In 1975, the USSR actually fired a cannon from an orbiting space station. Forty years later, we finally got a good look at this gun.

A quarter of the century after the end of the Cold War, the only cannon that has actually fired in space finally comes to light.

Installed on the Almaz space station in 1970s, the R-23M Kartech was derived from a powerful aircraft weapon. The original 23-millimeter cannon was designed by Aron Rikhter for the Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder supersonic bomber. That gun is relatively well known. However, its space-based cousin had largely remained in obscurity.

The Soviets had to turn the entire 20-TON station to point the cannon towards its target. Salyut-3 diagram. Wikimedia Commons

Until now. This year, thanks to a Russian television show, the world got to see grainy footage of the space gun. Using that footage, we created the virtual model of the R-23M that you see above. Here’s the inside story: