We know that on February 11 1985, right after the Soviets lost control of their Salyut-7 station. US Space tracking assets also started noticing that the station was starting to tumble.
US space tracking assets had immediately noticed that Salyut was tumbling out of control and, within hours, the Pentagon had come up with a plan too tempting to resist.
At that time the Challenger was undergoing some of its final preparations for an upcomming mission to launch 2 small satelites from it's cargobay into orbit. Instead different plans were made
Why not launch it with an empty cargo bay instead, send it to Salyut-7, and snatch the station from orbit, allowing the US to steal sensitive military secrets from the Russians? Just hours after control over Salyut-7 had been lost, National Security Agency director Lincoln Faurer called President Ronald Reagan in the middle of the night to brief him about the plan. After some hesitation, the President granted his permission.
From the article I can read that they were pretty close to a actual mission. Had it not been for Chernenko dying around the same time
On March 10, the mission was ready to go. But then, with just hours to go in the countdown, news arrived from Moscow that the ailing Chernenko had passed away earlier that day. The news wasn’t unexpected, but couldn’t have come at a worse time. In the power vacuum left by Chernenko’s death, the Soviet response to the Salyut-7 capture became unpredictable and the Americans considered it prudent to call off the mission. Officially, the launch was scrubbed for technical reasons.
I would like to know how feasible this plan actually was.
- How would they have mounted Salyut-7 inside the cargobay of the Challenger that would allow for a atmospheric re-entry without the cargo tumbling around inside the cargobay?
- Would they have to change the landing procedure since the shuttle is much heavier with the cargo inside the cargobay?
- Has any Space Shuttle ever returned from space with a payload that heavy as Salyut-7?
- How would they have moved the Salyut-7 inside the cargobay?