Encyclopedia Astronautica

Russian infrared astronomy satellite. Cancelled 1982. The Aelita infrared astronomical telescope spacecraft was derived from the Soyuz manned spacecraft and had an unusually long gestation.

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.

Gross mass: 7,350 kg (16,200 lb).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Soyuz The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has been the longest-lived, most adaptable, and most successful manned spacecraft design. In production for fifty years, more than 240 have been built and flown on a wide range of missions. The design will remain in use with the international space station well into the 21st century, providing the only manned access to the station after the retirement of the shuttle in 2011. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Soyuz Russian orbital launch vehicle. The world's first ICBM became the most often used and most reliable launch vehicle in history. The original core+four strap-on booster missile had a small third stage added to produce the Vostok launch vehicle, with a payload of 5 metric tons. Addition of a larger third stage produced the Voskhod/Soyuz vehicle, with a payload over 6 metric tons. Using this with a fourth stage, the resulting Molniya booster placed communications satellites and early lunar and planetary probes in higher energy trajectories. By the year 2000 over 1,628 had been launched with an unmatched success rate of 97.5% for production models. Improved models providing commercial launch services for international customers entered service in the new millenium, and a new launch pad at Kourou was to be inaugurated in 2009. It appeared that the R-7 could easily still be in service 70 years after its first launch. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Korolev Russian manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Korolev Design Bureau, Kaliningrad, Russia. More...

  • Chertok, Boris Yevseyevich, Raketi i lyudi, Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1994-1999.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Kamanin, N P, Skritiy kosmos, Infortext, Moscow, 1995.
  • Hendrickx, Bart, "The Origins and Evolution of Mir and Its Modules", Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 51, P. 203-222, 1998..

Aelita Chronology

1969 January 27 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1.
  • Soviet of Chief Designers considers N1 cancellation - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Mishin; Afanasyev, Sergei; Keldysh; Chelomei; Serbin; Barmin; Tyulin. Program: Lunar L3. Spacecraft: LK; Soyuz 7K-LOK; Mars 5NM; Aelita. 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....

1969 May 29 - . LV Family: MR-UR-100; N1; Proton; UR-100N; UR-700.
  • N1 State Commission - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Mishin; Barmin; Afanasyev, Sergei; Smirnov; Tyulin; Bushuyev; Pashkov; Okhapkin; Yangel; Chelomei; Nadiradze; Keldysh. Program: Lunar L3. Spacecraft: LK; Soyuz 7K-L1A; Soyuz 7K-LOK; Aelita. 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....

1969 July 30 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700M; UR-900.
  • Soviet manned Mars spacecraft study - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Chelomei. Spacecraft: MK-700; Aelita. 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.

1971 January 26 - .
  • ECS technology review. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh; Voronin; Severin; Gazenko. Program: Salyut. Spacecraft: Salyut 1; MKBS; Aelita. 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.

1976 February - .
  • Development of Mir, Aelita authorised - . Nation: USSR. Spacecraft: Aelita. Summary: The Soviet space program was completely reformulated in a resolution of February 1976, which included authorisation to develop the free flyer in conjunction with the DOS-7/DOS-8 space station (which would eventually evolve into Mir)..

1979 February 16 - .
  • Mir and Aelita production go-ahead. - . Nation: USSR. Spacecraft: Aelita. Summary: Production of the Mir space station and Aelita free-flyer was authorised together..

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