AKA: Aelita. Status: Cancelled 1982. Gross mass: 7,350 kg (16,200 lb).
The basic design was first conceived in 1965 as part of a 'Cloud Space Station' - a primary space station from which a number of man-tended, free-flying spacecraft would operated. This evolved by the early 1970's into the MKBS/MOK space station complex. Various spacecraft with specialized laboratories or instrument sets would fly autonomously away from the huge N1-launched main station. Aelita was originally to be a free-flyer of this complex. The Soyuz propulsion system was used, but the descent and orbital modules were replaced by a large pressurized cylinder containing the scientific instruments.
Work on the instrument payload began in 1972. However that same year the N1 launch vehicle, and the MKBS space station, were cancelled.
The Soviet space program was completely reformulated in a resolution of February 1976, which included authorization to develop the free flyer in conjunction with the DOS-7/DOS-8 space station (which would eventually evolve into Mir). The draft project for Aelita was completed in 1978, and production was authorized together with Mir on 16 February 1979. At this point Aelita may still have included a passive docking port so that the spacecraft could be serviced by Soyuz manned spacecraft. It was planned that at six and twelve months into its one year mission Gamma would be visited by a two-crew Soyuz, who would replace film cassettes and repair or replace instruments. The spacecraft was cancelled in 1982. It's sister spacecraft, the Gamma, continued due to French involvement in the project, and finally flew in 1990.
Afanasyev and Keldysh chaired the unusual and extraordinary Soviet of the chief designers. Mishin opened with an emotional plea not to cancel the N1. He justified the delays and failures by saying that he had not been given sufficient budget to conduct necessary experimental and qualification tests of systems before flight. Additional Details: here....
Over two days a State Commission reviewed all of the conclusions of the N1 3L failure investigation and the readiness of N1 5L for flight. All of the fixes identified to remedy the 3L failure had been incorporated into 5L. It was felt that the behaviour of the systems in fire conditions were understood and appropriate measures had been taken. The wiring had been rerouted and insulated. Barmin wanted the system not to shut down any engines under any conditions during the first 15-20 seconds of flight, so that the booster would clear the pad and there would be no risk of the pad's destruction. But there was no time to develop such measures before the 5L launch; it could only be added in vehicle 6L. Additional Details: here....
As a result of the VPK meeting of 29 May, a decree was issued, instructing Chelomei to complete a draft project within the year for a Mars manned space mission, using as the booster his UR-700M (or UR-900) design, and his MK-700M spacecraft. It was not until August 1997 that Igor Gansvindt revealed that during the 1960's he had developed a system for navigation and guidance for a piloted landing on Mars and its return to earth. This work preceded Aleksei Tolstoy's Aelita project of 1975.
Keldysh heads a review of spacecraft environmental control system development. The work of the IMBP is not well organised. They have been developing systems for eight years with no concrete results. G I Voronin is responsible for oxygen regenerator and thermal regulation systems; G I Severin, for space suits; O G Gazenko for biosensors, medicines, and space food. Two problems need to be solved: to understand and counter the effects of zero gravity on the human organism; and to develop a reliable environmental control system with a guaranteed life of two to three years. Keldysh declares that in the next five to ten years the Soviet Union will not fly space stations with artificial gravity. Therefore, due to the inevitable deterioration of the human body in zero gravity, crews will have to be rotated every 30 to 60 days. Development must continue with an eye to supporting eventual lunar bases and manned expeditions to Mars.