Encyclopedia Astronautica
1963.03.07 - Korolev approves draft plan for 'Soyuz Complex'


Final design approval for Soyuz A spacecraft for earth orbit and circumlunar flight using orbital rendezvous, docking, and refuelling technques. Except for change of orbital module from cylindrical to spherical design, and changes to rendezvous radar tower arrangement, this design was essentially identical to the Soyuz 7K-OK that flew three years later.

The Soyuz Complex consisted of three blocks (Soyuz A, equivalent to later Soyuz 7K-OK; Soyuz B, propulsion module; Soyuz V, tanker spacecraft). In multiple launches of a Soyuz 11A511 booster, a circumlunar craft would have been assembled. A circumlunar mission would begin with launch of the 9K tanker block. This would be followed by three or four 11K tankers, which would automatically rendezvous and dock with the 9K. They would transfer up to 22 tonnes of propellant. Finally the 7K spacecraft with the cosmonauts aboard would be launched, dock with the 9K, and be propelled on a lunar flyby trajectory.

Korolev understood very well that financing for a project of this scale would only be forthcoming from the Ministry of Defence. Therefore his draft project proposed two additional modifications of the 7K: the Soyuz-P (Perekhvatchik, Interceptor) space interceptor and the Soyuz-R (Razvedki, intelligence) command-reconnaissance spacecraft. Such applications of the Soyuz could be understood and supported by the military. The VVS and the Strategic Rocket Forces supported these improved variants of the Soyuz. But Korolev had no time to work on what he considered a Soyuz ‘side-line’. In 1963 his OKB-1 was working on the three-manned 3KV Voskhod, the two-manned 3KD Voskhod-2, the large launch vehicle 11A52 (N-1), its smaller derivatives 11A53 (N-11) and 11A54 (N-111), and a large number of other spacecraft.

Therefore it was decided that OKB-1 would concentrate only on development of the 7K spacecraft, while development of the 9K and 11K spacecraft would be passed to other design bureaux. The Launch Escape Tower (article 9K) was assigned to Viktor Makeyev (later to have his own SLBM OKB); the tankers (article 11K) were assigned to Mikahil Reshetnyov (later to have his own OKB for comsats); and OKB-1's Feotistov was to oversee design of the Soyuz itself (article 7K). The military projects Soyuz-P and Soyuz-R were ‘subcontracted’ to OKB-1 Filial number 3, based in Samara.

To Korolev’s frustration, while Filial 3 received budget to develop the military Soyuz versions, his own Soyuz-A did not receive the support of the leadership for inclusion in the space program of the USSR. The 7K-9K-11K plan would have required five successful automatic dockings to succeed. This seemed impossible at the time. Instead the road to the moon advocated by Vladimir Nikolaevich Chelomei was preferred. Chelomei was Korolev’s arch-rival, and had the advantage of having Nikita Khrushchev’s son in his employ. He attempted to break the stranglehold that ‘Korolev and Co.’, also known as the ‘Podpilok’ Mafia, had on the space program. Chelomei’s LK-1 single-manned spacecraft, to be placed on a translunar trajectory in a single launch of his UR-500K rocket, was the preferred approach.

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