New Soyuz-TM Spaceship Docks With Mir Station
The Soviet Union took a key step toward establishing a permanent base in space Friday by automatically docking its new Soyuz-TM space transport with the Mir orbital station.
Following a radio-controlled correction in the unmanned spacecraft’s trajectory, it “docked successfully with the orbital station,” the Tass news agency and Soviet TV said.
Although the Soyuz-TM was unmanned, earlier announcements made it clear the spaceship was designed to ferry crews to Mir, the Soviet Union’s new orbiting space station. Mir is not currently manned.
The Soyuz-TM is outfitted with advanced systems, Tass said, “including those of approaching and docking, radio communication, emergency rescue, as well as a new combined propulsion unit and a new parachute system.”
An Essential Element
The new transport ship for cosmonauts and supplies would be an essential element in setting up permanently manned space stations, observers said.
The Soyuz-TM transport ship replaces the previous Soyuz-T spaceship that had been used to carry cosmonauts in the numerous missions to the old series of Salyut space stations.
The docking was another development in the ambitious 1986 Soviet space program that has seen the launching of the sophisticated third-generation Mir research station in February, the manning of the station by two veteran cosmonauts in March and history’s first transfer between space stations.
The first crew to use the new orbital station moved May 5 in their Soyuz-T15 spacecraft to the 4-year-old Salyut-7 station. The crew, space veterans Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov, has been in orbit for more than two months and it was not known when the mission would end.
Soviet officials did say, however, it would be too difficult for the crew to return to the Mir station from the older Salyut-7 station.