Monday, September 7, 2009

Launch Vehicles Polus

The Polyus military testbed was put together on a crash basis as an answer to America's Star Wars program. It was built around a surplus TKS manned spacecraft and was meant to test prototype ASAT and Star Wars defense systems. It failed to reach orbit, but it had succeeded, it would have been the core module of a new Mir-2 space station. Its mere presence could have decisively changed the shape of the Cold War in its final months.

In 1985, it became clear that the Energia launch vehicle would be ready for launch before the Buran space shuttle that was its intended payload. Therefore Ministry of General Machine Building (MOM) issued a resolution ordering the launch of Energia with a mock-up of a spacecraft in the 100 metric ton class.

In July 1985 General Designer D A Polukhin called together his workers and noted that MOM Minister O D Baklanov had given them the assignment of producing a 100 metric ton 'functional mockup' satellite by September 1986. It would normally take five years to develop such a spacecraft, and they had only one year - therefore it would have to be greatly simplified. The systems in development for the next generation of spacecraft at that time consisted only of equipment items in test configuration. KB Salyut had a range of spacecraft in production, including the 20-metric ton TKS manned logistics vehicle.

The Skif-D 100-metric ton space platform was only in the design and drawing stage. The bureau proposed to create a spacecraft from a test stand version of the TKS mated to a mock-up built to the Skif-D drawings. Several modules and subsystems were also borrowed from the Buran. Major subcontractors included NPO Elektropribor, NPO Radiopribor, NPO Digital Mechanics, NIIMASh, KBKhM, and the Progress Factory. On 19 August 1985, MOM issued the detailed schedule for the spacecraft's completion. The Skif-D and all subsystems were delivered to Baikonur in August 1986. From August 1986 to January 1987 the Skif-DM underwent integration and final tests at the space centre.

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