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Preparing Soyuz-2, -3 for flight

In the middle of October 1968, the top-secret Soviet launch site near Tyuratam (Baikonur) saw a major gathering of top officials for the dual Soyuz launch. The preparation campaign had entered into the full gear with the rollout of Vehicles No. 11 and No. 10 to Site 1 and Site 31 on October 23 and 24, respectively. Georgy Beregovoi got the final endorsement as the only pilot in the rendezvous between the two spacecraft.

Previous chapter: Final decision to launch Soyuz-1

pad meeting

A meeting with the launch personnel in Tyuratam, probably on Oct. 24, 1968, at 5 p.m. at Site 31 1968, included Georgy Beregovoi, the prime pilot of the Soyuz-3 spacecraft and his backups Boris Volynov, Vladimir Shatalov; it also included top Soviet officials, Kerim Kerimov, Vasily Mishin, Sergei Afanasiev, Nikolai Kamanin, Vladimir Barmin, Mstislav Keldysh, Evgeny Shabarov and Valentin Glushko.

Rolling out another Soyuz pair

As of July 1968, the shipment of Vehicle No. 10 (the future Soyuz-3) to its launch site in Tyuratam was expected before the end of the month and No. 11 (Soyuz-2) would follow between August 12 and 14. However on August 12, Mishin marked August 17 and August 25 as the rollout days for these two ships respectively.

On September 12, Mishin apparently visited the Cosmonaut Training Center, where he got some input on the Soyuz design from the trainees for the upcoming mission. For example, the cosmonauts pointed out that the food for the mission was stored in the Habitation Module, while the water supply was in the Descent Module. They also asked for a better tape recorder and a camera, as well as to simplify the onboard journal.

Mishin also noted that cosmonaut training was conducted in conditions more difficult than they were expected to be in real life.

On October 14, Mishin recorded the following milestones in the final preparation for the upcoming dual mission:

Vehicle No. 11 (Soyuz-2)

  • October 16-17: Fueling of the spacecraft;
  • October 18-21: Final pre-launch processing operations;
  • October 22: Transfer to Site 2 (from Site 31) (for integration with the launch vehicle);
  • October 23: Rollout to the launch pad (Site 1);
  • October 25: Liftoff (12:00 Moscow Time).

Vehicle No. 10 (Soyuz-3)

  • October 21-23: Final processing operations;
  • October 23: Integration with launch vehicle at Site 31;
  • October 24: Rollout to the launch pad (Site 31);
  • October 26: Liftoff.

Mishin and his top associates, including Evgeny Frolov, Igor Yurasov, Aleksei Topol, Aleksandr Antonov and Vechaslav Naumov (the latter two leading test specialists at Division 7) flew to Tyuratam on October 15 and had a technical meeting on the same day at 5 p.m. Major Vitaly Sokolov, representing the military test officers at the launch site, reported on the results of testing of Vehicles No. 10 and 11 at the processing building at Site 31. At the time, Vehicle No. 10 (Soyuz-3) was undergoing tests of radio systems in the echoless chamber.

Mishin recorded a long list of technical issues with both ships, but most of these problems were characterized as fixable or possible to ignore. Evgeny Bashkin reported that everything was ready for flight. (774)

On the same day, the cosmonauts preparing for the Soyuz-3 mission also arrived at the launch site. (231)

The State Commission gathered for a critical meeting on October 16 at 11:00 Moscow Time. Vehicle 10 was reported having 18 issues, with 11 problems resolved, five problems were classified as to be ignored willingly; and two problems were considered beyond the team's control. A total of 400 hours was spent on processing of Vehicle No. 11, including 112 hours on fixing problems.

On October 17, Mishin apparently discussed the possibility of postponing the dual Soyuz mission with Minister Sergei Afanasiev, but warned of serious repercussions in this case, in particular, because Vehicle No. 10 (Soyuz-3) had already undergone irreversible operations and some of the components onboard the spacecraft were at the end of their certified service life. For example, engines for both launch vehicles had been manufactured in 1964, or four years earlier, but were certified for piloted missions personally by their Chief Designer Valentin Glushko.

Also, search and rescue teams were in the process of deployment in Kazakhstan on land and in the Aral Sea, where the descent module of Vehicle No. 3 ended up in February 1967.

On October 18, the technical management met again to review the preparations. In the end, the mission was allowed to proceed as planned.

On October 21, at 14:00, Mishin was scheduled to go to the Krainy airport to meet the highest officials attending the launch -- Minister of the General Machine-building Sergei Afanasiev and the Head of the Russian Academy of Sciences Mstislav Keldysh.

As the spacecraft was undergoing the final processing, Georgy Beregovoi, Boris Volynov and Vladimir Shatalov were scheduled to conduct the final familiarization training inside the spacecraft between October 21 and 23.

As of October 18, the familiarization training was scheduled for October 22 at 10:00. On the way to the processing building, the cosmonauts were also scheduled to pay a visit to Sergei Korolev's old cottage at Site 2. Such visits would become a tradition for future Soyuz crews. (774)

The meeting of the State Commission to approve the rollout of the first ship opened at 4 p.m. on October 22. The same event (or another similar gathering on October 23) formally approved Georgy Beregovoi, as the pilot for the dual mission.

Vladimir Patrushev reported that the fully assembled rocket with Vehicle No. 11 (Soyuz-2) was ready for the rollout to the launch pad (at Site 1). In the meantime, processing teams also reported a breakage in the pyrotechnics circuit of the Zarya system aboard Vehicle No. 10 (Soyuz-3), but that it had already been fixed. Both launch pads were reported ready to receive their respective rockets.

On October 23, at 7 in the morning, the rocket with spacecraft No. 11 (Soyuz-2) left the assembly building at Site 2 and by 10 a.m. was installed on the launch pad at Site 1 for a seven-hour processing period.

On October 24, the same scenario played out at Site 31 with ship No. 10 (Soyuz-3). At 5 p.m. on the same day cosmonauts and officials apparently gathered for a traditional meeting at Site 31 to thank soldiers and officers of the launch personnel for their work. (774)

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The article and illustrations by Anatoly Zak; Last update: October 27, 2018

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: October 26, 2018

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A Soyuz spacecraft is being processed for launch in Tyuratam.


Beregovoi (left) and Kamanin.


Beregovoi during training.


Soyuz-3 shortly after being installed on the launch pad.


Beregovoi thanks test personnel at the launch site during a ceremonial meeting on the eve of his liftoff.