On the Soviet side it was all about the competition between two implacable rivals; Sergei Korolev head of the OKB-1 design bureau and responsible for all of the Soviet Unions space successes so far, and Vladimir Chelomei, head of the OKB-52 design bureau, which had a great deal of experience with missiles, but no track record in space. Korolev had been tasked with developing the Soviet lunar program in order to compete directly with NASA. Chelomei, who had the support of the military, was designing a manned surveillance platform, which he called Almaz, to be serviced by a manned ferry/cargo craft called the TKS. The crew of three would be launched with the Almaz station aboard a returnable capsule, gaining entry to the station via a hatch in the heat shield. They would be launched with as much food and water as possible, but at some point a TKS would be flown to a docking by another crew (automatic dockings had not yet been developed) to facilitate resupply and crew exchange. Chelomei’s design, whilst certainly innovative, and more flexible than the USAF MOL, suffered from his own and his bureau’s lack of real spacecraft experience, and soon fell far behind schedule.

Korolev, however, was having his own problems with his new Soyuz spacecraft design. The first Soyuz launch was rushed before it was really ready, culminating in April 1967 with the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. But Korolev did not live to see this. He died in January 1966 during a routine operation. Vasily Mishin had the unenviable task of replacing Korolev, and his task was not helped by the fact that he and Chelomei hated one another to the point that they could not stand to be in the same room together, making collaboration or co-operation virtually impossible.