The Kristall (77KST) module for the Mir space station

Kristall module (77KST) at a glance:

Launch date
May 31, 1990
Docking date June 10, 1990
Launch vehicle UR-500 Proton
Mass within Mir complex 19,640 kilograms
Length 11.9 meters
Diameter 4.35 meters
Internal volume 60.8 cubical meters
Size of solar panels 70 square meters
Solar panels power supply capability 5.5 - 8.4 kW
Capacity of onboard batteries 360 Amperes per hour
Power consumption per day 0.5 - 1 kW
Peak power loads 3 to 7 kW
Payload weight 7 tons (with subsystems: 11,270 kg)

The Kristall module was conceived as a multipurpose laboratory for technology and material processing experiments, astrophysics and geophysics research.

The material processing payload included Gallar, Krater-V, Zona-02, 03 and Optizon-1 experiments.

The Krater-V electrical furnace was to be used for producing perfect crystals of gallium arsenide and zinc oxide under microgravity conditions estimated between 10-3 and 10-5 g.

The Optizon furnace could be used for semi-industrial production of perfect cremnium monocrystals.

Finally, Zona-02 and Zona-03 furnaces were designed for semiconductor production experiments.

The module's biotechnology payload included Svetlana, Ruchei, Biokrist, Rekomb, Vita and Maksat experiments. The Ainur biological research unit was expected to be used for the experiments with electrophoresis.

The Svet experiment included a small greenhouse for plant cultivation experiments. The unit was equipped with a source of light and feeding system.

The experiments Buket, Marina and Glazar were designed for astronomy observations in ultraviolet range of spectrum. According to the official specs, the telescopes onboard Kristall were capable of detecting astronomical objects up to the magnitude 18.

The propulsion system onboard Kristall featured small 11D458 and 17D58E thrusters developed at NIIMash.

In addition to its scientific gear, the Kristall module sported a pair of so-called "androgynous" docking ports compatible with the Buran orbiter. Original plans called for an Buran unmanned test mission, during which the orbiter would automatically dock to Mir and the station crew would enter the winged vehicle. Buran's docking mission to Mir would also coincide with the flight of a Soyuz vehicle also equipped with the Buran-compatible docking port. In the unusual rescue drill, the Soyuz crew would dock with the free-flying Buran, enter the craft, then undock and redock with one of the Buran compatible ports on the Kristall module. The operation could also involve a spacewalk with the help of a maneuvering unit for free flight in orbit.

For each docking with Buran, the Kristall module was expected to be moved from its usual parking position on the side docking port to the front docking port of the core module of the Mir space station.

After the Buran program was terminated at the beginning of the 1990s, the Soyuz spacecraft with the Buran-compatible docking port was used for a regular mission to Mir. The ship successfully docked to Buran's docking port on Kristall in the summer of 1993.

In 1995, the Kristall module was relocated to the front docking port of the core module, as it would be done during Buran missions. However, this time it was done to receive the US Space Shuttle. For all subsequent Shuttle missions, the Kristall was equipped with an extension known as a docking compartment. It allowed the Shuttle to stay clear from Mir's solar arrays, without relocating Kristall to the front docking port for each Shuttle mission.

Page author: Anatoly Zak

Last update: October 10, 2016

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An isolated view of the Kristall module. Credit: TsPK

This rare painting by the unknown artist published in Sovetski Soyuz magazine soon after Buran's first and only flight, depicts the reusable Buran orbiter docked to the Mir space station. Credit: Sovetski Soyuz

The Proton rocket with the Kristall module standing on the launch pad in Area 200 of Baikonur Cosmodrome, shortly before launch on May 31, 1990.

A training version of the Kristall module viewed from the side of the docking port for the Buran orbiter. The second Buran-compatible docking port can be seen at the bottom of the section. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak