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Author thanks Igor Puchkov and Igor Postnikov at NPO Mashinostroenia, in Reutov, Russia, and Alain Chabot from Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia, Canada, for their help in preparing this section.

Previous page: OPS-3 (Salyut-5)


The next Almaz station, the OPS-4, promised a number of radical upgrades in the project. The new station was equipped with a modified docking port on its tail section designed to receive a heavier TKS transport ship, instead of the Soyuz. However, delays in "man-rating" the TKS, forced the Almaz developers to equip the OPS-4 with a second docking port in its nose section, so the station could receive the Soyuz as well. The program managers still hoped to send the unmanned TKS spacecraft to the Almaz, apparently ahead of the manned Soyuz, to deliver resupplies to the station. While docked to the OPS-4, the TKS would provide additional life-support, energy supply and propulsion for the station.

The optical payloads carried by the previous Almaz stations were to be replaced with radar and electronic intelligence hardware onboard the OPS-4. Also, the infamous self-defence gun onboard early Almaz, was replaced with two "shells" -- apparently, unguided solid-propellant missiles.

However, from early 1978, the funding for the Almaz project started disappearing, dragging construction of the OPS-4 behind schedule. The growing scepticism of the military toward manned reconnaissance spacecraft and competing manned space projects conducted at NPO Energia deprived the Almaz of money. To make matters worse, the Minister of Defense, Grechko, an old-time patron of Chelomei, died in 1976. (18) Grechko was replaced by Dimitri Ustinov, Chelomei's archenemy, who was determined to drive the designer out of a prestigious field of the manned space flight.

Next page: Unmanned Almaz


The last manned Almaz station, the OPS-4, which was equipped with a second docking port in its front section, remained grounded. Copyright © 2002 by Anatoly Zak