This post is a research reflection based on my term paper subject choice - the USSR's Salyut Program.
Requirement for ASCI 601 Week 4.
 This is a collection of information that may not necessarily translate to my final research project - mostly for my own, in-depth, knowledge.

Before Salyut

     The Soviet's rocket design and engineering endeavors began in the 1930s, leading to the establishment of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This Kazakhstan launch site enabled the inaugural intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch in August of 1957, giving way to the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, just two months, later. The Soviets' missile breakthroughs enabled them to put the first human in space; Yuri Gagarian launched towards the stars aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961 (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997, pg. 1). That success rolled into Lunokhod 1, the first unmanned rover to explore another celestial body (Howell, 2016). Meanwhile, the USSR was dreaming of a multi-module space station. Before making the Mir core a reality, the single-module Salyut 1 took its place in low-Earth orbit (LEO) in 1971 (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997, pg. 1).

The idea of a space station was not unique to the USSR; multiple works of sci-fi literature toying with such an idea have been published since the late 1800s, most notably by Edward Everett Hale. Hale wrote articles for the Atlantic Monthly from October of 1869 to February of 1870 with one series called 'The Brick Moon'. Subscribers escaped into a brick sphere full of people that was accidentally thrown into orbit (Jordan, 2020). "Space station" was a term coined in 1923 via the writings of Hermann Oberth, a Romanian rocketeer. An Austro-Hungarian WWI captain, Herman Noordung (real name Potocnic, first name unknown), wrote in-depth orbital outpost blueprints in 1928; his figures included a multi-module habitat (Noordung, 1929).

Note: From International Space Station, Russian space stations [Fact Sheet], by Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997, NASA ( NASA content (images, videos, audio, etc) are generally not copyrighted and may be used for educational or informational purposes without needing explicit permissions (NASA Image Use Policy).

The Salyut Program

After multiple ICBM and Soyuz successes, the USSR knew they had the data they needed to make a space station a reality. While NASA was proceeding as a civilian endeavor, the USSR maintained a classified, military-industrial posture (Sagdeev, Eisenhower, & Logsdon, 2008). On the heels of the USAF's and NRO's Manned Orbital Laboratory cancellation - with only the mockup ever entering orbit in 1966 - the USSR got to work (Uri, 2019).

Originally, the USSR had two station types: Salyut (civilian), and Almaz (military). The Almaz program was approved, first - proposed in 1964, with work beginning in 1970. They realized that using the civilian orbiters, while switching between civilian and military purposes for each station, was the perfect cover for world speculation. Therefore, they established the Salyut Program and focused their efforts...

Sixteen months after the 1970 establishment of the Salyut Program, on April 19, 1971, Salyut 1 was in LEO (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997, pg. 2).

We'll do a general bullet review of each Salyut station - success or failure - to get their backstories.


Soyuz 11 Crew (O'Connor & Harkens, 2010).

Salyut 1

  • April 19, 1971 - October 1971
  • Single docking port: no resupply/refueling
  • Goals:
    • Station design/unit/onboard system/equipment testing
    • Orientation/navigation/control/maneuvering systems & methods, both manual and autonomous
    • Earth geological/geographical, atmospheric, snow/ice cover studies
    • Atmospheric & space physical characteristics/processes/phenomena in various electromagnetic spectrum ranges
    • Medico-biological studies for future cosmonaut job determinations while studying space flight factor influences on the human body (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997; Salyut 1, n.d.)


  • 20 m, 4 m, 99 cm³ internal
  • 3 pressurized compartments
    • Crew transfer compartment
    • Workspace: control panels, 20 portholes
    • Control/communication, life support, power supply, buffer chemical batteries, extra oxygen/water, regeneration systems, other auxiliary equipment
  • 1 unpressurized compartment: engine


  • 2 solar panel sets
  • Heat regulation radiators
  • Orientation & control devices (Salyut 1, n.d.)


  • Soyuz 10:

    • Pilot: Commander Shatalov
      • Flight Engineer: Yeliseyev
      • Systems Engineer: Rukavishnikov
    • Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome April 23, 1971
    • 24 hr rendezvous/approach
    • Docked for 5.5 hours on April 23, 1971
      • Unlike the Soyuz-Soyuz docking, Salyut was not maneuverable
      • Undocked, did multiple Soyuz flybys for imaging (Salyut 1, n.d.; Soyuz 10, n.d.)
  • Soyuz 11

    • First Space Station Crew in History:
    • Pilot: Commander Dobrovolski
      • Flight Engineer Volkov
      • Research Engineer Patsayev
      • Callsign: Yantar (amber)
    • Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome June 6, 1971
    • 3 hr 19 min docking June 7, 1971 (manual & autonomatic)
    • Completed 362 orbits (22 days)
    • Upon separation:
      • Radio comms ceased
      • Automatic system landing
      • All crewmembers died: pulmonary embolisms due to hatch seal failure (Salyut 1, n.d.; Soyuz 11, n.d.)

DOS-2 & Salyut 2/Almaz Failures

DOS-2 (Durable Orbit Station)

  • Launched July 29, 1972 from Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • The Proton launch vehicle's second-stage control system failed
  • Never received official Salyut designation as it failed to reach orbit

Salyut 2/Almaz

  • Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome April 3, 1973
  • Was meant to conduct research and test onboard systems
  • April 14/15, 1973:
    • America reported : 4solar panels ripped away from the station
    • USSR was tracking a pressure and comms loss
    • Western analysts realized Salyut 2 was communicating on 19.944 MHz during operation, which was reserved for Soviet military recon satellites; began calling them Military Salyuts (Ivanovich, 2008, pg. 329 - 331; Lyndon B. Johnson Space Station, 1997; Salyut 2, n.d.)
DOS-2 seen inside the Assembly-Test Building at Baikonur Cosmodrome (Ivanovich, 2008)
DOS-2 seen inside the Assembly-Test Building at Baikonur Cosmodrome (Ivanovich, 2008)
DOS-3 Simulator with Soyuz docking probe seen on the right (Ivanovich, 2008, pg. 339).

DOS-3/Kosmos 557 Failure

  • May 8, 1973 launch cancelled - a stage one oxidizer vent leak
  • Vasiliy Pavlovich Mishin (rocket engineer-turned-Chief-Designer) demanded rocket be scrapped & replaced, Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomey (leader of Central Design Bureau of Machine Building) denied request due to pressure from the State Committee
  • Launched May 11, 1973 from Baikonur Cosmodrome
  •  12 mins post-launch, flight control system malfunctioned - attitude thruster used all fuel by continually firing; became uncontrollable before reaching desired orbit
  • Because of USSR's military posture during the Salyut Program, too much time passed before commands could be sent to stop the thrusters
  • This DOS-3, meant to be designated Salyut 3, was renamed Kosmos 557 to disguise the failure as Western radar picked up the signal
  • (Cosmos 557, n.d. ; Ivanovic, 2008, pg. 1, 6, 340; Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 1997)

Key Lessons Learned

  1. DOS-3 was heavier than DOS-1/Salyut 1
    • Carried scientific equipment
    • Caused Proton launch vehicle to fail orbital placement
    • DOS-1 orbit: 200 x 222 km; DOS-3 could only reach 155 x 215 km
  2. DOS-3 was first station with ionic sensor
    • Senses orientation of spacecraft in relation to ionosphere via the angle of ion entry into its tube
    • The ionic sensor was deemed unreliable as it (1) detected both ions AND glowing attitude thruster particles and (2) ionic orientation changes per Earth's magnetic field
    • To counter, designers programmed thrusters at lowest level, minimizing efflux
    • this caused orientation maneuvers to take longer, contributing to the orbital fail

3. Weak and confusing chain of command situation; a more streamlined communication protocol would have saved time when attempting to stop the thrusters from staying in the 'on' position (Ivanovich, 2008, pgs. 334 - 339)

The United States launched SkyLab on May 14, 1973 (Skylab, n.d.)

Salyut 3/Almaz

  • First successful Almaz (military) station
  • Launched June 24, 1974 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Recovery module released, re-entered, recovered by Soviets on September 23, 1974
  • Orbit decayed, atmospheric re-entry on January 24, 1975
  • Almaz stations had aft docking port (Salyut - bow)
  • Used two engines built into main hull to maintain orbit
Salyut 3 (Zimmerman & Joseph, 2003, pg. 87).
Salyut 3 (Zimmerman & Joseph, 2003, pg. 87).

On Board


  • On board:
    • 23-mm rapid-fire cannon in station's hull; aimed by using sights & maneuvering station
      • Almaz stations were only stations ever launched with weapons
    • 3-foot recovery capsule; could send up to 260 lbs to Earth
    • Water recycling system - captured humidity
  • Soyuz 14

    • Launched July 3, 1974
    • Pilot Pavel Popovich
    • Flight engineer Yuriy P. Artyukhin
    • Docked/On-station 15 days, 17 hours
  • Soyuz 15

    • Launched August 26, 1974 from Baikonur Cosmodrome
    • Pilot: Commander Gennady Sarafanov
    • Flight engineer: Lev S. Dyomin/Demin (Russian/American spelling)
    • Unable to achieve docking
  • (Ivanovich, 2008, pg. 396, 399; Salyut 3, n.d.; Siddiqi, 2013; Soyuz 14, n.d.; Soyuz 15, n.d.; Zimmerman & Joseph, 2003, pgs. 86 - 90)

Personal Reflection on Research Thus Far...

The USSR was aggressive with its space station program; the failure of DOS2/Salyut 2 taught them valuable lessons in unnecessary complications - one thing NASA had beaten them on, at this point, was streamlining their protocols. The USSR was going about everything in a very militant way - tight schedules, competition over quality, chain of command constraints - and it cost them. Outside of this blog, I have piles of notes and my annotated bibliography is growing by the minute. Each space station has so much detail to its lessons, adjustments, and outcomes that I am still in the narrowing down phase and cannot yet produce a nice flow to the information. It has also been interesting to see how difficult it is to find reliable, detailed information on this program. I've also learned that though our space cooperation with the USSR/Russia began during JFK, not much detail is given from NASA in their history archives - you really have to dig, even within the Hunt Library. I am truly excited to get into the time period where NASA and the USSR/Russia really start working together, and the story of Salyut 7. More in Week 5!


Howell, E. (2016, December 7). Lunokhod 1: 1st successful lunar rover.

Ivanovich, G. S. (2008). Salyut - the first space station: Triumph and tragedy (1st 2008. ed.). New York, NY: Springer New York.

Jordan, G. (Host). (2020, February 21). Early space stations (No. 132) [Podcast Episode Transcript] in Houston We Have a Podcast. NASA.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. (1997). International Space Station, Russian space stations [Fact Sheet]. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Noordung, H. (1929). The problem with space travel: The rocket motor. (F. M. Currier, Trans.). (E. Stuhlinger, J. D. Hunley, & J. Garland, Eds.). (Original work published in 1929)

O'Connor, B. & Harkins, W. B. (2010, September). Descent into the void: Soyuz-11 depressurization. NASA.

Sagdeev, R., Eisenhower, S., & Logsdon, J. (2008, May 28). United States-Soviet space cooperation during the Cold War. NASA.

Salyut 1. (n.d.). NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Salyut 2. (n.d.). NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Salyut 3. (n.d.). NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Siddiqi, Asif A. (2000). Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974. NASA. SP-2000-4408.

Skylab. (n.d.). NASA Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Soyuz 10. (n.d.). NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Soyuz 11. (n.d.). NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

Uri, J. (2019, June 10). 50 years ago: NASA benefits from Manned Orbital Laboratory cancellation. NASA History.

Zimmerman, R., & Joseph, H. P. S. (2003). Leaving earth : Space stations, rival superpowers, and the quest for interplanetary travel.

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