From left to right are Sergey Afanasyev, Valentin Glushko, and Mstislav Keldysh
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From left to right are Sergey Afanasyev, Valentin Glushko, and Mstislav Keldysh,
three of the most powerful men in the Soviet space program in the 1970s. They are
attending a meeting at TsNIImash in Kaliningrad (now Korolev).
TsNIImash and NIITP.
For some reason they adopted a wait-and-see atti-
tude, instead of immediately getting their main subdivisions involved in these
research projects. It would be foolish to think that the general designer’s team
of 40,000 alone can do everything that he has said here.
“The report proposes solving all the problems almost simultaneously. This
is a mistake. We need to introduce a rational phase-by-phase approach. We
will manage to find such a solution if we quash our ambitious desires to seize
everything at once and to promise unrealistic deadlines.
“Today a version of a launch vehicle for a 30-ton payload is taking shape.
We need this launch vehicle first and foremost for the crucial intelligence-
gathering purposes of the Ministry of Defense in Sun-synchronous orbits.
32. NIITP—Nauchno-issledovatelskiy institut teplovykh protsessov (Scientific-Research Institute
of Thermal Processes) was the new name for the old NII-1, famous for its interwar and wartime
research on rocket propulsion.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
Its integral tanks with a diameter of 6 meters will require completely new
technological fittings, and the welding of very thick materials will have to be
mastered. I have consulted with Boris Yevgenyevich Paton. He encouraged
me that in the near future this problem will be solved. ‘We will learn how to
weld 6-meter tanks,’ Paton assured me. But then an engine is proposed right
off the bat with 1,200 tons of thrust. I have a great deal of respect for Valentin
Petrovich as our nation’s, and perhaps also the world’s, greatest scientist and
engine-building specialist, but I think that he is profoundly mistaken when
he assures us that such an engine can be produced in two years. The ministry
has already been tasked with producing a piloted reusable system on par
with the U.S. Shuttle. This is a crucial and very difficult task. It’s time for
us to master [liquid] hydrogen. Here, we’re behind the Americans. In his
proposals the honorable Valentin Petrovich for some reason insists on walk-
ing away from hydrogen and is pushing tsiklin on us. The ministry does not
agree with this. We insist on developing a liquid-propellant rocket engine
that operates on oxygen and hydrogen, and we will support such projects
in every way possible.
“The time has come to bring in other design organizations. I consulted
with Pilyugin. He can confirm that he fully agreed to take on the produc-
tion of the control system for a reusable spacecraft. The development of a
glider needs to be assigned to the aviation industry. For the time being, I
would leave the X that Barmin placed over 250 tons. Barmin is right in this
case. We know what the situation is in our country. We need to restructure
ourselves toward assembly in orbit and achieve a very high degree of reli-
ability in docking. This will be a lot less expensive than producing another
super-heavy launch vehicle. They are assuring us that the N-1 launch facilities
can be used for the new series. No one has verified this in detail. Barmin
maintains that this is impossible. This needs to be carefully examined. There
was no Soviet man on the Moon. This is the fault of OKB-1 and our fault in
general. A lunar base—in my opinion this is not a priority mission. It needs
to be transferred to research work. Barmin’s strong suit is that he knows how
to build a cooperative network. Let’s hand this project over to him especially
since he’ll take it, and just let him.
“We need to distribute our forces sensibly. Today in the report we did not
see a year-by-year distribution of expenditures and working capacity. How
much does all this enjoyment cost? As I see it, MOM alone will have to double
its budgetary allocations for this new program, and every bit of all the capital
investments will go here. We just put missiles into service in silos in order to
ensure parity, and now they already need to be upgraded. Do you know how
much that costs? Please don’t forget that your organization is also responsible
for the 8K98 [or RT-2] combat missiles and upgrading them. And no one has
Valentin Glushko, N-1, and NPO Energiya
yet taken away Valentin Petrovich’s duties as chief designer of the engines for
Yangel’s and Chelomey’s combat missiles.
“Today we have 40,000 people at NPO Energiya, and 30,000 are working
on its projects at the Progress Factory, for a total of 70,000! We intend to set
up engine production in Omsk.
This means that another 20,000 people will
be working on Energiya’s projects. The main problem in Omsk is the firing test
rigs. What is to be done with the N-1 launch pad? If you get it into your head
to seriously redesign it, new capital funds will be needed. Have you thought
about this? The most important and urgent task is Apollo-Soyuz. Here, the
main thing is reliability and quality. The workforce hasn’t been entirely suc-
cessful with this.
“What shall we do in the near future? We need to launch DOS No. 4. We’re
really behind schedule with DOS No. 5. They’re telling us that big changes
have been made on it and that it’s going to be a new station. The problem of
modular construction is being solved on it. For production here, in Podlipki,
and in Fili this is additional work, but once it has been decided, it will have to
be done. But if we put a new station into production, then why one? We need
to make a sixth, and perhaps also a seventh. We can’t allow a failure. We haven’t
landed on the Moon, so at least we should always have orbital stations circling
Earth. ZIKh will make the hulls. But I can’t transfer systems configuration
over to ZIKh—this is Energiya’s business. I have inspected the 7K-S spacecraft.
Chertok assured me that a wonderful job has been done on the control system.
However, the spacecraft is not equipped for docking. I warned: we need to
make a new transport vehicle right away. They say that the 7K-T is obsolete.
We don’t have a chance with Chelomey’s TKS. We must by all means debug
the 7K-S in the transport version. I consider today’s conversation preliminary.
We need to rework the entire prospective program taking our comments into
consideration and only then can it be put before the Council of Chiefs.”
In Smirnov’s absence, Boris Komissarov spoke as VPK deputy chairman.
33. KB Energomash developed engines for the following Yangel ICBMs: the R-16 (RD-218
and RD-219 engines), the R-36 (RD-251 and RD-252), the MR UR-100 (RD-268), the
R-36M (RD-264), and the R-36M2 (RD-274). The organization did not develop any engines
for Chelomey’s combat missiles, although it did produce the RD-253 engine for the Proton-K
booster as well as derivatives of the RD-253 such as the RD-275.
34. OKB-456 had originally established a branch at Omsk (its Branch No. 3) in December
1958 for the manufacture of engines for the R-16 ICBM. The branch was dissolved in 1968.
Ten years later, series production of the RD-170 engines for the 11K25 launch vehicle were
set up at the Polet Production Association (PO Polet) in Omsk. Because of the need for mass
production of these engines (as well as the RD-171), Glushko reestablished a branch at Omsk
in June 1983.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
“The program has not been coordinated with the general contractor—the
Ministry of Defense—or with the Academy of Sciences. I do not understand
why you absolutely have to insert 25 tons into Sun-synchronous orbit. Our
heaviest reconnaissance satellite weighs no more than 12 tons.
“The Americans are planning to have modules weighing no more than
14 tons. The Ministry of Defense doesn’t need 30 tons today. We need to
tell it straight—we disgraced ourselves with the N-1 and now you propose
a new gamble with the RLA. Space is space, but we need to keep our feet
on the ground. Live by general toil and trouble; don’t lose contact with real
opportunities. In the plan for updating the lunar projects we were about to
execute an on-orbit docking using two N-1 launch vehicles. Now the general
designer is proposing that this docking take place on the ground and that a
new launch vehicle with a liftoff mass of 6,000 tons be developed; in other
words, this means two N-1s! This project is a mistake. We need to pray for
the N-1 to lift off. They crashed one, restored it, and now what—are we going
to start tearing it apart with our own hands? Who is going to undertake such
a bold move? In terms of market value in our branch of industry a ruble is
equivalent to a dollar. I’d like to see the President of the United States go
before Congress and say, by the way, you need to write off 4 billion dollars
for a launch vehicle and allocate another 12.5 billion dollars to NASA for
a new launch vehicle, for unknown reasons. The whole world would make
fun of him. And here, nobody is even threatened with a reprimand for such
Ivan Serbin took the floor.
“The discussion has shown that the program has not been elaborated to
the point where we can make a decision. We don’t have much time. We must
decide how to get the maximum use out of 70,000 people, and not a faceless
crowd, but highly qualified specialists. The program was preliminarily esti-
mated at a little over 12 billion rubles. But we simply do not have that kind of
money. And if we did, then it would be very difficult to use it up. The Council
of Chief Designers shouldn’t convene yet. We need to have comparative data
on expenditures for each area of endeavor, rather than a single horrifying sum
just for the RLA. Now many enthusiasts have come out in favor of a reusable
system. This is good. But the second stage is an airplane. And without the
Ministry of the Aviation Industry you won’t be able to cope with this project.
We can’t allow such lack of discipline that Almaz and DOS are running in
parallel. Neither you nor Chelomey are private firms where everyone thinks
‘I’ll do what I want to.’ It’s time for this to end. Such a major plan needs to be
thoroughly elaborated with the subcontractors. Without them you’re not going
to do anything. And you also need to develop your experimental facilities for
them. You didn’t take that into consideration in your expenses.”
Valentin Glushko, N-1, and NPO Energiya
It was time to wrap up the meeting. Ustinov understood this and recom-
mended that Glushko respond to the main critical comments. Glushko started,
and rather than a calm speaker, I saw in him a focused prizefighter in the ring,
who after a knockdown was once again going over for a decisive attack.
“We have been talking today about an unfinished program, and we are in
the process of searching. We have familiarized you with the status of affairs.
Actually, we must compare and provide evidence that the proposals are optimal.
I have met with the military twice. We talked for a long time, and I asked for
their help in developing plans. In particular, General Karas promised to send
us his recommendations by 15 August. The Ministry of Defense ardently sup-
ports the station’s modular structure and 30-ton payload. We are in constant
contact with subcontractors and competitors.
“Now let’s turn to Barmin’s speech, in which he so vehemently defended
the N-1 and proposed, in terms of new projects, confining ourselves just to
the reusable system. I maintain that the N-1 transports air. Compare its weight
characteristics with Saturn V. The dry weight of a unit of volume of the first
stage of the N-1 is two and a half times worse than the Saturn V, the second
stage is five times worse, and the third stage is three and a half times worse.
This is when the volumes of the stages themselves are almost equal. I didn’t
want to mention the errors committed in gas dynamics. Let it be known to
you that just due to pressure drop under the aft end of the first stage we lose
more than 750 tons. In order to compensate for such a loss, we need to install
five more engines. Vladimir Pavlovich [Barmin], do you want your launch
site to be destroyed again? Let’s stand around with our fingers crossed, as they
suggested today. Do we really need a launch vehicle that transports air and
has bad engines to boot? Regarding Barmin’s speech on the lunar base, I agree
that the construction of ‘Barmingrad’ be classified as research work.
But it is
our job to create the first base on the Moon for three to five persons for two to
three weeks. And we are prepared for this work. Vladimir Pavlovich frightened
us here saying that the Moon has no magnetic field and this is very dangerous
for the human psyche. Such speeches show that mental deviances happen on
Earth even with the presence of a magnetic field.”
Glushko had hit Barmin “below the belt,” but none of the high-ranking
judges had interrupted him. He continued to speak rapidly and even passion-
ately, which to my memory happened very rarely with him.
35. This is, again, a reference to ongoing planning at Barmin’s design bureau for permanent
bases on the Moon.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
“We will show what launch vehicle weights are needed on Earth so that
on the Moon a base for three or four people might operate. We don’t just need
spacesuits, we need cubic capacity, and special equipment, which we must first
test and debug on the POS. I emphasize, on the permanent, not long-duration,
orbital station. In order to create a POS we also need a new launch vehicle.
The UR-500K with its 18 to 20 tons is inadequate. We need a minimum of
30 tons of payload to begin with. And this is our mission, which must not be
buried in long-term research projects. This is a priority research and develop-
ment project, if anything, instead of the MKBS.
“I regret that not everyone understands the idea of a super-heavy launch
vehicle. We are not making this launch vehicle—it’s coming about on its own,
we’re putting it together from modules which have already been optimized
on lighter rockets. Six modules make up the first stage. The second stage is a
single oxygen-hydrogen block standardized for the entire launch vehicle series.
This is standardization and modularity, which we have been talking about so
heatedly today. And we are not going to refuse to have anything to do with
hydrogen. But for the time being we don’t have it, so we have to use tsiklin.
“Yes, producing these launch vehicles costs a lot of money. But we gain a
lot in standardization. One shouldn’t be afraid that some factories are going
to ‘coast.’ We intend to schedule the project so that production doesn’t go idle
anywhere, so that people fly into space each year.
“Now we are already working on the 7K-S vehicle in the transport version.
It has a new and much more advanced control system. Chertok didn’t have
time to tell about its main feature. On the 7K-S he wants to try out control
using on-board computers. We still lag behind the Americans in this. We’ll
begin with unpiloted vehicles. Klyucharev must master the new androgynous
We’re using it for docking with the Americans, and then
we’ll put it on the 7K-S and the DOSes. These vehicles will load Klyucharev
down completely. DOS No. 5 is the workload for ZIKh, and I would vote for
No. 6 if a gap in production were to occur at ZIKh. Progress [Factory] can
start mastering the production process of the 6-meter tanks right away. We
and our subcontractors are really are up to our ears in work. But I don’t see any
other way to get ahead of the Americans. We have capabilities that we haven’t
yet discovered and haven’t used. You caught us when development and testing
of the programs was in full swing. I agree to postpone the Council of Chiefs
36. This is a reference to the Androgynous-Peripheral Docking Assembly (Androginno-
docking system in favor of identical docking units on both spacecraft.
Valentin Glushko, N-1, and NPO Energiya
[meeting] for a week or two, but no more. We need to boost all cooperation
as soon as possible. We have a lot of resources.”
Toward the end of his speech Glushko was excited and flushed, as if he’d
just taken a bath. He took a handkerchief and wiped the beads of sweat off
his forehead, but he didn’t sit down. Evidently he was gathering his thoughts
to continue his speech. Taking advantage of the pause, Ustinov decided that
it was time to wrap up the meeting, which had run over. He understood that
he wasn’t going to get any interesting new information and that he ought
not to get mixed up in arguments between chief designers. He said, “Thank
you, Valentin Petrovich! I am very happy that we had such a good turnout
for the meeting today and that we have enlightened one another a bit. You
didn’t have time and weren’t able to say everything. I too am unable to tell
everything definitively. We need to give some serious thought to a lot of new
things and about a lot of things in general. But we have missions, which are
already completely spelled out, which we are obligated to fulfill in the next
year. I am referring first and foremost to Apollo-Soyuz. God forbid that we
should disgrace ourselves before the world public. Valentin Petrovich, I request
that you personally take over supervision of this project. This work must be
performed brilliantly. Changes have taken place in the United States. The new
president has announced that he intends to continue his predecessor’s line.
The Americans are going to study our work intensely and literally examine it
as if it were under a microscope. You must keep a firm hold on our technical
and ideological positions.
“The Americans are already asking us, ‘So what shall we do next?’ We aren’t
going to be able to avoid answering that question for long. For the time being
we are saying that we’re using Soyuz. It’s not turning out very well. Thus, we’re
losing initiative, or more accurately, we’re giving it away. They’re observing,
examining, studying, and analyzing everything with their own satellites. They
know our military complexes better than we do. Our firing ranges and launch
sites, every liftoff, every road, every building—it’s all being monitored from
space. We’ve agreed on a Soyuz-Apollo docking. Well, we’ll dock once, maybe
twice. There will be a bit of hype on both sides. And then what? Where are
your proposals? We don’t have any ideas about ways for further collaboration.
NASA Administrators George Low and James Fletcher aren’t dying to come
over here for no good reason.
They are receiving our people, and how are we
37. Richard M. Nixon resigned as President of the United States on 9 August 1974. He
was replaced by former Vice President Gerald R. Ford.
38. At the time (1974), James Chipman Fletcher (1919–1991) was the NASA Administrator,
while George Michael Low (1926–1984) was a Deputy Administrator.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
responding? I’m convinced we have got to reciprocate. Actions speak louder
than words; and that’s also true in the field of science. We need actions. I request
that you formulate a strategic plan and draw up proposals.
“For the time being we are relying on the Soyuz spacecraft; I understand
this is reality, as they say, it’s what we’ve got on hand. We need to diligently work
on its reliability. We need to launch the new Salyut no matter what.
to work on DOS No. 5. You are the ones who got it up and running—make
it more reliable. But tell me exactly what is DOS No. 6? Is it a repeat of No.
5 or something new? Get to the bottom of that. When Mishin was in charge
no one was able to clearly define the DOS series for me. Moreover, you know,
and this is no secret, that Chelomey and Mishin proposed terminating DOSes
altogether, leaving only Almaz, and then focusing on Chelomey’s Transport
“Don’t abandon upgrading the R-7. Progress Factory has fully mastered
it. This rocket is your bread and butter. Just like the UR-500K is now. In the
next two or three years these launch vehicles will determine our space plans.
“But what’s next? Designs have been proposed (and I know, they’ve gone a
long way) for an expedition to Mars and for a lunar base. Here, collaboration
with the Americans is possible. Don’t throw the opportunity away; we will sup-
port you. Bushuyev is meeting with them. Courage, Konstantin Davidovich.
Try to be diplomatic, as you know how; get a feel for their attitudes.
“We’re placing a big stake on your organization. Very big. We deliberately
created such a powerful merger and placed a very experienced chief in charge,
who, as they say, had been through fire, water, and brass trumpets. As you
just heard, your general designer already has forty thousand persons directly
subordinate to him. And if you add to that the immediate subcontracting
organizations, this number exceeds 250,000. This is an enormous workforce!
You are capable of developing an efficient, realistic program. Break it down
deadline by deadline into phases. Everything won’t pan out right away; we
understand this. But keep in mind that it matters to us, how this pans out
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