Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.10.15 - Second attempt to dock Soyuz 7 & 8 - rendezvous of Soyuz 6 with Soyuz 8

Following an orbital correction during the night, Soyuz 7 and 8 are expected to be less than 1 km from each other when communications are regained at 9 am. Instead they are 40 km apart. It will require two more orbits over Soviet territory to refine the tracking of the spacecraft and recalculate the necessary rendezvous manoeuvres. By 12:40 they are 1700 m apart and the crews begin the manual rendezvous manoeuvre. Shatalov fires his engines four times, but in the absence of any indication to the pilot of range to the target, he could not get into a position for a safe docking. He withdraws to a safe distance.

The flight engineers aboard he spacecraft could actually see each other at the closest approach, but did not have any trustworthy data available to them to guide them in the manoeuvring process. The cosmonauts' heart rates went up to 100 beats per second during the docking attempt, indicating extreme nervous stress. Everyone at the command post could understand the danger of the situation, but none could assist the crew with real-time positional data. This points, in Kamanin's opinion, to the poor design approach of the Soyuz. When the Igla system fails, there is to back-up system or method to allow the spacecraft to complete rendezvous and docking. The leadership in Moscow is contacted. It is decided that in the absence of a functioning Igla system, no further docking attempts will be made. The primary objective now is the safe recovery of all three crews.

In the evening Shonin and Kubasov guide their Soyuz 6 to within 800 m of Soyuz 7. The landing commission meets and directs Soyuz 6 to land the next day on its 81st orbit. The schedule is: retrofire with a delta-v of 105 m/s to begin at 12:12:39. Main parachute deployment 12:40, normal landing at 50 deg 36' N, 72 deg E; emergency ballistic landing at 47 deg 52' N, 62 deg 40' E. Station IP-3 is to send the command to commence Program 5, orient for retrofire, at 12:02:39. IP-15 to send command for start of Program 6, retrofire, at 12:12:39 If a failure occurs, second attempts at landing in the primary recovery zone can be made on orbit 82 or 83. A final opportunity for a landing in the Western contingency zone would come on orbit 84.

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