Flying U.S. Science on the U.S.S.R Cosmos Biosatellites

Rodney W Ballard, Karen Rossberg Walker


The USSR Cosmos Biosatellites are unmanned missions with durations of approximately 14 days. They are capable of carrying a wide variety of biological specimens such as cells, tissues, plants, and animals, including rodents and rhesus monkeys. The absence of a crew is an advantage with respect to the use of radioisotopes or other toxic materials and contaminants, but a disadvantage with respect to the performance of inflight procedures or repair of hardware failures. Thus, experiment hardware and procedures must be either completely automated or remotely controlled from the ground. A serious limiting factor for experiments is the amount of electrical power available, so when possible experiments should be self-contained with their own batteries and data recording devices. Late loading is restricted to approximately 48 hours before launch and access time upon recovery is not precise since there is a ballistic reentry and the capsule must first be located and recovery vehicles dispatched to the site. Launches are quite reliable and there is a proven track record of nine previous Biosatellite flights. This paper will present data and experiences from the seven previous Cosmos flights in which the US has participated as well as the key areas of consideration in planning a flight investigation aboard this Biosatellite platform.

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