Soyuz 15 Cosmonaut Sarafanov Dies at 63

Soyuz 15 Cosmonaut Sarafanov Dies at 63
Cosmonaut Gennady Sarafanov poses for a portrait during his spaceflight career. (Image credit: Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.)

CosmonautGennady Sarafanov, who in 1974 commanded an unsuccessful mission to the Salyut3 space station, died on Thursday, September 29, due to complications from anunspecified surgery, reports the magazine Novosti Kosmonavtiki on theirwebsite. He was 63.

GennadyVasilyevich Sarafanov flew Soyuz 15 with flight engineer Lev Demin, who passedaway in 1988. The two were scheduled to be the second crew to live onboard theSoviet Union's first manned military space station, but the guidance system ontheir Soyuz spacecraft failed during their final approach.

As aresult, Sarafanov and Demin returned to earth on August 28, 1974, just two daysafter launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Sarafanovwas born in the Russian village of Sinekiye in January 1942. He joined theSoviet Army and after just one year transferred to the air force when he was18. He was a fighter pilot in the Guards Regiment before being selected by thespace program as a member of the third air force group of cosmonauts in November1965.

Aftercompleting his initial cosmonaut training in 1967 and his assignment to theSoyuz group in 1972, Sarafanov (with Demen) was assigned to fly Soyuz 13, buthis flight was canceled when the mission's target - the Salyut 2station lost control in orbit. Demen and he served as the back-up crew to Soyuz14 before flying as the prime crew of Soyuz 15.

Sarafanovremained with the Russian space program until July 1986.

During theearly 1980s, he was named to fly a proposed manned-version of a TKS transportship, but his missions were canceled in favor of its unpiloted use. (The TKSevolved to become the base Russian module of the International Space Station,the "Zarya" Functional Cargo Block [FGB]).

He issurvived by his wife Tamara and his children Alexei and Katya.

Biographicalinformation used in this article was adapted and excerpted with permission from Who's Who in Space: The First 25Years by Michael Cassutt.

Copyright 2005 All rights reserved.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.