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73d Space Group

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

73d Space Group
73d Space Group.png
Emblem of the 73d Space Group
Active1966–1971; 1989–1995
CountryUnited States
BranchUnited States Air Force
TypeSpace Surveillance
RoleCombat Support
Part ofAFSPC/14 AF
Garrison/HQFalcon AFB, Colorado

The 73d Space Group is an inactive United States Air Force space surveillance organization. Its last assignment was with Fourteenth Air Force, being stationed at Falcon Air Force Base, Colorado. It was inactivated on 26 April 1995.

The Group performed space surveillance. In April 1995 the 73d Space Surveillance Group merged with the 21st Space Wing. From that point the 21st became the largest wing in the United States Air Force with units deployed literally throughout the world.

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In 1985 one of the most audacious space rescue missions was launched by the Soviets to recover a space station that had been dead for months due to an unknown fault. That feat was unparalleled in space exploration and rewrote the books on what was thought possible and yet its story has fallen into obscurity and conspiracy theory. In 1979 the Soviet Union was a superpower in search of a space station, Mir the state-of-the-art orbital facility was in development but was delayed and still six years from launch and also the military space station ALMAZ had also recently been cancelled without his final mission taking place. To maintain a presence in low-earth orbit the Soviet space agency took the decision to fly one more single long station that's a small space station that can be lifted into orbit complete in one launch. The backup hardware for the Salyut program could be used and a series of missions was planned for the station will become known as Salyut 7. This small lab orbiting between 200 kilometers or 120 miles above the earth would go further than any spacecraft before to become the base for six long-term expeditions but Salyut 7 would also suffer from a series of strange malfunctions and become the scene of a desperate rescue at orbital velocity. The space race of the 60s and 70s was measured by a growing number of competitive record breaking missions in the Soviet media new achievements were needed to justify the expense of space programs and bolster national pride. To feed this hunger cosmonauts spent longer and longer in their capsules on spacewalks and then inhabited manned space stations. The American Skylab constructed from an adaptive Saturn V upper stage spent 84 days in orbit in 1973-74 testing the effects of microgravity on the body and pioneering solar observations. In 1978 the Soviet Salyut 6 exceeded the long standing Skylab record when its crew passed 96 days in orbit by 1980 that record had been extended to 184 days of uninterrupted habitation with the upcoming Mir the Soviets plan to do more ever been possible with single launch stations. Salyut 7 could help make this a reality by testing out new hardware and training cosmonauts as well as predecessors, Salyut 7 had the docking ports fore and aft so crew rotation and resupply could happen simultaneously. Salyut had previously been supplied by the progress spacecraft a derivative of soyuz that still travels to the international space station to this day. Salyut 7 launched aboard a proton rocket on the 19th of April 1982 and on May the 13th the first crew launch to rendezvous with it beginning a mission that would last for a record-breaking 211 days. The first task aboard the new station was to launch a 28 kilogram of 61 pound amateur radio satellite from the trash airlock. This was held by the Soviets as the first launch of a communications satellite from a manned space vehicle before NASA's planned launch was two heavy geostationary satellites from the shuttle later that year. Despite a successful first year, research on Salyut 7 were soon stalled by technical issues. In September 1983 a fuel leak was discovered after almost a whole tank vented into space. In a series of spacewalks cosmonauts conducted to in orbit repairs and a later repair of a special tool delivered by ground resupply. The unprecedented scale of these repairs was impressive but Salyut 7 faced a much greater challenge ahead. In 1984 Salyut 7's 3rd cosmonaut crew returned from orbit aboard Soyuz and the space station entered autopilot mode monitored by remote control from the Soviet ground team. On the 11th of February 1985 telemetry reported a huge electrical surge knocking out the radio transmission from salyut, when ground operators attempted to bring the transmitters back on line a second surge swept through the station knocking out radio receivers as well now suddenly Salyut 7 was out of contact with no way of diagnosing what may have gone wrong. For months in 1985 the 16 meter or 50 foot long station drifted silent and out of control. According to a Russian documentary program made in 2012 the Americans considered trying to capture the Salyut 7 with the space shuttles cargo bay and bring it back to earth. In reality Soviet ground control had considered doing the same thing with the unfinished "Buran" shuttle but they found it would have been impossible although the Salyut couldn't be scooped up and carried back to earth it was far too valuable to just be abandoned. Instead the only solution was to send up a Soyuz with a two-man crew consisting of Vladimir Dzhanibekov and victor Savinikh to manually dock with Salyut 7 and attempt a rescue. The first problem was how do you dock with a dead space station that uses an automatic powered docking system. The engineers had to come up with an entirely new set of docking techniques. The Soyuz was a three-man craft but with just two crew the third seat and the automatic docking system removed completely there was enough room for extra supplies food and water and more fuel to the extended mission. The Soyuz was fitted with a laser rangefinder and a crew took night vision goggles in case they had to dock on the night side. With a 70 to 80 percent chance of success the mission was given the go-ahead. On 6th June 1985 a rescue mission launched and orbited for two days until it caught up with salyut 7. As the Soyuz approached more closely it appeared that these solar panels were misaligned that meant that the electrical systems have failed completely. Using the laser rangefinder to align with the docking port the crew matched for rotation of the craft to that of Salyut and then approached slowly to contact and dock. This was a major achievement but significant danger lay ahead neither the crew nor the ground control knew what had caused the station to go dark or what laying in wait for them inside. As the cosmonauts opened up the hatches to equalize the air pressure with the station they felt a rush of freezing air. With Salyut's power being offline for so long it had been exposed to temperatures had never been designed to operate in. Critical provisions like water were all frozen and any number of essential life support systems might have been damaged. Ground control weren't even sure if it was safe for the crew to be onboard. Dressed in winter clothing the cosmonauts slowly went through the process of opening the three hatches that stood between them and the dark living area of the station. With hand-held air quality tests they quickly checked for carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases that could indicate a fire on board. The problems of the station were electrical in nature but they couldn't just Hotwire the station to the Soyuz. The fault that took down the space station could also blow the electrics in the Soyuz and then they would be stranded and face almost certain death. Although the air supply was safe they were limited to just one crew member at a time working the station because with no circulation systems working the carbon dioxide from the crew members own breath could build up to dangerous levels. So one crew member stayed in the Soyuz to monitor the of one working in the station. Water was also a problem, the crew had eight days supply in the Soyuz if they rationed it and tapped into the Salyut's emergency supply it would stretch to twelve days but it could take that time or longer to find the cause of the problem and get the station's systems back on line, if the water ran out before then they would have to leave come what may. After carefully working through the Salyuts electrical systems the cause of the power loss was eventually pinpointed to a single sensor on one of the batteries. This malfunctioning sensor was designed to stop the batteries from being overcharged. Once a day, everyday the main computer instructed the solar cells to charge the batteries but the faulty sensor stopped charging almost immediately. Over time the batteries ran flat and soon the whole station went dead unable to communicate with the ground or function at all. Once the crew had replaced the battery and the faulty sensor and further adjustments to the out of alignment solar cells were made, in August Salyut 7 was saved and continued to support missions for a further year. After the station was returned to service Vladimir Dzhanibekov remained on the station for 110 days. MIR was launched in February 1986 but even with its replacement in orbit, Salyut 7 continued to make history. The first crew on Mir traveled in the Soyuz to Salyut to collect and transfer valuable equipment, the only time but a station to station crew transfer has taken place to date. The Soviets had intended to continue using Salyut 7 even after the launch of Mir. It was boosted into a higher orbit of 475 kilometers or 295 miles to delay reentry however due to the funding cuts the future Salyut missions, the collapse of a Soviet Union and the non appearance of the "Buran" shuttle the station's orbit gradually decayed and in 1991 three years earlier than intended the last Salyut broke up during an uncontrolled re-entry over South America. It's this determination and experience of the engineers, ground control and cosmonauts to keep Salyut 7 flying when previous stations that have gone before we're allowed to fail but has been carried over into the ISS which has now been flown continuously over 15 years by the international community. So thanks for watching and don't forget we now have the curious droid Facebook page and group where you can suggest ideas for new videos the link is in the channel page and you can also translate any of our videos with the community contributions we have a video on if you're unsure in the uploaded video section so as always thanks again for watching and please subscribe rate and share




  • Established as: 73d Aerospace Surveillance Wing on 1 November 1966
Organized on 1 January 1967
Inactivated on 30 April 1971
  • Redesignated as 73d Space Surveillance Group on 10 February 1989
Activated on 1 March 1989
Redesignated as 73d Space Wing on 1 June 1991
Redesignated as 73d Space Group on 1 May 1992
Inactivated on 26 April 1995





  • Detachment 1, 73d Space Group – San Vito dei Normanni AS, Italy (1 October 1989 – 1 October 1990)[1]
  • Detachment 2, 73d Space Group – RAF Feltwell, United Kingdom (1 October 1989 – 1 October 1990)
  • Detachment 3, 73d Space Group – Misawa AB, Japan (1 January 1991 – 1 October 1992)



Per chevron reversed celeste and azure a plate bearing a torteau radiating seven fillets throughout argent and over-all a fillet forming a nuclear rose of the last seeded of seven electrons gules and leaved of seven flight symbols or, all within a diminished bordure of the like.



 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. ^ Air Force Historical Research Agency: Supplement to 73d Space Group Lineage and Honors, 1 November 2009
  • Information compiled by Daniel L. Haulman, Phd; Chief, Organizational Histories Branch; Air Force Historical Research Agency

This page was last edited on 28 April 2018, at 14:15
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