Mir - Origins

Origins

Mir was authorised in a decree made on 17 February 1976 to design an improved model of the Salyut DOS-17K space stations. Four Salyut space stations had already been launched since 1971, with three more being launched during Mir's development. It was planned that the station's core module (DOS-7 and the backup DOS-8) would be equipped with a total of four docking ports; two at either end of the station as with the Salyut stations, and an additional two ports on either side of a docking sphere at the front of the station to enable further modules to expand the station's capabilities. By August 1978, this had evolved to the final configuration of one aft port and five ports in a spherical compartment at the forward end of the station.

It was originally planned that the ports would connect to 7.5 tonne modules derived from the Soyuz spacecraft. These modules would have used a Soyuz propulsion module, as in Soyuz and Progress, and the descent and orbital modules would have been replaced with a long laboratory module. However, following a February 1979 governmental resolution, the programme was consolidated with Vladimir Chelomei's manned Almaz military space station programme. The docking ports were reinforced to accommodate 20 tonne (22 short tons) space station modules based on the TKS spacecraft. NPO Energia was responsible for the overall space station, with work subcontracted to KB Salyut, due to ongoing work on the Energia rocket and Salyut 7, Soyuz-T, and Progress spacecraft. KB Salyut began work in 1979, and drawings were released in 1982 and 1983. New systems incorporated into the station included the Salyut 5B digital flight control computer and gyrodyne flywheels (taken from Almaz), Kurs automatic rendezvous system, Luch satellite communications system, Elektron oxygen generators, and Vozdukh carbon dioxide scrubbers.

By early 1984, work on Mir had ground to a halt while all resources were being put into the Buran programme in order to prepare the Buran spacecraft for flight testing. Funding resumed in early 1984 when Valentin Glushko was ordered by the Central Committee's Secretary for Space and Defence to orbit Mir by early 1986, in time for the 27th Communist Party Congress.

It was clear that the planned processing flow could not be followed and still meet the 1986 launch date. It was decided on Cosmonaut's Day (12 April) 1985 to ship the flight model of the base block to the Baikonur cosmodrome and conduct the systems testing and integration there. The module arrived at the launch site on 6 May, with 1100 of 2500 cables requiring rework based on the results of tests to the ground test model at Khrunichev. In October, the base block was rolled outside its cleanroom to carry out communications tests. The first launch attempt on 16 February 1986 was scrubbed when the spacecraft communications failed, but the second launch attempt, on 19 February 1986 at 21:28:23 UTC, was successful, meeting the political deadline.

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