Did you know that there's a gun that's been fired from space?
Haven't seen footage of it? Haven't seen photographs? Well you're not alone.
It was one of the biggest secrets of the Soviet Union's 1970s space program and never shown publicly – until now.
A Soviet cannon called the R-23M Kartech was fired from an orbiting space station in 1975. Forty years later, the world gets to see what that gun looks like:
Images provided courtesy of RussianSpaceWeb.com
In 1975, during the Cold War, the R-23M Kartech, which derived from a powerful aircraft weapon was installed on the Almaz space station. It was fired early that year on the 24th January.
The Russians had developed a plan to create a manned series of spy satellites cloaked behind the same technology and ostensible program goals as the civilian Salyut program.
Of the seven Salyut missions, Salyut 2 (the first of the so-called Almaz missions that carried the R-23M cannon into orbit) depressurized in-orbit and was destroyed without ever hosting a crew.
Salyut 3 was the first station to carry and fire the weapon, but the Soviets were sufficiently concerned about damage that they only performed the test after the crew had long since returned to Earth.
However, firing a gun in space is actually very different to firing one on Earth. Firstly, the entire 20-ton station had to rotate in order to hit a target. Secondly, the Salyut stations had to fire their own engines to counteract the recoil from the weapon itself.
Reports say that the gun fired from one to three blasts, firing around 20 shells in total which burned up in the atmosphere.
Since then, it was thought that only one photo of the R-23M cannon had been published. Although it appears that the photo was actually that is the aircraft-based R23 or some early prototype of the space-based weapon.
A quarter of a century after the Cold War has ended, the cannon has come to light. And it’s all thanks to a Russian television show. The programme called Voennaya Priemka is a military show produced by Zvezda TV channel and associated with the Russian Ministry of Defence.
The grainy and dimly lit TV footage of the space gun was shot inside the limited access corporate museum at KB Tochman.
Using footage from the show, Anatoly Zak, of RussianSPaceWeb.com, and others were able to create a three-dimensional model of the R-23M, published by Popular Mechanics showcasing one of the most secretive weapons of the Cold War.