depressurization occurred as a result of the station’s collision with debris of space debris, which arose due to the explosion of fuel residues in the third stage of the Proton-K launch vehicle, by means of which the station was delivered into orbit. Understandably, in the current situation, the start of the crew was canceled. And in late April, the station generally burned down in dense layers of the atmosphere. Therefore, the crew that was preparing to fly to the Salyut-2, began preparations for the flight to the Salyut-3.
The first operational model of the Almaz military station was launched under the name of the third Salyut. This happened on 25 June 1974 of the year. And on July 4, the first crew of Yu.Artyukhin and P.Popovich arrived on board. For two weeks they worked on board the Almaz, and then returned to Earth. The flight went relatively well. The second crew of G.Sarafanov and L.Demin launched 15 July on board the Soyuz-15. They also had to dock with the military station and work on its board for 25 days. However, this time everything went wrong. When the long-distance approach was started on the second day, the astronauts realized that the propulsion system was working with large disruptions: instead of acceleration, braking and vice versa. No attempt to fix the engine failed. In addition, the fuel supply was running out. Therefore, the astronauts decided to start negotiations with the Earth, in the end they received an order to prepare for landing. But further events developed adversely. When the brake motor was already ready to be turned on, the gyroscopes began to spin. The cosmonauts were monitoring the on-board stopwatch and ammeter, when suddenly the ammeter began to go off-scale. People were well aware that the landing might not work, but decided to take the risk. They were lucky: the engine was able to push the ship out of orbit. And even the thunderstorm during landing seemed to cosmonauts a real trifle. As a result, after the landing was conducted debriefing. It is clear that the crew members were made guilty, although in reality they themselves were victims of circumstances. After the failure, the operation of the Salyut-3 spacecraft in the manned mode was discontinued, and the flight on the Soyuz-16 by V. Zholobov and B. Volynov was canceled.
The launch of the new “Almaz” took place on June 22 1976 of the year. This time it was called Salut-5. Two crews worked on board the ship: Soyuz-21, V. Zholobov and B. Volynov, and Soyuz-24, Yu. Glazkov and V. Gorbatko. However, as in the previous time, work on board the ship was not without problems.
The Soyuz-21 ship launched at the launch of July 6 1976. He was supposed to be in space 60 days. Moreover, the military wanted to increase the flight duration to 90 days, but this was impossible to do for objective reasons. The flight of the ship was reconnaissance, so the astronauts' tasks included regular replacement of the film in the camera and its development. During the first month of work, everything was fine, if you do not take into account the unpleasant smell in the branches of the station. The astronauts were confident that the reason for it lies in the release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere, as well as in the material of the ship's inner skin. In addition, it did not affect the daily work. However, troubles soon began. On the 42-th day, an alarm signal suddenly sounded, the lights and most of the on-board instruments turned off. The astronauts did not understand what was happening and how serious it could be. The situation worsened by the minute. The system of air regeneration ceased to work, and the oxygen reserves remained less and less. Despite this, the crew members managed to bring the ship back to normal.
But the accident could not pass without a trace. Zholobova began to torment headaches and insomnia. No drug that was in the first-aid kit did not help. Every day the astronaut was getting worse. For a certain period of time, nothing was reported about Zholobov's illness, but soon in one of the sessions the astronaut himself complained of indisposition. Negotiations began, which resulted in an order to return on the 49 day.
When analyzing the flight, many suggestions were made regarding what actually happened on board the ship. Most were inclined to think that the crew was psychologically incompatible, and that by the end of the second month in space, the crew had quarreled so much with each other that some even began to think about using weapons. Nevertheless, it is always much easier to blame everything on the human factor than to make efforts and secure flights.
The next flight of "Almaz" took place in October of the same 1976 of the year. The crew consisting of V.Zudov and V.Rozhdestvensky was supposed to conduct atmospheric research and also to check the serviceability of the station’s life support systems. And only after that it was possible to start two-month reconnaissance work on board the ship. On the next day after the launch, the station and the ship began to converge. Everything went according to schedule, the equipment worked without fail. But when between objects there were about two hundred meters, what happened was a big surprise for the crew and for the leadership on Earth: the parameters of the ship’s movement relative to the station, included in the program, did not coincide with the real values. All this was the reason for the acceleration of management processes, which required immediate intervention. Since the instrumentation was not working properly, the order was given to cancel the docking and prepare to return. Two days later, the ship, descending from orbit, made a landing on Lake Tengiz (by the way, the only thing history Soviet cosmonautics). For nine hours, the astronauts waited until they were rescued from the descent vehicle, which ran aground.
Next on the station were visited Yu. Glazkov and V. Gorbatko. Later it was planned that another expedition consisting of A. Berezoviy and M. Lisun would go to the station. The start was planned for March 1977 of the year. However, due to certain circumstances, the operation in the manned mode "Salyut-5" was discontinued, and in early August 1977, the station sank in the Pacific Ocean.
So ended the history of the orbital station called "Diamond". Of course, there were projects of the second generation station, stipulated by the decision of the Council of Ministers and the Central Committee of the CPSU of the Soviet Union, but this is a completely different story.
[media = https: //www.youtube.com/watch? v = kjOA6qwJ9AY]
- Valery Boval