Encyclopedia Astronautica
1968.04.15 - Cosmos 213

Cosmos 213 was the target for Cosmos 212 in a successful test of Soyuz 7K-OK rendezvous and docking systems. The Cosmos 213 launch was the most accurate yet. The spacecraft was placed in orbit only 4 km from Cosmos 212, ready for a first-orbit docking. Both spacecraft were recovered, but Cosmos 213 was dragged by heavy wind across the steppes when the parachute lines didn't jettison at touchdown. This failure caused the upcoming Soyuz 2/3 manned docking mission to be scaled back.
Officially: Investigation of outer space, development of new systems and elements to be used in the construction of space devices.

Passive docking target for Cosmos 212 in the first completely successful Soyuz rendezvous and docking mission. First Soyuz fitted with the 76K infrared horizon sensor, which established local horizontal for the spacecraft. Ion sensors were used to detect the direction of motion, as had been proven on the Zenit spy satellites. Cosmos 213 launched at 09:36 local time, and Cosmos 212 immediately began the active rendezvous phase. By 12:54 the two spacecraft were 33 m apart, closing at 2 m/s - then ground lost contact with them. There was tremendous relief at 13:21 when the Alma Alta tracking station received a positive parameter 2 in the telemetry - confirming hard dock and electrical connection between the two craft. A loud "Ura!" echoed through the control centre. The two ships spent 3 hours and 50 minutes docked, and then separated. Cosmos 213 landed in the middle of a violent storm at 13"3, with 25 m/s winds on April 20, 1968 10:11 GMT. The landing system worked and a soft touchdown was achieved, but the mission was marred when the parachute did not jettison. The capsule was dragged for several kilometers across the steppes. This was later found to be due to static electricity build up in the parachute lines. The cosmonauts argued that a pilot aboard would have manually commanded jettison of the lines, but this occurred just a few weeks after Gagarin's shocking death in a MiG trainer crash. The Soyuz was cleared for a manned flight in June, but a more conservative approach was selected for the Soyuz 2/3 mission. Beregovoi, the pilot for the next mission, had no time for bureaucracy or expert commissions. He believed all flight tests should be piloted. In his view, the death of Komarov was no catastrophe, just a normal failure as experienced in aircraft test programmes.

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