Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov is killed at age 40. space exploration"> Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov is killed at age 40. space exploration">

Encyclopedia Astronautica
1967.04.24 - Crash of Soyuz 1. Cosmonaut Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov is killed at age 40.


The decision was made to bring Komarov back due to an undeployed solar panel which reduced electrical power and blocked orientation sensors. Re-entry was successful and the drag chute deployed. However due to a flaw during manufacture, the parachute compartment housing was too rough and the main parachute would not deploy. Komarov released the reserve chute, but it became tangled with the drag chute. The descent module crashed into a field near Orenburg at 03:24 GMT.

Kamanin' account: Kamanin flew to the Command Point at Yevpatoriya to join Gagarin. Meanwhile the decision had been taken to return the spacecraft to earth. Keldysh, Kerimov, and Tyulin wanted to terminate the flight on the 17th revolution, but Mishin wanted to proceed with the full flight program. A decision needed to be taken by revolution 13 to allow landing on revolutions 17, 18, or 19. On orbit 13 Komarov was requested to orient the spacecraft using the ion sensors and manually. Repeated attempts were unsuccessful. The situation was clear. The Soyuz 2 launch would have to be cancelled, and all efforts had to concentrate on the successful landing of Soyuz 1.

There were three orientation systems on the Soyuz: the astro-inertial system (which was blocked by the unfolded left solar panel), the ion system (which was unreliable due to ion holes), and the manual system using the Vzor device. The problem with the manual system was that it could only be used on the dayside of the planet, and for a 05:30 retrofire on the 17th revolution the earth would be in shadow. Therefore it was decided to make a first landing attempt on the 17th revolution using the ion system. It seemed clear to Kamanin that this was a mistake. Nevertheless on revolutions 15 and 16 Komarov prepared for landing using the ion system. In the event, it did not function. There was no time left to set up for a manual retrofire on revolution 18.

Kamanin had no choice but to inform Marshal Rudenko that a landing on the 18th revolution was not possible due to Mishin's mismanagement. Komarov would have to wait until the 19th revolution and then attempt a manual orientation for retrofire with landing near Orsk. A method was worked out to accomplish this. Komarov was to orient the spacecraft manually on the dayside, spin up the gyro platform, and then use this to orient on the night side for retrofire. Telemetry showed that this was successful -- the TDU engine functioned normally, and a signal of parachute deployment was received from the capsule 65 km east of Orsk. However the main parachute did not fully deploy and the reserve parachute did not fully inflate. The capsule crashed into the ground at 30-40 m/s. Kamanin departed Yevpatoriya and arrived at 06:45 in Orsk. What was left of Komarov's body was an irregular lump 30 cm in diameter and 80 cm long. Three hours later Keldysh, Tyulin, Rudenko, and other State Commission members visited the site. At 21:45 Kamanin accompanied Komarov's body to the Orsk aerordorme, where it was loaded on an Il-18. Ten minutes before departure an An-12 landed with Kuznetsov and several cosmonauts. Kamanin landed in Moscow in the wee hours of the morning. The aircraft had to divert to Sheremetovo since all the other airfields around Moscow were socked in. Then he had to wait 90 minutes on the ground until the ground transportation showed up. The orders were that Komarov's remains were to be photographed, then immediately cremated so that a state burial in the Kremlin wall could take place. The remains underwent a quick autopsy that morning, then were cremated.

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