The original Soyuz 9 mission was planned to fly two Soyuz spacecraft in the August to September 1970 time frame for a rendezvous and docking; however, at the end of December 1969 the communist party bosses ordered that the mission be changed to a single spacecraft on a 20 day long duration flight to be launched in April 1970 to coincide with Lenin’s birthday.
When we left the Soviet Union they had somewhat successfully landed a probe on Venus and they had completed the automatic docking of two Soyuz 7K-OK spacecrafts. However they did not reach their goal of a circumlunar flight in time for the 50th anniversary of the glorious revolution.
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
Premiere Khrushchev was not willing to wait until Soyuz for another space first. Khrushchev believed, There could be no final victories in the race for space propaganda. He knew the US was working on project Gemini which would carry two astronauts in 1965. So, as a means to upstage the US, Khrushchev ordered Chief Designer Korolev to fit three cosmonauts into the Voskhod spacecraft that was designed for two…