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Soyuz-6 opens floodgate of launches
The first of the three spacecraft participating in the planned joined mission lifted off on October 11, 1969. The Soyuz-6, carrying no docking port, entered orbit without problems and was in position to monitor the rendezvous of the two subsequent vehicles.
Soyuz-6 mission at a glance:
Valery Kubasov (left) and Georgy Shonin arrive at the launch pad before liftoff of the Soyuz-6 spacecraft
On October 11, 1969, the crew of Soyuz-6 was awaken at 7:30 local time (05:30 Moscow). The State Commission, overseeing launch preparations convened at 11:00. During the meeting, Vladimir Patrushev, a senior officer responsible for pad operations, reported some electrical problems, apparently caused by rain. Still, he assured everybody that the necessary measures were being taken to dry up the vehicle, so the commission gave the green light to the fueling of the rocket. (774)
Georgy Shonin and Valery Kubasov took their seats aboard the spacecraft two hours before the planned liftoff (12:00 Moscow, 10:00 local).
The Soyuz-6 spacecraft lifted off as scheduled at 14:10:10.22 Moscow Time. (820) The launch vehicle ascended to orbit according to the following timeline:
The nearly 10-minute ride to orbit was flawless and mission control quickly received confirmation that the solar panels and antennas of the spacecraft had deployed as planned. (774)
However, the pressurization of the DPO attitude control system aboard Soyuz did not take place immediately after the separation of the spacecraft from the launch vehicle. The initial attempt by the crew to start pressurization from an onboard console also failed. The problem threatened to severely limit the maneuvering capabilities of the spacecraft, but fortunately, during the third orbit, the pressurization was finally initiated, after Shonin was able to trigger a pyrotechnic device in the valve responsible for the operation. (820, 774)
According to ground tracking data cited by Vasily Mishin, Soyuz-6 had the following orbital parameters:
Mishin also recorded the periods for communications with Soyuz-6 on October 11, during its passes over the Soviet ground stations:
During the 5th orbit of the mission, the cosmonauts aboard Soyuz-6 re-oriented their spacecraft for orbit correction and then manually activated the ship's SKDU propulsion system for 27 seconds. The maneuver added 11 meters per second to the ship's velocity and put it in position for the rendezvous operations in the coming days.
In the meantime, back in Tyuratam, the launch vehicle with the Soyuz-8 spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad at Site 31 at 18:00 Moscow Time, or just four hours after Soyuz-6 blasted off from the same facility. (774)
Shonin and Kubasov bid farewell from the top of the launch gantry at Site 31 in Tyuratam before boarding Soyuz-6 on October 11, 1969.