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Almaz T1 /  K
Almaz T1 / K - Almaz T1 or K radarsat version of Almaz.

Credit: Khrunichev. 16,046 bytes. 353 x 193 pixels.

Other Designations: Almaz-K. Article Number: 11F668. Code Name: Mech-K. Class: Surveillance. Type: Radarsat. Nation: USSR. Manufacturer: NPO PM.

The results of the manned Almaz flights showed that manned reconnaissance from space was not worth the expense. There was minimal time to operate the equipment after the crew took the necessary time for maintenance of station housekeeping and environmental control systems.

The experiments themselves showed good results and especially the value of reconnaissance of the same location in many different spectral bands and parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore the program was not cancelled, but to be followed by the Almaz-T system, which was to be a multi-satellite multi-spectral system for sustained reconnaissance.

As a counterpoint to the American Lacrosse satellite, this version of Almaz had an enormous S-Band synthetic aperture radar which returned images of 10 to 15 meter resolution. The first such Almaz-T was to be launched in 1981. However, an order arrived from Moscow ten days prior to the launch - terminate the Almaz Program as a result of work on Buran. Ustinov had decided to deal the finishing blow to Chelomei. Only after the deaths of Chelomei and Ustinov (they died the same year two weeks apart) did new Chief Designer Gerbert Yefremov manage to convince Minister of Defense Sokolov that the program needed to be continued. They authorized him to prepare for launch the station that had collected dust for six years at the Baikonur test range. To the designers' surprise, the Almaz was in decent condition (in contrast to its fairing, which had been used as a toilet). It had only been saved by its external placards - ‘Warning - Don't Enter - Self-Destruct Charges on Board’. This much-suffering Almaz was launched on November 29, 1986. But the second stage did not separate for the first time in many years and the same self-destruct charges destroyed the Almaz.

The next Almaz-T was erected on the launch pad on June 25, 1987. The Proton launch vehicle normally cannot be kept fueled, on hold, for more than four days. An order once again arrived at Baikonur - delay the launch and remove the rocket from the launch pad. The order was ignored, with extraordinary measures being taken to keep the station inside the shroud at normal temperatures despite hot summer days of 42 degrees C. Minister of General Machine Building Baklanov was at Baikonur, and he finally agreed to allow launch of the spacecraft. It received the name Cosmos 1870 and provided radar imagery to scientific and commercial customers for two years. A second Almaz-T was flown in 1991 as Almaz-1. This spacecraft was instrumental in the rescue of the expedition lost on the ice of Antarctica in the ship Mikhail Somov. No other sensor could locate the ship in the perpetual polar night.

In 1992, the Machine Building NPO began to develop a new Almaz-T, with three radars and an optical telescope. But financing was not forthcoming.


Total Mass: 18,550 kg. Primary Engine Thrust: 800 kgf. Main Engine Isp: 291 sec.

Almaz-T Chronology

29 November 1986 Almaz-T s/n 303 Failure Program: Almaz. Launch Site: Baikonur . Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K. FAILURE: Second stage explosion. Mass: 18,550 kg.
25 July 1987 Cosmos 1870 Program: Almaz. Launch Site: Baikonur . Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K. Mass: 18,550 kg. Perigee: 263 km. Apogee: 278 km. Inclination: 71.9 deg. Duration: 734.00 days.

First flight of Almaz radarsat taken out of mothballs after death of Ustinov. Returned images of 10 to 15 meter resolution through 29 July 1989. Remote sensing of the earth's surface, oceans and seas in the interests of various branches of science and the economy.

31 March 1991 Almaz 1 Program: Almaz. Launch Site: Baikonur . Launch Vehicle: Proton 8K82K. Mass: 18,550 kg. Perigee: 337 km. Apogee: 351 km. Inclination: 72.7 deg.

Radar imaging. Second flight of Almaz radarsats taken out of mothballs after death of Ustinov. Returned images of 10 to 15 meter resolution through 17 October 1992. Surveying of the territory of the Soviet Union and of other countries for purposes of geology, cartography, oceanology, ecology and agriculture, and study of the ice situation at high latitudes.


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .