Finally, on April 25, 1969 during a meeting of the Soyuz State Commission, it was decided that the solo and docking flights outlined for 1969 by design bureau OKB-1 would be combined into a joint flight of three spacecraft. The plan was to fly Soyuz 6, 7, and 8 together in August of 1969; Soyuz 7 and 8 would dock and 6 would rendezvous with the docked pair and take pictures of it as well as perform a welding experiment.
Georgy Stepanovich Shonin, Commander of Soyuz 6
Valeri Nikolayevich Kubasov, Flight Engineer for Soyuz 6
After 1957, the Soviets became accustomed to achieving “world firsts” in space accomplishments. Nevertheless, 10 years later they were not confident that they could pull off the world’s first fully automatic rendezvous and docking of two un-piloted Soyuz spacecraft. At the time the chance for success was estimated at only 50/50.
Vasily Mishin at Baykonur in 1967. Credit B. Chertok
Armen Mnatsakanyan the main designer of Igla. Credit B. Chertok
“It’s a terrible scene. Komarov burned up. All the instruments burned. We must quickly find out what prevented the main parachute from unlatching.” Chief Designer Mishin after he arrived at the Soyuz 1 crash site.
With the success of Kosmos 146 and in spite of the failures of the first three 7K-Ok’s it was now time to plan for a Soyuz manned mission. The planned involved the launch and docking of two piloted Soyuzes. Soyuz 7K-OK production model number 4 was assigned the role of the active vehicle. The active vehicle was supposed to carry one cosmonaut into earth orbit. Twenty-four hours later, vehicle No. 5 (the passive vehicle) carrying three cosmonauts would be inserted in orbit. After rendezvouing, two cosmonauts from vehicle No. 5 would transfer through open space to vehicle No. 4.
Kosmos 146. A 7K-L1 model.
7K-OK and 7K-L1 Rendezvous Concept. Credit Mark Wade