Reusable manned return space vehicle of the Almaz rocket (actual sample). Designed by V. Chelomey. First flight – 1976
In 1959, Chelomey was appointed the Chief Designer of Aviation Equipment.
OKB-52, along with designing ICBMs, started to work on spacecraft, and in 1961 began work on a design for a much more powerful ICBM, the UR-500, although it was rather quickly rejected as impractical to use as a missile.
In 1962, Chelomey became an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Mechanics Department.
Chelomey became Sergey Korolev’s internal competitor in the “Moon race”. Chelomey proposed that the powerful UR-500 be used to launch a small two-man craft on a lunar flyby, and managed to gain support for his proposal by employing Nikita Khrushchev’s son, Sergei Khrushchev.
He also claimed the UR-500 could be used to launch a military space station.
An argument between Sergey Korolev and rocket engine designer Valentin Glushko over personal issues and whether the N1 should be fueled with RP-1 / LOX or Hypergolic propellant resulted in Glushko and Korolev refusing to work with each other, causing Glushko to instead offer his RD-253 rocket engine to Chelomey, who adopted it for his UR-500.
On 3 August 1964 the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted and signed Decree #655-268 On Work on Research on the Moon and Outer Space, which redefined Chelomey’s and Korolev’s roles in the space program: Korolev was now responsible for development of the N1, which was chosen to accomplish a crewed lunar landing, while Chelomei was assigned to the development of the UR-500 which was chosen to perform a crewed circumlunar flight. The projects continued to work separately side-by-side. The first launch of the UR-500 (also known as Proton) took place in early 1965.
Although it was never used to send cosmonauts to the Moon as Chelomey had hoped, Proton became the staple heavy lift launch vehicle of the Soviet/Russian fleet and would be used over the years for planetary probes, space stations, geosynchronous satellites, and more.
Chelomey’s OKB also designed anti-satellite weapons such as Polyot. Unlike earlier satellites, Chelomey’s Polyot-1 (1963) and Polyot-2 (1964) were equipped with an propulsion bus which enabled them to change their orbits. He also headed the development of the Proton satellite. In the 1970s Chelomey’s OKB proposed non-realised Proton-based 20-ton LKS (Kosmolyot) spaceplane and worked on the Almaz military orbital stations (flown as Salyut 2, Salyut 3 and Salyut 5) which also became the basis for the Salyut, Mir and Zvezda civil space stations.
To support his Almaz stations, Chelomey designed the TKS, as a large alternative to Soyuz. The TKS never flew crewed as planned but derivatives flew as modules on Salyut 7 and Mir. In the 1980s Chelomey’s OKB proposed non-realised 15-ton Uragan spaceplane based on Zenit-2 launcher.
The Almaz rogram was a highly secret Soviet military space station program, begun in the early 1960s.
Three crewed military reconnaissance stations were launched between 1973 and 1976: Salyut 2, Salyut 3 and Salyut 5. To cover the military nature of the program, the three launched Almaz stations were designated as civilian Salyut space stations.
Salyut 2 failed shortly after achieving orbit, but Salyut 3 and Salyut 5 both conducted successful crewed testing. Following Salyut 5, the Soviet Ministry of Defense judged in 1978 that the time and resources consumed by station maintenance outweighed the benefits relative to automatic reconnaissance satellites.
The space stations’ cores were known internally as OPS (Russian: ОПС, GRAU index 11F71 and 11F71B), from “Orbital Piloted Station” (Russian: Орбитальная Пилотируемая Станция).
As part of the Almaz program, the Soviets developed several spacecraft for support roles—the VA spacecraft, the Functional Cargo Block and the TKS spacecraft—which they planned to use in several combinations.
The heritage of the Almaz program continues, with the ISS module Zarya being one example.