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Ups and Downs for August

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1976 Soyuz 21 landing

Crew: Boris Volynov (CDR); Vitali Zholobov (FE)

200 km SW of Kokchetav


This had been the first expedition to Salyut 5, the last of the military Almaz stations to be concealed under the civilian label. While a two-month stay had been planned, the mission was terminated early: there are conflicting reports as to why this was done. One source states that Zholobov fell ill due to nitric acid fumes leaking from the station's propellant tanks, while others claim that the crew neglected to follow their physical exercise programme and were suffering from lack of sleep. There were even reports of 'interpersonal issues' between the cosmonauts. Volynov had problems undocking from Salyut: the latches failed to release properly and when he fired the thrusters to pull away, they jammed completely. Mission Control sent up details of an emergency procedure but the spacecraft moved out of radio range before these were complete. The cosmonauts had to wait until the next orbit to receive the remaining instructions so they could disengage the latches. Because the mission had been terminated early, they were outside the usual landing window and high winds caused uneven firing of the cushioning retro-rockets and resulted in a hard landing. The cosmonauts were found to be in very poor physical and mental shape. Their flight had lasted 49d 6h 24m and 791 orbits.


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1966 AS-202


This was the third test flight of the Saturn IB (AS-203, which did not carry an Apollo spacecraft, had been launched first to allow the ground crews more time to prepare the CSM for this mission). In what was essentially a repetition of AS-201, the S‑IVB’s ullage rockets were successfully tested prior to ignition of the J-2 engine, providing a brief forward thrust to ensure that the second stage propellants were properly seated at the rear of the tanks so that the pumps could operate. Following separation of the spacecraft, the Service Module engine was fired in a burn lasting three and a half minutes, which boosted CSM SC-011 up to a peak altitude of 1,343km. During the descent, the SPS was fired again, first for ninety seconds and then in a pair of three-second burns in quick succession to demonstrate its restart capability. The Service Module was then jettisoned and the Command Module went into its recovery sequence, finally splashing down in the Atlantic some 3,000km east of the Cape, having travelled all the way around the world first. Following analysis of the flight data, NASA confirmed what had been tentatively considered before the launch, assuming that all had gone according to plan: the next Apollo to fly would have men on board. The programme was gathering speed and it seemed that the Moon was just around the corner. Tragically, however, it was not to be: the AS-204 fire would delay things by more than two years.



1998 Soyuz TM-27 landing

Crew: Talgat Musabayev (CDR); Nikolai Budarin (FE); Yuri Baturin (RC)

Landing site: 47° 57' 07'' N, 69° 37' 50'' E (40 km southeast of Dzheskasgan)


Baturin had been launched aboard Soyuz TM-28 earlier in the month and his flight time was 11d 19h 40m and 186 orbits. Musabayev and Budarin were the Mir Expedition 25 crew and their time was 207d 12h 50m and 3,284 orbits.

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1974 Soyuz 15 launch

Crew: Gennadi Sarafanov (CDR); Lev Demin (FE)


This should have been the second expedition to Salyut 3, the military space station, but though rendezvous was completed successfully the final docking did not take place due to a failure of the automatic system. This version of the Soyuz did not carry enough propellant for repeated manual docking attempts, so the mission had to be abandoned.



1978 Soyuz 31 launch

Crew: Valeri Bykovsky (CDR); Sigmund Jähn [East Germany] (RC)


The third Interkosmos mission saw the DDR become the fifth nation to have one of its citizens fly into space (following the Soviet Union, USA, Czechoslovakia and Poland). Docking with Salyut 6 took place on 28 August where the cosmonauts were greeted by the Expedition 2 crew. Much of Jähn's time was taken up by operating Salyut's MKF-6M camera systen, built by the Carl Zeiss works at Jena. Other work included materials research, medical and biological experiments and a test of sound perception limits. 

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1982 Soyuz T-5 landing

Crew: Leonid Popov (CDR); Aleksandr Serebrov (FE); Svetlana Savitskaya (RC)

Landing site:  70 km NE of Arkalyk


This carried the crew who had been launched a week earlier aboard Soyuz T-7; the familiar Taxi Flight exchange had taken place and the newer craft left docked to Salyut 7 for the eventual use of the Expedition 1 team. Svetlana Savitskaya had become only the second woman in space: her presence was a direct response to NASA's announcement that the first female US astronaut would be Sally Ride aboard STS-7. Flight time for the T-7/T-5 crew was 7d 21h 52m and 126 orbits.



1985 STS-51I launch

Crew: Joe Engle (CDR); Dick Covey (P); James van Hoften, Mike Lounge, Bill Fisher (MS)


20th Shuttle mission; sixth flight of Discovery

This flight deployed three communications satellites, and in addition retrieved a fourth and redeployed it following repairs. Syncom IV-4 had originally been launched aboard STS-51D in April but had failed to activate itself. A repair procedure was added to the 51I mission profile and this took place over the first two days of September. Fisher and van Hoften carried out two EVAs, lasting 7h 20m and 4h 26m during which the satellite was captured by the Orbiter's manipulator arm and lowered into the payload bay. A new electronics control box was installed to bypass the malfunctioning system and once it was determined that the satellite could function properly, van Hoften manually started it spinning and pushed it clear of the Shuttle. Ground Control then took command and eventually the satellite boosted itself to its operational orbit. The two EVAs had lasted a total of 11h 46m.

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1963 Little Joe II QTV


The first flight of the Little Joe II solid-fuel booster, which was designed to test the Launch Escape System, was primarily a check of the vehicle’s structural integrity, but it also marked the first flight of any component of the Apollo spacecraft: the Command Module and LES, albeit dummy assemblies. The Little Joe’s stabilising fins were not fitted with the hinged control surfaces that would appear on the later production versions: on this flight they were not necessary. Despite the relatively simple construction of the Little Joe, it stood almost as tall as a Mercury-Atlas combination and actually produced more thrust than the Redstone. Launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the vehicle climbed to an altitude of seven and a half kilometres, at which point the self-destruct signal was transmitted. However, due to a primer cord that had not been connected up, the detonation did not take place and the Qualification Test Vehicle, complete with Command Module, crashed into the desert 14km downrange.



1974 Soyuz 15 landing

Crew: Gennadi Sarafanov (CDR); Lev Demin (FE)

Landing site: 48 km SW of Tselinograd


Soyuz 15 had been intended to dock with Salyut 3 but had failed to achieve this and the crew had been forced to return to Earth. It was almost midnight in the recovery zone, but the cosmonauts could not wait as power levels were almost exhausted, and Soyuz had to descend in darkness. The recovery teams spotted the re-entry cabin’s flashing lights as it floated down under its parachute, and the crew were safe aboard the helicopters just seventeen minutes after touchdown. Soon the cover-up began, the authorities going to great lengths to avoid admitting that the mission had been a failure. First, they claimed that the flight had not been intended to dock with Salyut, and that the objective had been to test the psychological compatibility of two men with such differing ages (Sarafanov was 32; Demin, 48). As Western observers scoffed, TASS came up with an even more incredible theory: Soyuz 15 had been testing emergency night-landing procedures! A year later the truth came out when Vladimir Shatalov revealed that the spacecraft had in fact been testing a new rendezvous system, which was to be used on automatic supply ferries—later, as Progress, to be the backbone of the entire space station programme. On Soyuz 15, however, the equipment was faulty: each time it brought the spacecraft to within around fifty metres of Salyut, it had performed a main engine burn that was much too powerful. Finally there had been no alternative but to return to Earth. The flight had lasted just 2d 0h 12m and 32 orbits.



1999 Soyuz TM-29 landing

Crew: Viktor Afanasiyev (CDR); Jean-Pierre Haigneré [France], Sergei Avdeyev (FE)

Landing site: 50° 32' N, 67° 09' E (76 km north-northeast of Arkalyk)


This was the Mir Expedition 27 team: Afaniseyev and Haigneré had been launched alongside Slovak cosmonaut Ivan Bella in February. Their flight time was 188d 20h 16m and 2,988 orbits. However Sergei Avdeyev had already been aboard the station when they arrived: he had been there since the previous August as part of Expedition 26, for a total of 379d 14h 51m and 6,007 orbits. This was his third stay on Mir: his total flight time was more than 747 days.

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1965 Gemini V splashdown

Crew: Gordon Cooper (CDR); Pete Conrad (P)

Splashdown point: 29° 55' N, 69° 45' W (620 km southwest of Bermuda)


The mission patch bore the slogan EIGHT DAYS OR BUST but NASA frowned on this, feeling that if the mission had to be cut short for any reason it would be seen as a failure. As a compromise the offending words were covered over by a piece of parachute silk during the flight. When splashdown occurred after 7d 22h 55m and 120 orbits, the astronauts considered this close enough to their target to feel justified in removing the concealing silk. This took the duration record for the USA for the first time.



1988 Soyuz TM-6 launch

Crew: Vladimir Lyakhov (CDR); Valeri Polyakhov,  Abdulahad Mohmand [Afghanistan] (RC)


This flight served a dual purpose: not only did it allow a spacecraft exchange, with Lyakhov and Mohmand returning aboard the Soyuz TM-5 capsule, but it delivered medical cosmonaut Valeri Polyakhov to Mir so he could monitor the health of the Expedition 3 crew, Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, who were nearing the end of a year-long stay. Polyakhov would actually remain aboard the station when the others returned to Earth in December, clocking up some 240 days on orbit, and five years later would begin an even longer mission that would ultimately last fourteen months, still a record for a single flight.



2009 STS-128 launch

Crew: Rick Sturckow (CDR); Kevin Ford (P); Patrick Forrester, José Hernandez, John Olivas, Christer Fuglesang [Sweden], Nicole Stott (MS)


37th flight of Discovery; 128th Shuttle mission

Stott was to replace Tim Kopra as an ISS resident, part of Expedition 20. Docking with the station took place on 31 August and the crew began joint activities. The Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo was carried, containing supplies and equipment, and was temporarily berthed to the station before being returned to the cargo bay prior to undocking. Olivas conducted three EVAs during the mission: one accompanied by Stott (6h 35m) and two by Fuglesang (6h 39m and 7h 1m). On all three the astronauts exited through the ISS's Quest airlock rather than Discovery's own.

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1983 STS-8 launch

Crew: Dick Truly (CDR); Daniel Brandenstein (P); Guion Bluford, Dale Gardner, William Thornton (MS)


Eighth Shuttle mission; third flight of Challenger

The original flight plan involved the deployment of two communications satellite, but one was removed from the manifest due to problems with the Inertial Upper Stage on the previous mission. It was replaced by a Payload Flight Test Article, a lead-ballasted structure used to evaluate the Orbiter's manipulator arm.



1984 STS-41D launch

Crew: Henry Hartsfield (CDR); Michael Coats (P); Mike Mullane, Steven Hawley, Judy Resnik (MS); Charles Walker (PS)


Twelfth Shuttle mission; maiden flight of Discovery

The first launch attempt, on 26 June, was aborted at just T-6 seconds, with the engines already running: the first time this had happened since Gemini VI-A. Steve Hawley quipped, "Gee, I thought we'd be a lot higher at MECO [Main Engine Cut-Off]!" On this occasion, following a short delay after a private aircraft entered the restricted airspace zone, Discovery made her debut with a record 18,681kg in the payload bay. This consisted of three comsats: SBS-4, Syncom IV-2 and Telstar 3-C, as well as the OAST-1 solar array, an extendable panel carrying several different types of solar cells to evaluate their efficiency. This was raised and lowered several times, demonstrating the feasibility of such structures on future space stations. In its fully deployed state this panel measured 31.5m high and 4m wide, yet when collapsed it was just 18cm deep. Discovery also carried the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System, a device to separate materials in solution by subjecting them to an electrical field. This was developed by the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation and one of their employees, Charles Walker, became the first commercially-sponsored Payload Specialist to fly aboard the Shuttle.

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Thanks to my reader Bengalensis (Jörgen) for pointing out that like many, many people Swedish astronaut Arne Christer Fuglesang of STS-128 goes by his middle name in daily life. I knew that, really I did, and I've edited the post. Now if you'll excuse me I have to find out about a couple of guys called Charles Conrad and Thomas Mattingly.

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1998 Kwangmyongsong 1


This was North Korea's first satellite. The day after the launch a statement was released:


Our scientists and technicians have succeeded in launching the first artificial satellite aboard a multi-stage rocket into orbit. The rocket was launched in the direction of 86 degrees at a launching station in Musudan-ri, Hwadae county, North Hamgyong Province (40.8 deg N, 129.7 deg E) at 12:07 August 31, 1998 and correctly put the satellite into orbit at 12 hours 11 minutes 53 seconds in four minutes 53 seconds.

"The rocket is of three stages. The first stage was separated from the rocket 95 seconds after the launch and fell on the open waters of the East Sea of Korea 253 km off the launching station, that is 40 degrees 51 minutes north latitude 139 degrees 40 minutes east longitude. The second stage opened the capsule in 144 seconds, separated itself from the rocket in 266 seconds and fell on the open waters of the Pacific 1,646 km off from the launching station, that is 40 degrees 13 minutes north latitude 149 degrees 07 minutes east longitude. The third stage put the satellite into orbit 27 seconds after the separation of the second stage.

"The satellite is running along the oval orbit 218.82 km in the nearest distance from the earth and 6,978.2 km in the farthest distance. Its period is 165 minutes 6 seconds. The satellite is equipped with necessary sounding instruments. It will contribute to promoting scientific research for peaceful use of outer space. It is also instrumental in confirming the calculation basis for the launch of practical satellites in the future. The satellite is now transmitting the melody of the immortal revolutionary hymns Song of General Kim Il Sung and Song of General Kim Jong Il and the Morse signals Juche Korea in 27 MHz. The rocket and satellite which our scientists and technicians correctly put into orbit at one launch are a fruition of our wisdom and technology 100 percent. The successful launch of the first artificial satellite in the DPRK greatly encourages the Korean people in the efforts to build a powerful socialist state under the wise leadership of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.


In spite of all this no foreign observer ever detected the satellite visually, by radar, or picked up its radio signals. The Pentagon at first claimed it was an ICBM launch, and that the satellite story was just a cover for the test. However on further analysis of the data collected on the launch they admitted nearly a month later that there had been a satellite launch attempt. What seems to have happened is that the third stage either failed and fell into the Pacific or misfired and put the satellite into a low orbit where it decayed very quickly before it could be detected by foreign observers.



(Information from Encyclopedia Astronautica)

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