A Gun in Space

Salyut 3
Salyut 3 was a Soviet space station launched on June 25, 1974. It was the second Almaz military space station, and the first such station to be launched successfully. It was included in the Salyut program to disguise its true military nature. Due to the military nature of the station, the Soviet Union was reluctant to release information about its design, and about the missions relating to the station.

Although little official information has been released about the station, several sources report that it contained multiple Earth-observation cameras for spying US , its said also it had 50cm resolution. But there was more than cameras on board...

In the July 1998 issue of Spaceflight (the popular publication of the British Interplanetary Society), there's an article about the military version of the Soviet Salyut space station, which flew as Salyuts 3 and 5 between 1974 and 1977.

A "self-defence" gun developed for the Almaz station. Credit: NPO Mash
(The name “Salyut” was applied to two entirely different space station programs, one military and the other civilian, which used completely different hardware built by different design bureaux.
The hardware flown in the Salyut 3 and 5 missions was referred to as Almaz (Diamond) within the Soviet space program.) Virtually no information was available about the military Salyuts until recently, when access was opened up to a full-scale training model at the Moscow Aviation Institute. Well, guess what—Salyut 3 had a machine gun. The station had a 23 mm rapid-fire cannon mounted on the outside, along the long axis of the station “for defence against US space-based inspectors/interceptors”.

Combat engagements would not be easy , since the only way to aim the cannon was to point the entire station at the target, using its attitude gyros. A periscope connected to a visor on the main control panel allowed drawing a bead on the intended target.

Credit: NPO Mash

According to a report , the gun was actually tested in space on an unidentified flight, but apparently under ground control at a time when no cosmonauts were on board the station. Pavel Popovich, commander of the July 1974 Soyuz 14 flight to Salyut 3, is said to have indicated that the cannon was installed on Salyut 3 but “fortunately he was not forced to use it”.

A Salyut 5 crew member denies the existence of a cannon on that station, so perhaps the wisdom of outfitting a space station with a cannon was rethought, or maybe, the U.S. having had no manned spaceflight capability between 1975 and 1981, low Earth orbit was deemed insufficiently target-rich to justify such weaponry.

The Cold War may be done for, but there are still guns in space, and all of them are Russian. The survival kit in the Soyuz spacecraft which ferries cosmonauts to and from the Mir space station is said to contain, among other things, a pistol and ammunition. This is not so much to put down the occasional space mutiny, but as a precaution in case of an off-course landing in a region with dangerous wildlife.

In March 1965, due to failure of the prime retro-rocket system, the crew of Voskhod 2 landed in a remote region in the Ural Mountains and rescue crews could not reach them until the next day. They were forced to retreat to their re-entry capsule to escape wolves in the forest where they landed.

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