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Planning the Soyuz-2 and -3 dual mission

At the end of May 1968, on instructions from the Kremlin, the Chief Designers Council adopted the most conservative flight program on the table: an unpiloted solo mission followed by the rendezvous and docking of two Soyuz spacecraft, with only one pilot on the vehicle responsible for active docking maneuvers.

Previous chapter: Zond-5 mission


A simulator for the development of the Igla (needle) rendezvous system for the Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft.

The Vehicle 7K-OK No. 10, which would eventually become Soyuz-3, appears in Mishin's diary in May 1967, in the context of the serial production of the Soyuz spacecraft. At the time, Vehicle No. 10 was expected to be completed by August and its launch was penciled for September 1967 in a dual flight with Vehicle No. 9. These plans were pushed back more than a year as a result of the domino effect of delays with preceding missions.

In the course of 1968, Soviet planners had several proposals on the table. Namely, the officials considered another attempt to perform a so-called 1+3 flight scenario, which had remained unfulfilled after the Soyuz-1 tragedy. According to that plan, a single pilot would dock with a follow-on spacecraft, carrying three cosmonauts, two of whom would then transfer into the first spacecraft. A less-ambitious version of that scenario, known as 1+2, would culminate with a transfer of only one cosmonaut between the two ships, piloted by one and two cosmonauts respectively.

There was also a proposal for the 2+2 mission (with two cosmonauts on each ship) without any transfer and, finally, the most conservative option, called 0+1, would launch one unmanned and one piloted vehicle with the goal of just docking in space.

The debate over the final flight plan and its variations dragged throughout May 1968.

According to Vasily Mishin, a major technical meeting on the 7K-OK and L1 projects took place at TsKBEM on May 28, 1968. Again, Mishin polled the opinion of his associates and still faced a vast number of conflicting ideas.

He quoted Chertok as arguing for the 2+1 flight scenario. Interestingly, Chertok apparently proposed a fully automated docking of the spacecraft on the night side of the Earth but followed by undocking and a manual rendezvous conducted by two cosmonauts on the passive vehicle. The second manual docking would satisfy the demands of the Air Force and the cosmonauts for a more active role of the pilots aboard the spacecraft. At the same time, it would exclude the pilots from the first risky docking attempt, which would be conducted in night-time conditions and in the midst of the initial adapting of the human body to the conditions of weightlessness. However, it appears from Mishin's records that Chertok's proposal required an extra 30 kilograms of propellant for the ship's SKD main engine.

There was also a proposal from V. Bezverbiy for a solo Soyuz mission, which would enter a record-high orbit and make a rendezvous with the third stage of the Soyuz rocket. That plan presented various problems with mass, attitude control and landing. A key engineer behind Soyuz, Konstantin Feoktistov apparently called the idea irrational and noted, for example, that the Soyuz had no good means to track the upper stage (without its own navigational equipment). Feoktistov also opposed a prolonged flight with the crew beyond four or five days, which was apparently also proposed.

Mishin's deputy Konstantin Bushuev argued for a no-circus solo flight with a crew (of one) in a regular (low) orbit and only then the attempt to fly the 2+1 scenario.

Yakov Tregub argued for two dual flights under the 2+2 scenario, the first of which would include a spacewalk and the second a transfer of one crew member. Alternatively, he could live with a solo crew launch, followed by a 2+2 mission, including the transfer of cosmonauts. (774)

Igor Yurasov also argued for a flight with a single test pilot who would then be included into the crew of the next mission. Yurasov also wanted to make sure that the automated vehicle landed first in any dual mission.

Arkady Ostashev also argued for a dual flight with a crew.

The next day, on instructions from the Kremlin, the Chief Designers Council adopted the most conservative flight program on the table: another unmanned launch for a solo mission followed by the 0+1 flight scenario. (231)

Next chapter: Choosing the Soyuz-3 pilot


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The article and illustrations by Anatoly Zak; Last update: October 26, 2018

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

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Georgy Beregovoi likely photographed during training inside the Soyuz simulator.