SP-4209 The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

A Tour of Soviet Space Facilities


Following the review, Low was taken to see several space-related facilities. On the morning of 16 October, after making a brief courtesy call on Academician Kotelnikov, Low went to the Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry. Director A. P. Vinogradov, ill with a bad cold, instructed his Deputy Director to give Low a tour of the Institute where lunar samples from Luna 16 and 20 and from Apollo 11 through 17 were housed and studied. Next, Low visited the Institute of Space Research and met its new director, Professor R. S. Sagdeyev, with whom he discussed the four spacecraft the Soviets had launched to Mars in July and August. Low's activities of the 16th were finally completed when he called on Academician V. A. Kirillin, the Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers and the Chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology. After Low gave a brief report on the progress of ASTP and other joint projects, Kirillin asked the NASA Deputy Administrator for his views on the practical benefits derived from the exploration of space. They spoke of communications, weather, and earth resources, as well as the potential long-range results of some of their scientific efforts in space. In reemphasizing his point that the future of space must be practical, Kirillin said that one important aspect of earth resources would certainly be the study of geology from space.14

On the 17th, Low and part of the NASA delegation visited Star City. He recorded in his trip report, "I saw more of Star City this time than I had [233] during my previous visit. Of major significance is the amount of new construction underway. . . . A new training building is being put up especially for ASTP. . . ." That four-story building was to include classrooms, lecture halls, and display rooms for spacecraft subsystems. In addition, the Soviets were building a new hostel and dispensary for the United States team, as well as other buildings to house simulators and a new and very large centrifuge. When the NASA contingent visited the Soyuz simulator, Alexi Arkipovich Leonov, the Soviet ASTP crew commander, briefed them on the changes that had been made following Soyuz 11. Besides removing the third couch, engineers had installed pressure suit connections and new pressure relief and shut-off valves. Valeriy Nikolayevich Kubasov, the second member of the Soviet ASTP crew, gave the visitors a brief description of the Soyuz space suit, which was modeled by a technician. This relatively lightweight garment was the same type they planned to use in the joint flight. Leonov pointed out that it took about 5 minutes to don the pressure suit, and Low noted that since it was only worn for about 2 hours at a time there were no provisions for waste removal. The last thing Low did at the Cosmonaut Training Center was to tour the Salyut mockup, with the assistance of K. P. Feoktistov.15

On the morning of the 18th, the Americans were taken to the Soviet Mission Control Center at Kaliningrad, by car about 45 minutes northeast of Moscow. The center was situated within a large complex of buildings, and the Americans were told that the facility had been used in the past for unmanned flights but that Soyuz 12 had been directed from here. The Soviets planned to direct future Soyuz missions, including ASTP, from Kaliningrad. Low and his colleagues were met by Dr. Abduyevski, Deputy Director of the Control Center, and cosmonaut Yeliseyev, who had been selected as Soyuz Flight Director for ASTP.

Yeliseyev conducted a briefing, using wall charts in Russian and English to explain how the control center functioned. He also described the flow of information within the center and the organization of the flight controllers within the mission operation control room. When the cosmonaut led the U.S. team onto the balcony overlooking the control room, they saw a facility that was strikingly similar to Houston control. "As we entered," Low reported, a video "playback of the Soyuz 12 countdown was in progress. Across the top of the front wall were a number of clocks showing Moscow time, elapsed time, station acquisition time, and station loss of signal time. The top of the center screen was a world map with a lighted dot indicating the spacecraft location." On a screen to the right was a television picture of the spacecraft and booster at the launch site. From a typewriter keyboard at the back of the room, a technician typed a message that appeared on the bottom half of the right screen - "Welcome American colleagues."

[234] Low was favorably impressed. He further described the facility:

On the floor were four rows of consoles. The very back row, which is out of sight from the balcony , is for the people who set up the communications and data flow within the Control Center. Also the project director (Bushuyev) will sit in this back row. The flight director is on the next row from the back and is the focal point for all activity in the Control Center. To his left and right, and in the two rows of consoles in front of him, are the various support functions, which are pretty much the same as the functions within our own control center, except that there is no launch vehicle console. Each console has a number of television screens, and the flight controller at that console can call up all sorts of displays. . . . The communication system allows the flight director to talk to any or all of the other consoles as well as to the back rooms.16

The Americans learned that the control center takes over after the spacecraft has separated from the launch vehicle in orbit. Until that time, the flight is under the full control of the launch center. During a question and answer session, the Soviets responded fully to all of the technical queries raised by their visitors. George Low's trip to Moscow had been both useful and informative. Petrov had told the NASA representatives that Star City, the Kaliningrad Control Center, and the Baykonur launch complex would be open to American specialists as necessary. Low was especially pleased to hear this since Tom Stafford, the American ASTP crew commander, had expressed a strong desire to see the actual Soyuz flight hardware during the pre-flight checkout. But still to be decided when the U.S. team departed were the details concerning access for American newspaper and television reporters to those same facilities.

14. Low, "Visit to Moscow, October 14-19, 1973," Dec. 1973.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.; and Low to Olin E. Teague, 31 Oct. 1973. M. Pete Frank also had a favorable evaluation of the Soviet facilities at Star City and Kaliningrad. In a memo, Frank to distribution, "October 1973 Working Group 1 Meeting," 31 Oct. 1973, he wrote the following about the control center:

Tour of the Soviet Mission Control Center:

The control center that will be used for the ASTP mission is located in a tightly secured complex northeast of Moscow. It is in an area called Kaliningrad just off the Yaroslavl highway. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the control center from the Rossiya Hotel. . . .

The building in which the control center is contained was only one of many buildings inside this complex . . . surrounded by a high brick wall and . . . heavily guarded at the entrances. The buildings looked fairly new and were modern with very large glass windows. . . . The control center is nestled in among other buildings that have something to do with their space program.

As far as general comments regarding the tour, it was a very detailed and comprehensive tour. I think the Soviets went out of their way to make the point that they were showing us everything. They were not holding anything back. They even showed us work areas (just office space) in the control center; and as we would go down the hall, they offered to open any of the doors. . . .

The tour began with an initial briefing of the flight control and the operations aspects provided by Yeliseyev. The overall tour was conducted by Dr. Albert Melytsin who was called the Technical Director of the Mission Control Center. I have the feeling that he was responsible for the construction and operation of the facility. Yeliseyev's briefing covered two areas: the first was the organization of their flight control operation; the second was the flow of information from the tracking stations into the control center. . . .

I was impressed by the quality of the equipment in the control center; I thought it was similar to ours. I was also impressed by the similarity of the flow diagrams of information from the tracking station to the control center. It seemed to include all the elements of our own system.

The mission operations control room was quite large - it contained 16 two-man consoles, thus allowing them 32 flight controllers. I don't know how many they actually use for a mission, but there are capabilities for 32. In addition, there was a back row of consoles which were used for personnel such as the project technical director; this back row is also a work station for display controllers who control the main display boards in the front of the room. These large displays had a map with an orbit plotted on it with a computer driven indicator for the spacecraft position as it flew across the earth. There were digital indications of time and AOS and LOS times across the top of the screen; there were two large television screens about 10 x 10 on the right-hand side which could be configured for special displays; the consoles were equipped with a television display and communication panels. I think their communication capabilities were somewhat less than what we have, but there was some flexibility in that the flight director could call up people on individual basis or everybody at once to talk or listen. The television display system is capable of 100 different formats. These are changed from one mission to the next and can be selected by the local console operators simply by dialing up the proper number. The television system can display closed circuit views such as we have from the staff support rooms. It can also display digital data in real time from the computer system, and it can be used to display general information that is typed into a central display unit. It looked to be a very flexible system although I do not think it had anywhere near as much capability as our digital television system. In the back of the MOCR, the Russians have a balcony with several dozen seats which serve as a VIP viewing room; however, it is not glassed off (isolated) from the MOCR and it sits up at an elevated level. (It is interesting to note that although the equipment appeared to be very high quality, I had the definite feeling it did not have the performance capability we have.)

Next the Soviets took us on a conducted tour around the building showing us the various staff support rooms in which the flight controller support teams function. They had similar television display capabilities and were able to communicate with their team leaders in the MOCR in a manner similar to the way we do.

The Russians showed us the teletype stations where messages are processed to send out to the remote sites; they showed us the telemetry ground stations and a room where a large number of chart recorders were used to "monitor data quality" as it comes in from the remote sites. They showed us the computer facilities, which were very interesting. They had three main frames; each contained 16 memory drums. Each of these memory drums had a capacity of 32 thousand 48-bit words. . . .

Commanding to the Soyuz is not done from the control room; it is only accomplished at the remote sites. Of course, the commands to be sent are relayed to the site. (The remote sites are told what commands are to be sent but they cannot be sent directly from the control center.)

The large world map in the front of the control room showed the Soviet zones of coverage rather than tracking stations. This zone of coverage was from 25° east longitude to 150° east longitude and from approximately 38° north latitude to 53° north latitude. It was a rectangle on that Mercator projection map.

Another interesting comment was that all the voice tapes are saved until the mission is over, but once the mission is completed, these tapes are erased and used over again. Apparently, a permanent record of all the voice recordings is not made. They do record all the interior loops, loops between the control center and remote sites, as well as the air-to-ground; but these recordings are destroyed after the mission is completed.

I think that the control center has very recently been put into operation. The Soyuz 12 was the first manned mission that was flown from this control center; however, they did say that it had been used for unmanned missions prior to that. I would not be at all surprised that these were limited to Soyuz testing that had occurred just prior to the Soyuz 12 flight. I also had the impression that the control center was started approximately 3 years ago, although it may have been stated that it was completed approximately 3 years ago. It did not look that old to me.

The control center takes over control of the mission after the spacecraft is inserted into orbit, and the specific event that signals this is the separation of the spacecraft from the booster, that is T zero for the control center. Control during the launch phase up to separation of the spacecraft from the booster is maintained by a launch control facility which I assumed is located at the launch site. They stated that there is an automatic abort capability in the Soyuz as well as a manual abort capability and that this automatic capability is effective up until orbit insertion.