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Soyuz VI
Part of Soyuz
Soyuz VI
Soyuz VI
Soyuz VI. Forward view showing Soyuz descent module located ahead of cylindrical orbital work compartment.
Russian manned combat spacecraft. Cancelled 1965. To determine the usefulness of manned military space flight, two projects were pursued in the second half of the 1960's.

AKA: 11F73;7K-VI. Status: Cancelled 1965. Gross mass: 6,700 kg (14,700 lb). Height: 8.00 m (26.20 ft).

Chelomei's Almaz was to conduct orbital research into the usefulness of manned observation of the earth, while Kozlov's Soyuz VI would conduct military research. Soyuz VI was developed form the original Soyuz draft project. The standard Soyuz solved problems of docking, EVA, orbital assembly, while the VI was designed in response to a TTZ to solve military aspects - manned earth observation, orbital inspection and destruction of enemy satellites. But by the beginning of the 1970's flight tests had provided convincing evidence that near-earth operations were better suited to solution of national economic problems than military ones. So the Soyuz VI was cancelled.

Kozlov was already developing military versions of the Soyuz. During 1963 to 1964 OKB-1 Kaliningrad had concentrated on development of the Soyuz-A circumlunar spacecraft, while the military projects Soyuz-P and Soyuz-R were 'subcontracted' to OKB-1 filial number 3, based in Samara (then Kuibishev), headed by Chief Designer Dmitri Ilyich Kozlov. For Kozlov development of military spacecraft was nothing new. In 1961 he completed the technical documentation for the serial production of the photo reconnaissance satellite 11F61 Zenit-2, and from 1964, Filial 3 undertook development of the 11F69 Zenit-4 reconnaissance satellite from draft project to production. Samara was also responsible for future development and production support of derivatives of the R-7 family of launch vehicles.

KB Kozlov began active development of these military versions of the Soyuz in 1964. New versions of the R-7 launch vehicle, the 11A511 and 11A514, were put into development to support their launch. However both spacecraft would ultimately be cancelled and replaced by projects of Korolev's competitor, Chelomei (the IS unmanned anti-satellite replaced the Soyuz-P and the Almaz space station replaced the Soyuz-R).

In June 1965 Gemini 4 conducted the first American manned military experiments. The crew tested the military utility of manned photographic and visual reconnaissance of the earth from orbit through observation of ground test patterns and ballistic missile launches. They also tested rendezvous and orbital inspection techniques. At the same time the US Air Force's Manned Orbital Laboratory was on the verge of being given its final go-ahead. These events caused a bit of a panic among the Soviet military, where the Soyuz-R and Almaz projects were in the very earliest stages of design and would not fly until 1968 and the earliest.

In the first part of August 1965 VPK Head Leonid Smirnov ordered that urgent measures be taken to test manned military techniques in orbit at the earliest possible date. Modifications were to be made to the Voskhod and Soyuz 7K-LOK spacecraft to assess the military utility of manned visual and photographic reconnaissance; inspection of enemy satellites from orbit; attacking enemy spacecraft; and obtaining early warning of nuclear attack. These directions were embodied in the Central Party resolution of 24 August 1965, which instructed Kozlov's KB to fly by 1967 a military research variant of OKB-1's Soyuz 7K-OK 11F615. The new spacecraft was designated the 7K-VI by Kozlov and had the project code name 'Zvezda'.

Initially the instructions were followed and the 7K-VI was not very different from the 7K-OK. It used the same structure, and had the modules in the same sequence. The standard Soyuz orbital module would have the military research equipment installed in it. But in the beginning of 1967 Kozlov decreed a complete revision of the design. On the first orbital launch of the 7K-OK in November 1966 a large number of failures occurred, indicating many problems in design and quality control. The spacecraft was uncontrollable and was finally destroyed by the on-board APO destruct system.

On the second launch attempt on 14 December, the Soyuz incorrectly detected a failure of the launch vehicle at 27 seconds into the flight. The launch escape system was activated, pulling the capsule away from the vehicle. Analysis of the failure indicated numerous problems in the design of the escape system.

In order not to inherit the problems of the Soyuz, Kozlov ordered a complete redesign of the 7K-VI. In the first quarter of 1967 the revised design was issued. The new spacecraft, with a crew of two, would have a total mass of 6.6 metric tons and could operate for a month in orbit. However the 11A511 launch vehicle could only put 6.3 metric tons into the design orbit. This would limit the crew to one. However the military objected to this. A second cosmonaut, without a spacesuit, but with life support systems and consumables would take another 400 kg of payload. In order to meet the military requirements, Kozlov designed a new variant of the Soyuz launch vehicle, the 11A511M Soyuz-M. The project as reformulated was approved by the central committee on 21 July 1967 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, with first flight to be in 1968 and operations to begin in 1969.

The new version switched the positions of the Soyuz descent module and the orbital module. The descent module was now at the top of the spacecraft. Behind the seats was a hatch for access to the cylindrical orbital section, which was larger than that on the standard Soyuz. The crew of the spacecraft was two, as required by the military. Unlike other models of the Soyuz, the crew seats were not arranged in a row against the bottom of the pressure cabin, but in tandem. This allowed the instruments to be arranged about the sidewalls of the capsule. According to some reports, ejection seats were fitted and the Soyuz escape tower was eliminated.

Above the descent module was a recoilless gun developed by the well known Soviet designer A E Nudelman. It was designed for shooting in a vacuum and defending the military research spacecraft from enemy satellite inspector and interceptor satellites. The gun was aimed by maneuvering the entire spacecraft. A special gunsight was installed in the descent module for aiming the gun. A difficult technical problem for the designers was how to fire the gun without putting the Zvezda into uncontrollable somersaults. To solve the problem a special dynamic stand was constructed - a platform on air bearings. In it was installed a dummy 7K-VI with an optical gunsight. Tests with the stand proved that the cosmonaut could aim the spacecraft with a minimum expenditure of fuel, keep the spacecraft pointed at the desired target, and that the firing itself would not put the spacecraft into any gyrations that the cosmonaut could not cope with using manual control.

It was also considered to equip the SA with a docking collar. This would allow the spacecraft to dock with the Almaz space station. The docked configuration 11F73 7K-VI and 11F71 OPS Almaz was given the official index number 11F711.

A point of concern was the cutting of the hatch through the heat shield of the capsule. Mishin, Chief Designer of Kozlov's parent office in Kaliningrad, was concerned that this would cause problems during re-entry. The engineers at Samara proved that it would not have any negative effects. As later proved by testing of such hatches in the Gemini 2 and TKS VA re-entry vehicles, they were correct.

Installed in the orbital module were various instruments for military research. At a lateral position was a radar illuminator slaved to the main instrument - the optical sight OSK-4 and its photo apparatus. A cosmonaut would aim the sight at targets on earth's surface from a special bicycle-like aiming saddle. Also installed on the illuminator was the Svinets apparatus for observing the launch of ballistic missiles. On the exterior of the orbital module were long booms with direction finders for radio-location of enemy satellites and ELINT.

Another innovation on the Zvezda was the use of nuclear radioisotope thermal power generators (RTG's). Kozlov considered the use of solar panels, but rejected them for numerous reasons:

Therefore RTG's, fuelled with plutonium, were selected. Because of the valuable nature of the fuel, and to prevent release of radioactive material on re-entry or in case of accidents, the RTG capsules were mounted in re-entry capsules and were actually located outside of the payload shroud during launch. They were to be recovered and reused after each flight, and could be ejected in emergencies.

The final layout of the 7K-VI was very similar to that of the American MOL. Like the MOL, it featured the return capsule at the front, with a hatch in the heat shield leading to the orbital compartment, followed by the equipment-engine module. This was no accident; after 1966 the open specialized journal 'Raketno-kosmicheskaya tekhnika' no longer featured articles on the MOL. Thereafter all material relating to the MOL was gathered from KGB intelligence sources and was passed to Samara for reference in the design of the VI.

Work went rapidly; by the middle of 1967 the mock-up and dynamic stand for testing of the Nudelman gun were completed. All materials for the approval of the draft project by the expert commission were completed, and drawings were released for both the Zvezda and the Soyuz-M launch vehicle.

Meanwhile the cosmonaut group that would train for the VI was formed in September 1966. The commander was Pavel Popovich, and other members were pilot Alexei Gubarev, and flight-engineers Yuri Artyukhin, Vladimir Gulyaev, Boris Belousov, and Gennadiy Kolesnikov. Popovich-Kolesnikov and Gubarev-Belousov were the prime crews, with the other engineers acting as reserves and to be assigned to later crews.

These arrangements quickly changed however, since there were so many manned spaceflight projects underway. Popovich actively worked on the VI, visiting Samara, inspecting the mock-up, and testing the gun firing rig. But he and Artyukhin had also managed to be informally assigned to the 7K-L1 circumlunar training group on 18 January 1967. During 1967 Popovich, Shatalov (between Voskhod-3 and 7K-OK), Gubarev, Artyukhin, Voronov (all moving to 7K-L1), Zaikin, Beregovoi and Gulyaev all were briefly assigned to the VI. By the beginning of 1968 the only cosmonauts remaining in the group were Gubarev and Zaikin, with Gubarev as the commander.

The losses were made good by new cosmonauts recruited especially for the program from the ranks of the PVO Straniy (the air defense forces). These cosmonauts were selected on 12 April 1967 and were all scientific-engineering specialists. They included V G Kalinin, Vladimir Alekseyev, Mikhail Burdaev, and Nikolai Porvatkin. They all had worked in military space research, and Budarev had specialized in space interceptors. A large cadre was certainly necessary; it was planned to launch no less than 50 Soyuz-VI missions in the period 1968 to 1975.

By August 1967 Kozlov was predicting first flight of the VI in 1968, although the director of the Progress factory where it was being built more realistically put the first flight in 1969. At this point, the Chief Designer of OBK-1, Vasiliy Pavlovich Mishin took an interest in the VI. On 13 October 1967 Mishin began his efforts to take over Kozlov's VI program. His staff in Kaliningrad felt that Kozlov had insulted them by redesigning the VI to rectify the 'defects' of their Soyuz 7K-OK design. They were also fundamentally opposed to the use of radio-isotope power sources, and raised interminable objections about the 800 mm hatch cut into the heat shield (as they did later in the case of Chelomei's VA). Especially after the heat shield failure of a 7K-OK in January 1967 and its subsequent sinking in the Aral Sea, the Podpliki 'Mafia' relentlessly criticized Kozlov about the heat shield design. Mishin wrote a letter to Afanasyev and Smirnov, urging them to cancel the 7K-VI program.

In the place of the Kozlov's 7K-VI Mishin proposed his own project for an orbital station 11F730 Soyuz VI. This would consist of on orbital block 11F731 OB-VI and a transport spacecraft 11F732 7K-S. This was the exact same concept as Kozlov's cancelled Soyuz-R system, but using Kaliningrad spacecraft in the place of Samara spacecraft. In a November 1967 meeting between Mishin and Kozlov Mishin demanded the abandonment of Kozlov's 7K-VI project. Kozlov rejected this and subsequently attempted to recruit Kamanin to his cause. It was all for naught; through various complex machinations Mishin seized control of the project on 8 December 1967. Mishin's 7K-VI would eventually be cancelled in turn in 1969. However the 7K-S ferry developed for it would fly in the 1970's and eventually become the Soyuz T and Soyuz TM, still in use today.

Kozlov moved on to further developments of unmanned satellites. In the decree 220 of 24 July 1967 and others Samara was directed to begin development of the advanced photo reconnaissance satellite Yantar-2K. The design of this satellite benefited from much of the work on the 7K-VI.

Crew Size: 2. Habitable Volume: 11.00 m3.

Family: Combat spacecraft, Soviet Space Stations, Surveillance orbit. Country: Russia. Launch Vehicles: R-7, Soyuz 11A514. Agency: Kozlov bureau. Bibliography: 102, 121, 344, 367, 376, 445, 474.
Photo Gallery

Soyuz VI. Aft viewSoyuz VI. Aft view
Soyuz VI. Aft view showing standard Soyuz engine installation and RTG nuclear-thermal electric power generators on booms extending from base.

Soyuz VISoyuz VI
Soyuz VI according to a published sketch. Note the payload shroud has no launch escape tower and the encapsulated RTG nuclear generators positioned outside the shroud.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Soyuz VI (mockup)Soyuz VI (mockup)
Soyuz VI, according to the appearance of the mock-up. The mock-up did not have the gun package mounted forward of the descent module.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Military SoyuzMilitary Soyuz
Comparison of military variants of Soyuz. From left to right: Soyuz P, Soyuz PPK, Soyuz R, Soyuz VI (Kozlov), Soyuz VI/OIS (Mishin)
Credit: © Mark Wade

Soyuz VI (sketch)Soyuz VI (sketch)
Drawing from an article by Samara chief designer Kozlov showing a Soyuz-VI-like spacecraft with two nuclear thermal generators, with the radiation shadow zones indicated.

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