15.05.

1987: Soviet Spacecraft Powered by Anti-satellite Laser

1987: Soviet Spacecraft Powered by Anti-satellite Laser
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons / Energia transported to the launchpad in Baikonur

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 15 May 1987
  • It was the Soviet response to the "Star Wars" project launched by the American president Ronald Reagan. The Polyus spacecraft was powered by anti-satellite laser, and designed to destroy American satellites. The entire system (including a launch vehicle) weighed 2,400 tons.

On this day in 1987, the Soviets launched a spacecraft similar to those in science fiction novels.

It was the Soviet response to the “Star Wars” project launched by the American president Ronald Reagan.

The official name of this American project was “Strategic Defense Initiative” (SDI), and it was proposed as a protection from the Soviet attacks by intercontinental ballistic missiles, but was supposed to be used for an attack on the USSR.

The Polyus spacecraft could destroy American satellites with a powerful type of laser. It weighed 80 tons, and a very powerful missile was used for its launch.

The Soviets developed the powerful Energia system (Russian: Энергия), which could take up easily over 100 tons. “Energia” had the most powerful rocket engines ever made (there are still the most powerful rocket engines in the world).

The entire system (including a launch vehicle) weighed 2,400 tons. The Polyus spacecraft was powered by a megawatt carbon-dioxide laser.

Shortly before its launch, Soviet leader Gorbachev visited Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Energia system worked flawlessly, but a problem arose while the spacecraft was trying to separate from the launch vehicle.

If Polyus had made its 180° rotation, it would have been successfully launched. But this didn`t happen; an error occurred. Polyus made its 360° rotation, but its engines wouldn`t stop working.

The 80-ton spacecraft crashed in the Pacific Ocean (few years later, the Soviet Union collapsed).

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