Salyut 7 was the last of the Salyut space stations and the precursor to the Mir modular space station. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, U.S.S.R., on April 19, 1982. It stayed in orbit for approximately nine years, hosted nine cosmonaut crews and spent more than 800 days inhabited.
The station's structure was similar to Salyut 6, the previous second-generation Soviet space station, but also featured a few upgrades. The 18,900-kilogram Salyut 7 station had three solar panels mounted to the outside, but unlike Salyut 6, there was now the ability to mount secondary panels on their sides. Two docking ports were located on opposite ends of the station -- one for Progress resupply vehicles and another wider one for Heavy Cosmos modules.
Improvements were made inside the station as well. Cosmonauts now had electric stoves, a refrigerator and constant hot water. The seats at the command consoles were redesigned to more closely resemble bicycle seats. Two portholes let in ultraviolet light to help kill germs and prevent infections. An X-ray detection system replaced the BST-1M telescope used on Salyut 6.
Long duration missions could be even longer on Salyut 7, partially because of improved medical, biological and exercise stations. In fact, Salyut 7 cosmonauts set two long-duration records. First, cosmonauts Anatoly Berezovoi and Valentin Lebedev spent 211 days in space in 1982, returning home on Soyuz-T7. Then Leonid Kizim, Vladimir Solovyev and Oleg Atkov stayed in space for 236 days in 1984.
Salyut 7 was also visited by two important women - the second female cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya, and the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman. During Savitskaya's second Salyut 7 visit in 1984, she participated in one of at least five spacewalks necessary to fix a rocket motor system leak, making her the first woman to perform an extravehicular activity. Sharman remains the only British astronaut ever sent into space.
Eleven missions were planned to go to Salyut 7, but two could not be completed. Soyuz-T8 reached the station but could not dock, and Soyuz-T10-1 had to be aborted on the launch pad when a fire broke out. The two Soyuz-T10-1 cosmonauts were ejected from their spacecraft and landed safely just four or five kilometers from the pad.
Aside from the many experiments and observations made on Salyut 7, the station also tested the docking and use of large modules with an orbiting space station. The modules were called "Heavy Cosmos modules." They helped engineers develop technology necessary to build Mir.
Cosmos 1443 was launched on March 2, 1983 using a Proton SL-13 launch vehicle. It docked to Salyut 7 on March 10. The Soyuz-T9 crew used it for two weeks, and then it was jettisoned. It reentered Earth's atmosphere on Sept. 19.
The next and final module, Cosmos 1686, was launched on Sept. 27, 1985. It docked to the station on Oct. 2. There was no recovery vehicle on this module. The Soyuz-T14 crew used it and then left it to support the station using its own onboard systems. The systems allowed Salyut 7 to continue unmanned operations through 1986.
One final crew visited Salyut 7 after this time. Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyev, the crew for the Soyuz-T15 mission, transferred supplies and equipment from Salyut 7 to the then-orbiting Mir space station. When they left, Cosmos 1686 boosted Salyut 7 into a higher orbit in preparation for another cosmonaut visit, but no further missions were sent there.
The station-module complex deorbited on Feb. 7, 1991. It was destroyed during reentry, reportedly scattering debris over parts of Argentina and Chile.
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Updated: Monday 8th, February, 2003