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Almaz OPS-2
Part of Almaz Family

Almaz with Gun

Almaz with Gun
Unique photograph of the ventral single-barrel gun mounting no the Almaz (the brown-wrapped assembly at the lower left of the image). This mixed-configuration full-scale article seems to be equipped with mock-ups of the SLAR antenna of phase 2 Almaz but without the forward docking port for Soyuz/TKS operations.
Credit: Dave Anderman

Russian manned space station. Configuration with two docking ports, one at each end of the station. Cancelled 1979. The initial Almaz military space station program planned in 1965 consisted of two phases. In the second phase sustained operations would be conducted with Almaz dual-docking port stations serviced by TKS manned resupply vehicles.

AKA: 11F71; OPS-2. Status: Cancelled 1979. Thrust: 7.84 kN (1,763 lbf). Gross mass: 18,500 kg (40,700 lb). Specific impulse: 291 s.

Almaz flights were delayed in 1970 when resources were diverted in a crash program to modify Almaz into the civilian Salyut space station in order to upstage the American Skylab. Almaz first phase flights finally took place in 1973-1977. Four Soyuz crews successfully visited two Almaz stations. Second phase flights of Almaz-2 stations and TKS were to be flown in 1981-1982. Unmanned flight tests of the TKS, its VA re-entry capsule, and construction of dual-port Almaz stations were completed, but Phase 2 was cancelled in 1979. The nearly-complete second phase Almaz stations were converted into automated Almaz-T reconnaissance platforms.

On 1 January 1965 the decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers 'On work on space stations at OKB-52' was issued. This defined Almaz as an OOS - Manned Orbital Station - in specific reply to the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. Two phases of the project - RKK (Rocket-spacecraft complex, the entire system including the Proton UR-500K launch vehicle) A and RKK B were planned. The decree authorized Chelomei to proceed immediately with build of the Almaz RKK 'A' version. Flight of the first Almaz RKK-A was set for 1968. The draft project for the RKK-B, with three crew, 1 to 2 year life, was to be completed by 21 June 1967.

The second phase of the project was defined as the RKK-B / OPS+TKS, with a one year active life. Crews would be rotated by TKS ferry spacecraft to the OPS orbital station. Both the OPS and TKS would be equipped with VA re-entry capsules. Almaz OPS itself was to weigh 17.8 metric tons, with 100 cubic meters of total internal volume, while the TKS ferry came in at 17.5 metric tons and 45 cubic meters. The OPS and TKS were each equipped with a VA re-entry capsule, with a mass of 4.2 metric tons each. The complete complex provided a grand total of 89.4 cubic meters of habitable volume for six crew. The TKS had enough guidance, consumables, and electricity to dock dozens of times with the station. It could also maneuver independently. The VA capsules were designed for ten reuses. Almaz was designed to accomplish both scientific and military research.

All together RKK-B Almaz was designated the PRKK (Piloted Rocket Space Complex). It consisted of the OPS (Almaz), the TKS, the VA's, and KSI's (Special Information Capsules - small capsules for returning film and experiment results from orbit). Three to four dockings of the TKS would rotate crews and bring fresh supplies to the station. Phase B was to last 5 to 6 years.

Development of Almaz phase 1 continued with various changes in configuration. The entire Almaz project was delayed when the DOS civilian station was created after the moon project failed. Chelomei was forced to work on DOS, and it severely impacted Almaz schedules.

On 5 May 1970 Smirnov and Afanasyev settled the future course of manned spaceflight at a DOS project review. Almaz and DOS would continue in the short term, but Mishin's enormous MKBS station would follow in earth orbit. Mishin's attempt to replace Almaz with his DOS-A design was defeated.

With this support Chelomei was able to finally obtain a formal go-ahead for development of the TKS ferry. On 16 June 1970 Decree 437-160 'On creation of the TKS and termination of the 7K-TK' was issued. The Soyuz 7K-TK would be replaced by Chelomei's own TKS transport-supply spacecraft. The TKS would transport three crew and sufficient supplies for 90 days operation of the Almaz. TKS design was to be completed in fourth quarter 1972.

Following three successful Skylab missions and the failures of one Almaz and two DOS stations came the shocking news that Mishin had been authorized to build a new-design fifth DOS station using Almaz facilities. Chelomei wrote a bitter letter to Afanasyev on 28 December 1973. He noted that the K-00534 TTT requirements for Almaz of the Ministry of Defense envisioned a two phase program. Instead his Khrunichev ZIKh factory was hijacked for DOS production. Now it had been further assigned to build DOS-5 for Mishin. Therefore, he concluded that the first phase of Almaz could not be completed. He asked Afanasyev how to resolve this situation.

It was clear that the phased development plan for Almaz was wrecked. But things turned again in Chelomei's favor. In August 1974 the N1 launch vehicle was cancelled and Mishin was removed as head of Korolev's design bureau. This meant that the MKBS was cancelled as well and the way was now clear for the TKS with an Almaz phase 2 station.

A Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 476-13 'On course of work on Almaz and the TKS' was issued on 19 January 1976. Six full-up TKS flight spacecraft were originally planned, together with nine separate unpiloted launches of the VA capsule. Two unmanned TKS flights would be followed by four manned missions (later changed to five manned flights). The decree set forth the following program for Almaz Phase 2:

  • First quarter 1976 - Unmanned flight tests of VA capsule
  • Second quarter 1976 - Completion of draft project of OPS with two docking ports for service by rotating crews
  • End 1976 - Unmanned flight tests of TKS
  • End 1977 - First flight test of Almaz-2 OPS-4 with two docking ports with return capsule on front port
  • End 1978 - Manned TKS flights to OPS-4
  • End 1980 - Acceptance into service of OPS/TKS/VA systems

However soon after this decree was issued Marshal Grechko suffered a heart attack. With this Chelomei lost his most active patron and was unable to withstand the slow strangulation of his projects by Ustinov and Glushko.

At the end of Almaz Phase 1 a state commission reviewed the results. The P-100 antenna demonstrated radio communications and photo television transmission of information to within 4 deg of the horizon (7 deg specification) at ranges of up to 1500 km . Photographic resolution was 15 to 20 lines/mm. The Pechora-1 television imagery transmission system worked well. All communications demonstrated, including: relay of data via Molniya-1 satellite when the station was out of sight of the USSR; automated processing of telemetry; and clear television downlink to the TsUP ground control center and Ostankino tracking center. Stage 1 trials were therefore declared to be successfully completed and decrees 46-13 of 19 January 1976 and 534-165 of 27 July 1996 allowed long-term use of station to proceed. Articles 104 and 105 released for use as production Almaz-2 stations.

However the overall results of the Salyut 3 and 5 flights were said to have demonstrated to the Soviet military that manned reconnaissance was not worth the expense. There was minimal time to operate the equipment after the crew took the necessary time for maintenance of station housekeeping and environmental control systems. The experiments themselves showed good results and especially the value of reconnaissance of the same location in many different spectral bands and parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. However this technology could best be exploited on unmanned satellites.

Despite negative evaluations in some quarters of the Ministry of Defense, development and construction of Almaz-2 and TKS continued. Manufacture of the OPS-4 station began at the Khrunichev factory in June 1975, with completion planned for November 1978. On 10 December 1976 the first Proton 82LB72 VA test vehicle was placed on the pad. This would begin a sequence of unmanned tests of the VA re-entry capsules. The first complete TKS was delivered to Baikonur at the beginning of 1977 and launched on 17 July 1977 as Cosmos 929. The TKS maneuvered extensively, making orbital altitude changes equivalent to a total of nearly 300 m/s of delta V.

However development of the TKS was given second priority to construction of additional DOS civilian stations by V Bugaiskiy (chief designer of NPO Mashinostroyeniya's Branch Number 1 in Fili, responsible for the FGB module). The Fili branch had developed close ties with NPO Energia and as a result of their collaboration on the DOS program. It was only after Bugaiskiy's replacement by D Polukhin that the TKS program was accelerated. But the damage had been done - by the time Almaz 104 would be ready for launch the TKS would still not be man-rated.

Meanwhile configuration changes were underway with the phase 2 Almaz. Almaz OPS-4 was originally to be built with a single docking port for the TKS. The first TKS launched to the station would also have carried life support systems that were deleted from the station, allowing the Almaz to be fitted with its own VA return capsule. The lack of a guaranteed man-rated TKS to support the planned OPS-4 flight date resulted in a last-minute revision to the station. The station would have to be capable of being supported initially by crews transported in the existing Soyuz spacecraft. Therefore the VA return capsule was deleted from OPS-4 and in its place a Soyuz docking port was built. OPS 104 would be launched with a Soyuz docking port forward and a TKS docking port aft.

But at the beginning of 1978 project funding was cut back and the first launch further delayed, meaning a crewed TKS could make the first flight after all. In December 1978 four TsKBM cosmonaut engineers were selected and began training for missions to Almaz OPS-4.

The final revised flight plan for Almaz OPS-4 was as follows:

  • December 1980: Launch of Almaz-2 OPS-4
  • January 1981: TKS-1: Planned first manned flight of the TKS. Crew Berezovoi, Glazkov, Makrushin. Would have docked with the Almaz OPS-4 military space station, three month duration.
  • April 1981: TKS-2: Second manned TKS flight to OPS-4, four month duration. Crew Kozelsky, Artyukhin, Romanov.
  • August 1981: TKS-3: Third TKS flight to OPS-4 military space station, crew Sarafanov, Preobrazhensky, Yuyukov.
  • April 1982: Soyuz Almaz 4: Soyuz flight to dock with the Almaz OPS 4 space station, crew Malyshev, Laveykin.

This was the last iteration of the full-time manned Almaz program. At the end of 1978 it was decided to consolidate the Almaz and DOS projects into a single Mir space station. The existing Almaz-2 spaceframes would be converted into man-tended automatic radar reconnaissance satellites. OPS-4 11F71 s/n 106 at that point was already in electrical tests preparatory to shipment to Baikonur for launch. Instead it remained on the ground.

OPS-4 systems would have been similar to those of Salyut 3 and 5 (see Almaz OPS for full technical description), with the major addition of side-looking radar antennae for all weather observation of the earth's surface and the major deletion of the Agat-1 reconnaissance camera. A range of military anti-satellite and anti-ballistic missile sensors, later flown aboard the TKS Cosmos 1686 to Salyut 7, were originally to have been ferried by TKS spacecraft to Almaz. These included an infrared telescope and the Ozon spectrometer. The TKS was also capable of refueling the station, which required some changes to the Almaz engine system compared to the first generation models.

OPS-4 was to be equipped with the Mech-A side-looking radar. The large folded antenna array for this system was mounted on the forward cylinder of the station. The vast amounts of digital data generated by the radar would be transmitted to the ground directly or via relay satellites using the Biryuza data transmission system with the Aist antenna. The large Agat-1 optical reconnaissance system was deleted and OPS-2 was equipped only with the ASA-34 topographic camera to provide optical correlation of the ground areas imaged by the radar system. For self-defense against the American space shuttle OPS-4 was equipped with the Nudelman Shchit-2 space-to-space gun, an improved version of the weapon carried on the Almaz OPS-1 stations.

At the time of cancellation, design work had begun on OPS-5 (designated "Zvezda"), which would be equipped with docking ports for TKS vehicles at both ends of the station.

Crew Size: 3.

Family: Space station, Space station orbit. Country: Russia. Engines: RD-0225. Launch Vehicles: Proton, Proton-K. Propellants: N2O4/UDMH. Agency: Chelomei bureau, MOM. Bibliography: 439, 443, 445, 474, 76.

1972 June 15 - . LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K.
  • Almaz / TKS project rescheduled. - . Nation: Russia. Spacecraft: Almaz OPS, Almaz OPS-2, TKS. Ministry of General Machine Building (MOM) Decree 'On schedule of work for the Almaz and TKS programs' was issued..

1976 January 19 - .
  • Almaz / TKS flight tests approved. - . Nation: Russia. Spacecraft: Almaz OPS, Almaz OPS-2, TKS. Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 46-13 'On course of work on Almaz and the TKS' was issued..

1978 - During the year - .
  • Manned Almaz program terminated - . Nation: Russia. Related Persons: Chelomei, Glushko, Ustinov. Program: Almaz. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Spacecraft: Almaz OPS-2, TKS.

    Almaz station portion of the project already severely cut back after Marshal Grechko's heart attack in early 1976. Chelomei lost his most active patron and was unable to withstand the slow strangulation of his projects by Ustinov and Glushko. Almaz finally completely scrapped in 1980, but Chelomei hid the completed space stations in a corner of his complex, labelling them as 'radioactive material'. Chelomei finally forced to retire in October 1983. TKS shuttle craft used to dock with Salyut stations but never in manned mode. Following Ustinov's death, Almaz stations finally flown as unmanned radarsats, but Chelomei did not live to see this.

1979 February - .
  • Almaz cancelled and consolidated with Mir - . Nation: Russia. Related Persons: Chelomei. Spacecraft: Almaz OPS-2, Mir, TKS.

    Following the decision to cancel Chelomei's manned Almaz military space station programme, a resolution consolidated the programs, with the Mir docking ports to be reinforced to accommodate 20 tonne space station modules based on Chelomei's TKS manned ferry spacecraft. NPO Energia was made responsible for the overall space station, but subcontracted the work to KB Salyut due to the press of in-house work on Energia, Salyut 7, Soyuz-T, and Progress. The subcontractor began work in the summer of 1979.

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