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Soyuz Apollo Test Project

Tyneside, UK
2022 Aug 14
Sunday, Day 226

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The Partnership: A History of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project

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What Do You Do With A Spare Spacecraft?

Once ASTP was over, the Soviet Union had on its hands an unused spacecraft - the ASTP backup. It was so different from the standard Soyuz version being used to support the Salyut space stations that conversion was not practical. The solution was to use it for a one-off specialised mission.

Soyuz22 crewIt was turned into an orbiting camera platform, equipped with an East-German multi-spectral camera for surveying the terrain from altitude. The mission filled a gap between Salyut 4 and Salyut 6 - which was still nine months away. Salyut 6 was going to be equipped with a similar camera.

The mission commander was one of the original Vostok cosmonauts - Valeri Bykovsky (seen on the right in the photograph), who was not actively involved the main Salyut programme, and was not among the ASTP cosmonaut group either - most members of which transferred to Salyut. He was fit, experienced and available - a perfect candidate for the job. He was accompanied by Vladimir Aksyonov - a spacecraft design engineer.

Soyuz 22 is the only piloted Soyuz mission not to have flown in the 51 degree inclination orbital slot. Its orbit was angled at 65 degrees to the equator - like Vostok and Voskhod. The reason was simply to maximise the area available for coverage with the MFK-6 camera, with particular emphasis on coverage of the German Democratic Republic.

Date Time (UTC) Event
1976 Sep 15 09:48 Soyuz 22 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Soyuz rocket into 185 x 296 kilometre orbit at 64.8 degrees inclination with Valeri Bykovsky and Vladimir Aksyonov aboard - it is the backup spacecraft from ASTP, refurbished to carry the MFK-6 large-format camera for Earth observation built in the German Democratic Republic - a similar camera was later fitted to Salyut 6
1976 Sep 16 Soyuz 22 established in its operational orbit - 239 x 253 kilometres
1976 Sep 23 07:01 Soyuz 22 fires its manoeuvring engine to initiate re-entry
1976 Sep 23 07:42 Soyuz 22 lands in Khazakhstan
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