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Vostok 9
Part of Vostok
Credit: Manufacturer Image
Proposed high altitude Vostok flight for extended scientific studies to be flown in 1963-1964; All further Vostok flights cancelled in favor of multi-crew Voskhod in February 1964.

Launched: 1964 August. Number crew: 1 .

Vostok 9 was originally proposed as a high altitude manned Vostok flight for extended scientific studies to be flown by the end of 1963. The spacecraft would have been allowed to naturally decay to a re-entry after ten days. After the plans for additional Vostok missions were revived later in 1963, purposes of these flights were to be: geophysical and astronomical research; photography of the solar corona; solar x-ray imagery; medical-biological research; detailed study of the effects of weightlessness on the human organism; dosimetry; and engineering tests of ion flow sensors to be used for orientation of later Soyuz spacecraft. By the end of 1963 Vostok 9 was set to make a ten-day group flight with Vostok 8 in the late summer of 1964. Finally all further Vostok flights were cancelled in favor of the multi-manned Voskhod in February 1964.

Kamanin, the head of the cosmonaut corps and a believer in a larger role of the Soviet military in space, had lobbied for production of a second series of ten Vostok spacecraft for use in military flights. These would be used for experiments in proving military reconnaissance and combat systems in space. He got nowhere with these ideas, but Korolev had personally planned that four to eight further manned Vostok missions would be flown after the all-female Vostok 5 / Vostok 6 group flight. Korolev, without authorisation, had begun assembly of four additional Vostok spacecraft for these missions in late 1962 (the Vostok had a great deal of commonality with the Zenit-2 reconnaisance satellite, of which 13 were in production at the time). In February 1963 the leadership finally approved completion of four additional Vostok spacecraft. These were to be used for three male cosmonaut ten-day flights and a single biosat mission. Vostok 8 was to be the second high altitude flight into the lower Van Allen radiation belt for radiological-biological studies. The spacecraft would have been allowed to naturally decay to a re-entry after ten days. Komarov was named to train for this flight. Then, on 21 March 1963, Ministry of Defence opposition to Vostok led to the decision to have the additional four Vostok spacecraft cancelled.

Korolev managed to get the plan resurrected in the summer of 1963 and a training group for additional Vostok flights was formed on 17 September 1963: Belyayev, Gorbatko, Khrunov, Komarov, Leonov, Shonin, Volynov, and Zaikin. After a 10-11 day unmanned biosat mission, there would be three cosmonaut flights of ten days with significant military and scientific experiments. A new ground control system would be installed and tested to handle all in-flight emergencies, as well as a new autonomous on-board navigation system. Korolev wanted the military to take over conduct of future Vostok flights - they were taking up too much of his time and nerves. But Khrushchev and Brezhnev didn't want anyone else handling the flights, and neither the VVS or the Ministry of Defence wanted responsibility for them.

By November 1963 it was clear that the first Soyuz flights would be delayed, creating a gap that would allow the American Gemini flights to steal the lead in the space race. Alternative scenarios were considered. The Vostoks might be flown manned in two group flights with record durations of 8 and then10 days. Or the Vostok could be modified to accommodate more than one cosmonaut, to bet Gemini in flying the first mult-crew spacecraft. A plan for 1964 was agreed at the end of November. One Vostok biosat flight would be followed by a single Vostok 7 flight with an eight-day duration, followed by Vostok 8 and 9 being flown in a group flight of 10 days duration. Crew selection began in January 1964 with the first manned Vostok mission set for June 1964. Volynov, Khrunov, Belyayev, Leonov, Komarov, and Beregovoi were named to train as prime crew and back-up for the three Vostok flights. At the end of January this training group departed to Kirzhakh for parachute training, but changes were already afoot. The military hierarchy had lobbied for test pilot Beregovoi's inclusion, but this was resented by other unflown cosmonauts who had been in training since 1960. Volynov was moved to the Soyuz training group after anti-semitic higher-ups objected to a Jew representing the Soviet Union in space. But before the training group even returned from their parachute jumps, Korolev had already decided to convert the Vostoks to a multi-seat configuration dubbed Voskhod. This would be the only way to upstage the Americans before their Gemini launches. The Voskhod plan was approved by the Military-Industrial Commission on 13 March 1964. The Vostok plan was not officially cancelled, and the possibility lingered for a month or two that the Vostok missions might still be flown in parallel with the Voskhods. But Kamanin observed in April that no resources were available for completion of the spacecraft due to Korolev's concentration on Voskhod, and no more is heard of the flights after that.

More at: Vostok 9.

People: Belyayev, Leonov. Country: Russia. Spacecraft: Vostok.

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