Soyuz 7K-T No.39
|Mission duration||21 minutes 27 seconds|
|Orbits completed||Failed to orbit|
|Apogee||192 kilometres (119 mi)|
|Spacecraft type||Soyuz 7K-T|
|Launch mass||6,830 kilograms (15,060 lb)|
|Callsign||Урал (Ural - "Ural")|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||April 5, 1975, 11:04:54UTC|
|Launch site||Baikonur 1/5|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||April 5, 1975, 11:26:21UTC|
|Landing site||Altay Mountains (official)
Soyuz 7K-T No.39, anachronistically named Soyuz 18a or Soyuz 18-1 by some sources and also known as the April 5 Anomaly) was an unsuccessful launch of a manned Soyuz spacecraft by the Soviet Union in 1975. The mission was expected to dock with the orbiting Salyut 4 space station, but due to a failure of the Soyuz launch vehicle the crew failed to achieve orbit. The crew consisted of commander Vasili Lazarev, an Air Force major, and flight engineer Oleg Makarov, a civilian. The crew, who feared initially they had landed in China, were successfully recovered.
The accident was disclosed by the normally secretive Soviets as it occurred during preparations for their joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Project with the United States which flew three months later. While Lazarev never flew to space again and never fully recovered from the accident, Makarov made two more flights on board a Soyuz (both of which to the Salyut 6 space station).
|Flight Engineer||Oleg Makarov
|Flight Engineer||Vitaliy Sevastyanov|
Soyuz 7K-T No.39 was intended to be the second mission to take cosmonauts to the Soviet Salyut 4 space station for a 60-day mission. Both cosmonauts were on their second mission and had flown their first mission together, Soyuz 12, in September 1973 to test a new type of Soyuz spacecraft after the fatal accident of Soyuz 11.
The launch proceeded according to plan until T+288.6 seconds at an altitude of 145 kilometres (90 mi), when the second and third stages of the booster began separation. Only three of the six locks holding the stages together released and the third stage's engine ignited with the second stage still attached below it. The third stage's thrust broke the remaining locks, throwing the second stage free but putting the booster under unanticipated strain that caused it to deviate from the proper trajectory. At T+295 seconds, the deviation was detected by the Soyuz's guidance system, which activated an automatic abort program. As the escape tower was long gone by this point, the abort had to be performed with the Soyuz's own engines. This separated the spacecraft from the third-stage booster and then separated the orbital and service modules of the Soyuz from the re-entry capsule.
At the time when the safety system initiated separation the spacecraft was already pointed downward toward Earth, which accelerated its descent significantly. Instead of the expected acceleration in such an emergency situation of 15 g (147 m/s²), the cosmonauts experienced up to 21.3 g (209 m/s²). Despite very high overloading, the capsule's parachutes opened properly and slowed the craft to a successful landing after a flight of only 21 minutes.
The capsule landed southwest of Gorno-Altaisk at a point 829 kilometres (515 mi) north of the Chinese border. The capsule landed on a snow-covered slope and began rolling downhill towards a 152 m (499 ft) sheer drop before it was stopped by the parachutes' becoming snagged on vegetation.
Having landed in chest-deep powder snow and a local temperature of −7 °C (19 °F), the cosmonauts donned their cold-weather survival clothing. As the cosmonauts were uncertain if they had landed in China, they quickly destroyed documents relating to a military experiment planned for the flight (this was at a time when Sino-Soviet relations were extremely hostile). Soon, the crew was in radio contact with a rescue team in an approaching helicopter, who confirmed they were in the Soviet Union, near the town of Aleysk. The deep snow, the high altitude, and the terrain meant the rescuers had great difficulty in making contact with the cosmonauts. It was the next day before they were safely airlifted out. The crew were returned to Star City; the capsule was recovered some time later.
Initial Soviet reports stated the men had suffered no ill effects from their flight. Vladimir Shatalov, the Director of Cosmonaut Training, reported they were fit to fly another mission. However, subsequent reports claimed that Lazarev was injured by the high acceleration of re-entry. Makarov went on to take part in Soyuz 26, Soyuz 27 and Soyuz T-3 missions.
In Brezhnev's time, it was rare to disclose anything about Soviet failures, and so the first (Soviet) publication about the realities of the flight was not made until 1983 in the Army newspaper Red Banner. The Americans were informed on April 7 after the crew had been rescued. However, as the failure occurred during preparations for the joint Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the US requested that a more detailed report of the accident be provided. (There was even a U. S. Congressional Inquiry regarding this failure and several others.) In the report the Soviets made to the Americans, the abort was referred to as "the April 5th anomaly" and, as this was the only term the Soviets ever used for the incident, it became the 'official' designation for years afterwards. It was also disclosed that the booster used in the launch was an older model and not the same one that would be used for Soyuz 19. The mission is referred to in some literature as Soyuz 18-1 or Soyuz 18a, since the following Soyuz mission in May 1975 received the name Soyuz 18 (the Soviets only gave numbers to successful launches).
The failed Soyuz mission is the only case of a manned booster accident at high altitude. The exact landing site of the capsule had been a subject of debate amongst space historians in subsequent years. A Russian source quoted by James Oberg has stated that the landing occurred in Mongolia.
- Mass: 6,830 kg (15,060 lb)
- Apogee: 192 km (119 mi)
- "Baikonur LC1". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
- Newkirk, Dennis (1990). Almanac of Soviet Manned Space Flight. Houston, Texas: Gulf Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87201-848-2.
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- Shayler, David (2000). Disasters and Accidents in Manned Space Flight. Springer Praxis. p. 159. ISBN 1-85233-225-5.
- Hall, Rex; David Shayler (2003). Soyuz, A Universal Spacecraft. Springer Praxis. p. 193. ISBN 1-85233-657-9.
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- Oberg, James (March 19, 1997). "Consultant Report: Soyuz Landing Safety". Retrieved 2007-12-15.