Almaz OPS-4 (104) space station
After three launches of original Almaz stations in the 1970s, the fourth military platform was being prepared in the USSR. It featured a number of improvements in comparison to its predecessors.
New features aboard OPS-4
The latest piloted Almaz station, the OPS-4, promised a number of major upgrades. The new station was equipped with a modified docking port on its aft section designed to receive a heavier TKS transport ship, instead of the Soyuz, which were previously used to deliver cosmonauts onboard. However, continuing delays with certifying the TKS to carry crews, forced the developers to equip the OPS-4 with a second docking port in its front section, so the station could receive the Soyuz as well. The program managers still hoped to send an automated TKS spacecraft to OPS-4 to deliver supplies to the station, possibly, ahead of the piloted Soyuz arrival. While docked at the OPS-4, the TKS would provide additional life-support, energy supply and propulsion for the station.
In terms of payload, the optical reconnaissance instruments carried by the previous Almaz stations were to be replaced aboard OPS-4 with radar and electronic intelligence hardware onboard. Also, the infamous self-defense gun onboard early Almaz was to be replaced with two anti-satellite missiles from the Shield-2 system.
Cancellation of the program
Despite all the improvements, starting from early 1978, the funding for the Almaz project started diminishing, dragging construction of the OPS-4 behind schedule. The growing skepticism of the military toward piloted reconnaissance spacecraft and competing space station projects implemented at NPO Energia were cited as the reasons for budget cuts. To make matters worse, the Minister of Defense, Andrei Grechko, an old-time patron of Chelomei, died in 1976. (18) In his position, Grechko was replaced by Dmitry Ustinov, Chelomei's archenemy, who was determined to drive the designer out of the prestigious field of human space flight.
The last piloted Almaz station, the OPS-4, which was equipped with a second docking port in its front section, remained grounded. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak