Encyclopedia Astronautica
1969.10.14 - Soyuz 7-8 docking problem

Orbital manoeuvres for the Soyuz 7-8 docking have proceeded normally. The automated rendezvous system is supposed to kick in when the spacecraft are 250 km apart. The plan is that Soyuz 7 and 8 will dock while Soyuz 6 observes from only 50 m away. However when Soyuz 7 and 8 are only a kilometre apart, the Igla automated docking system fails. The crews could conduct a manual rendezvous, but the this is not allowed by the technical flight controller.

After analysis Mishin agrees to the manual docking, but by this time the spacecraft are 3000 m apart. Mission rules are that no manual docking be attempted unless the spacecraft are within 1500 m. Shatalov courageously refuses to violate an instruction to execute an unsafe procedure not allowed by the rules. By this time the spacecraft's orbits take them out of the range of tracking stations - the so-called 'deaf' orbits. But the spacecraft have plenty of propellant left for further attempts at rendezvous and docking. The weather in the recovery area is bad (stormy, 25-30 m/s wind).

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