Shown here at a function are G. V. Noskin, B. Ye
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Shown here at a function are G. V. Noskin, B. Ye.
Chertok, and V. P. Khorunov. Noskin was a key
developer of control and navigation systems.
8. These men were all chief designers at their respective enterprises, as opposed to Chertok
and his associates (such as Rauschenbach, Yurasov, Kalashnikov, and others), who, despite their
prominent contributions to spacecraft and launch vehicle control system design, were either
deputy chief designers or lower-ranked designers at TsKBEM.
People in the Control Loop
Interplanetary travels were the main subject of science fiction,
which stirred up people’s imaginations long before it became possible to real-
ize this dream. Now, when the realization of the future was in our hands, we
were eager to move closer to it. In the early 1960s we lived and worked in a
risk-loving atmosphere of constant racing. Races were going on simultaneously
in four areas of endeavor:
securing absolute superiority in nuclear missile armaments;
achieving all “firsts” in piloted spaceflight;
sending automatic interplanetary space stations to the Moon, Venus, and
creating space communications systems.
Beginning with the first satellites, we considered it the norm that reports
about success in space, introduced by the characteristic chime of the Moscow
call sign, were broadcast by what had become the very dear voice of Levitan:
“This is Moscow speaking! All the radio stations of the Soviet Union are
For understandable reasons no mention was made over the airwaves
of the fifth field of endeavor—military space systems.
Analyzing my work, the work of my comrades, and of the many people
and organizations associated with us from a distance of a little more than three
decades, I marvel at our collective faith in our strengths and our naïve ten-
dency to “embrace the unembraceable” within inconceivably short deadlines.
Now even science-fiction buffs have come to terms with the harsh necessity of
considering the life cycle for the creation of sophisticated space systems with
a high degree of reliability. It takes 8 to 12 years from the beginning of their
development until their practical implementation. We couldn’t tolerate that. If
in 1959 some futurologist had predicted that we wouldn’t execute the first soft
landing on the Moon until 1966 after using up 12 four-stage launch vehicles,
that it would be 1967 before we would transmit fragmentary telemetry data
to Earth from a spacecraft that had penetrated Venus’s atmosphere, and that
we would deliver a pennant of the Soviet Union to Mars in 1971, we would
have considered him to be an incompetent pessimist or a spiteful critic.
Errors at the beginning of our difficult path to the creation of complex
technical systems also had their good side. They unified teams of people, made
them have a more critical attitude toward their work the more experience they
gained, and made them seek out more reliable designs and organizational
9. Yuriy Borisovich Levitan (1914–1983) was undoubtedly the most famous Soviet radio
announcer; he first gained fame during World War II when millions of Soviet citizens first heard
major events of the war, including the fall of Berlin, through his announcements.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
forms of interaction. The organizational structure that we worked out and
our placement of specialists in departments and laboratories proved success-
ful. Certainly luck was on our side in terms of having talented and untiring,
The present-day structure of operations for the creation of a complex of
systems at NPO Energiya and other organizations that have put our experience
to use is evidence of this. The departments have grown, split, and combined
into new complexes. But the leading specialists, who determined the fate of
each field of endeavor, stayed with their own work. Natural biological attri-
tion has occurred over the course of 30 years, and a small number of people
have left for other fields, but a surprisingly consistent framework of control
specialists, which took shape in the 1960s, until very recently defined the state
of the art in our country for spacecraft control.
After several events, including our union with Grabin’s TsNII-58 in 1959,
the transfer of Rauschenbach’s team from NII-1 to OKB-1 in 1960, and several
reshufflings of people in the space field, Korolev appointed me his “second first”
deputy, placing me in charge of all design and research departments located at
the second production site. He named German Semyonov, who had returned
from Dnepropetrovsk, to be manager of the factory portion of the second pro-
duction site. Deputy chief engineer Isaak Khazanov received the assignment to
start up construction of an instrumentation facility at our second territory and,
as the new buildings were put into operation, to wind down production at the
factory of the first territory. Thus, by 1965 I had officially combined not only the
departments of the instrumentation-control complex, but also the planning and
design departments of all the space-related projects at OKB-1. This reorganization
substantially expanded my authority, duties, and responsibility.
Despite the structural configurations, the creatively robust staffs of
Konstantin Bushuyev, Mikhail Tikhonravov, Pavel Tsybin, and Konstantin
Feoktistov remained in direct creative subordination to Korolev. The follow-
ing chief planners worked under their supervision: Yevgeniy Ryazanov, Gleb
Maksimov, Yuriy Denisov, Yuriy Frumkin, Vyacheslav Dudnikov, Andrey
Reshetin, and other specialists brimming with enthusiasm.
From the very beginning I asked Korolev to relieve me of responsibility
for planning work over all space projects so that I could concentrate on a com-
pletely new area of endeavor—the development of spacecraft control systems.
He agreed in principle, under the condition that, being his first deputy after
10. These were the people directly responsible for conceptual design, as opposed to engi-
neering or production tasks.
People in the Control Loop
Mishin, I had to “watch over and keep track of” everything that Bushuyev,
Tikhonravov, and Tsybin were doing. “Considering the fact that they let their
imaginations get away with them a lot, the planners’ assignments need to go
through you on their way to Boldyrev’s design department.” And that was
that. I quickly made arrangements with Bushuyev and the other managers who
oversaw the planners and hit it off very well because their work to a great extent
was determined by the ideas and successful work of the control specialists.
By Korolev’s way of thinking, Mishin was supposed to concentrate his
energy and experience on the development of the new R-9 and the global
GR-1 missiles, on rocket engines, and on the development of a future strategy,
including the future N-1 heavy launch vehicle for a lunar expedition. During all
the reorganizations that Korolev undertook beginning in 1947, Mishin always
remained his “first” first deputy not only concerning engineering matters, but
also administrative ones.
The very multifaceted work for the creation of new spacecraft control
systems got under way at the same time as my subdivisions were retaining
developments of steering systems and internal tank systems and supervising
the development of control systems for missiles and launch vehicles. I shall
list only the main areas of our work:
motion control (orientation, navigation, rocket, and spacecraft dynamics);
systemic integration of on-board equipment control using the ground-to-
spacecraft system, electric equipment, special stand-alone systems, radio
engineering systems, and antenna-feeder units; and
design work, electromechanical and electro-hydraulic systems, and instru-
It would take too much time and space to list everything that the control
and instrumentation teams were involved with. Especially since any one of
our projects was linked with supplier organizations, and telling about them
deserves a special treatise.
Below I shall dwell only on those projects of ours that were appreciated
in scientific circles, made an epochal contribution to the development of
cosmonautics, were realized or begun during the second decade of the Space
Age, and also those that were the most interesting from the standpoint of the
science of human behavior in the control loop.
The first two Soviet satellites, as is generally known, flew into space with-
out any motion or attitude control in orbit. The laws of celestial mechanics
controlled them. As we used to say, they answered only to our ballistics experts.
Unlike its predecessors, the third satellite, launched on 15 May 1958,
now had the first command radio link that we had ever put into practice.
I developed the design specifications for the command radio link (KRL)
together with our radio engineers Shustov, Shcherbakov, and Krayushkin,
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
and with our first “space” electrical engineers, the developers of the control
logic, Karpov, Shevelev, and Sosnovik.
On 22 August 1956, I received
Korolev’s signature of approval on the design specifications. The decision
about the first very simple satellite had not yet been made, and we believed
that secret Object D—the future third satellite—was going to be the first
Controlling the activation and modes of the science equipment
via command radio link at that time seemed to us to be a qualitative leap
compared with the radio control systems of ballistic missiles. Director and
Scientific Chief at NII-648 Nikolay Belov was in charge of developing the
on-board and ground equipment of the first space command radio link. It
took a year and a half to create the first command radio link. It supported
the transmission on board of 20 immediate-execution one-time commands.
This command radio link served as the basis for the development of more
advanced versions for the piloted programs.
Motion control of future spacecraft was to be the next step. It turned
out that for the specialists developing the automatic motion control systems
for rockets, the creation of spacecraft motion control systems required over-
coming a psychological barrier. This barrier was successfully overcome when
Boris Rauschenbach arrived on the staff at OKB-1. Beginning with Luna-3,
all of our spacecraft had systems making it possible to correct near-Earth and
interplanetary trajectories. The essence of the correction process consisted
in the fact that the parameters of the actual orbit or flight trajectory were
measured beforehand using ground-based Command and Measurement
Complex facilities. Next, the deviation of the trajectory from the design
value was determined, and depending on the magnitude of the error, the
required correcting pulse was calculated. At a specific point in the trajectory,
at a specific time, the engine of the on-board orbital correction system fired
and set up a new orbit.
In order to execute this operation, the spacecraft had to know how to
orient itself in space, turning at any angles assigned by the settings transmitted
via command radio link from Earth; maintain the given orientation while the
11. KRL—Komandnaya radioliniya.
12. When the first satellite project was approved in January 1956, the Object D scientific
observatory was slated to be the first Soviet satellite. By late 1956, it was clear that development
of Object D would be delayed. As such, Korolev, Tikhonravov, and others proposed a smaller
and simpler satellite, PS-1, to be launched on an R-7 as the first satellite. It was this satellite
that eventually became the first Sputnik on October 1957. See Asif A. Siddiqi, The Red Rockets’
Press, 2010), Chapters 8 and 9.
People in the Control Loop
correcting engine was operating; and control the engine system itself, ensuring
the required magnitude of the correcting pulse.
Attitude control was one of the most crucial motion control modes.
During this process the spacecraft had to hold the necessary angular posi-
tion relative to known reference points by turning about its center of mass.
Spacecraft attitude-control systems were crucial during the execution of the
braking burn that was necessary for return to Earth. In the event of an error,
the spacecraft might not return to Earth at all if the burn executed by the
engine raised the orbit rather than lowering it. Attitude control in space was
necessary not just for orbital correction, but also for scientific observations,
photography, and setting up the pencil-beam antennas and solar arrays in
the required direction.
Since 1960, Rauschenbach’s team, which was originally called
Department 27, had been responsible for solving spacecraft attitude and
stabilization control problems. The abundance of programs in this field
required a sharp increase in the size of Department 27 and then its divi-
sion into three departments: Viktor Legostayev’s theoretical department of
motion dynamics; Yevgeniy Bashkin’s circuit and equipment development
department; and Dmitriy Knyazev’s orientation effectors—correcting micro-
engines—department. The powerful radio electronics department of Anatoliy
Shustov (who had successfully developed sequencers—the predecessors of
the modern on-board computers); Semyon Chizhikov’s design department,
which issued the working drawings for any instruments to be manufactured
at the factory; and the developments of supplier organizations assisted these
Working from our design specifications, Vladimir Khrustalev, the chief
designer of optical electronics instruments at the Geofizika Design Bureau,
developed sensors for orientation on Earth, the Sun, and stars. Chief rocket
gyroscope specialist Viktor Kuznetsov also developed gyroscopic instruments
according to our design specifications. At VNIIEM under Andronik Iosifyan,
Sheremetyevskiy created a heavy-duty flywheel to control the orientation of
the Molniya satellite. The Electron Microscope Factory in Suma manufactured
sensors for the ionic attitude-control system that we had invented.
Each space project required its own attitude-control systems developed
specially for a given specific spacecraft. Something they all had in common was
the requirement to ensure triaxial orientation at the appropriate time; in other
words, to have the capability to locate the spacecraft in space either having fixed
its three mutually perpendicular imaginary axes rigidly in relation to stars or
Earth’s surface and a velocity vector or maneuvering them according to a specific
program or commands. Legostayev entrusted the conceptual development of
triaxial orientation of a satellite on Earth to one of the first graduates of the
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
Moscow Physics and Technology Institute (MFTI), Yevgeniy Tokar.
had begun working on such a system back at NII-1 with Rauschenbach under
Keldysh’s guidance. In 1957 he issued a report titled “On an active stabilization
system for an artificial Earth satellite.”
Tokar was the first to propose a system that became classic for all Vostoks,
Voskhods, and Zenits and existed until the dawn of the epoch of “platformless”
systems. To orient one of the axes of a satellite on a local terrestrial vertical (i.e.,
pointed toward the center of Earth), he proposed using an instrument sensi-
tive to the infrared radiation of the planet’s surface. Rauschenbach had come
out with the idea of scanning the boundary between the disk of Earth visible
from the spacecraft and outer space. Yevgeniy Bashkin and Stanislav Savchenko
played significant roles in developing the layout and theoretical underpinnings
of the instrument. Vladimir Khrustalev and Boris Medvedev at TsKB Geofizika
created the first actual infrared vertical (IKV) sensor. Currently, not a single
near-Earth satellite can get along without an infrared vertical sensor—a local
vertical plotter. Since those long-ago days, TsKB Geofizika has brought the
reliability, accuracy, and mass of the infrared vertical sensor to scales that we
had not even dreamed of during those first years.
In addition to orienting two axes along the angles of pitch and roll, which
the infrared vertical sensor provided, the satellite’s free rotation about the
vertical axis pointed at Earth had to be stopped, i.e., we had to learn how to
orient it relative to its heading plane, or, as the rocketeers put it, in terms of
the yaw angle.
To this end Tokar proposed a gyroscopic orienting instrument, later called
a gyro-orbitant. It was used on virtually all domestic automatic and piloted
spacecraft that required orbital orientation. The theory behind the gyro-
orbitant was the basis for Tokar’s candidate of sciences dissertation, which he
defended in 1959. We were not able to manufacture the gyro-orbitant using
our own resources. This required high-precision specialized production facili-
ties. Naturally, we turned to Viktor Kuznetsov, who held a monopoly in the
field of rocket gyroscopes at the time. His first reaction was quite negative.
Kuznetsov didn’t want to manufacture an instrument in his shop if the idea for
it had come from somewhere on the outside. Moreover, Kuznetsov questioned
13. MFTI—Moskovskiy fiziko-tekhnicheskiy institut.
14. This document cited by Chertok has been reproduced in the following source:
V. S. Avduyevskiy and T. M. Eneyev, eds., M.V. Keldysh: izbrannyye trudy: raketnaya tekhnika
Nauka, 1988), 198–234.
People in the Control Loop
the very idea of the gyro-orbitant, which was, as he told me, “the principle of
a marine gyrocompass, corrupted for use in space.”
But in those days Kuznetsov couldn’t brush us off; otherwise, he might
have to explain himself to Korolev, and the latter, for all anyone knew, might
say: “Well, Vitya, if you refuse to help me, I’ll look for others.” “Vitya”
asked Aleksandr Ishlinskiy to conduct a detailed review of the theory at the
Mathematics Institute in Kiev, where he had been appointed the director back
Oskar Raykhman, one of his leading specialists, carried out an
independent experimental review of the principle at Kuznetsov’s request. Not
being a great theoretician, but rather a good organizer and gyroscope specialist,
Raykhman quickly built a test stand, on which he confirmed the instrument’s
functionality. Ishlinskiy’s and Raykhman’s great service was the fact that they
convinced Kuznetsov independently of one another. He believed them and
gave the “green light” for the manufacture of the first series. Kuznetsov’s instru-
ments, with the designations KI-008, KI-009, etc., were on the first spacecraft:
Vostoks, Zenits, subsequent reconnaissance spacecraft, and Chelomey’s Almazes.
On Salyut orbital stations we made an attempt to replace the gyro-orbitant
with so-called “ionic orientation” using heading and pitch. One of the reasons
for this replacement was the duration of the original “setting” period of the
gyro-orbitant after insertion on orbit. Triaxial orientation of a satellite using
an infrared vertical sensor and gyro-orbitant took almost an entire orbit.
Orientation using the ionic system using pitch and heading took around 10
minutes. However, the use of such a tempting orientation system (in terms of
time) without first thoroughly testing it resulted in the loss of DOS No. 3. I
will tell about this tragedy below.
Tokar worked with Gordeyev and Farmakovskiy, marine gyroscope special-
ists from the Elektropribor Factory in Leningrad, to develop and implement
the idea of a more accurate block of gyro instruments that would provide
orientation based on heading and filter the fluctuation of the optical infrared
vertical sensor. In the design bureau of this factory they conducted an extremely
conscientious study of the layout and developed the design of a two-rotor orbital
gyroscopic complex for the new Zenit-4 reconnaissance satellite. This complex
15. Aleksandr Yulevich Ishlinskiy (1913–2003) was a very prominent Soviet scientist who
specialized in the science behind gyroscopes and inertial navigation systems. He authored a
number of major works on the theory of elasticity, plasticity, the theory of vibrations, and
gyroscopes. From 1948 to 1955, he served as director of the Mathematics Institute of the
Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and from 1964 was the director of the Institute of Problems of
Mechanics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He was one of the top scientists involved in the
Soviet space program and served on many State Commissions in the 1960s.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
included a gyroscopic vertical sensor corrected using signals from the infrared
vertical sensor and the gyro-orbitant proper. Due to the Leningraders’ attention
to detail, the system’s accuracy was 10 times greater than that of the Zenit-2!
To conserve the working fluid, for the first time a system of electric motors
and flywheels developed at VNIIEM was provided. On the whole, Zenit-4’s
system of attitude-control instruments manufactured by all the suppliers was
a noticeable qualitative leap in the technology of control in space.
Larisa Komarova was one of the leading specialists of the new system for
Zenit-4. She brilliantly defended her candidate’s dissertation on this subject.
Unfortunately, the Zenit-4 control system did not fly into space in this configu-
ration. More and more launches of the already mastered Zenit-2 were needed.
However, much later, Chelomey (OKB-52) implemented the ideas developed
during those turbulent years on the Almaz, and Kozlov implemented them on
new photoreconnaissance spacecraft.
For missiles, aircraft, and ships, the gyroscope companies developed increas-
ingly complex instruments, which were poised on the brink of what was
possible, manufacturing-wise. The rocket control specialists on Pilyugin’s,
Kuznetsov’s, and Arefyev’s teams sought to create a high-precision inertial
control system, the foundation of which was the precision gyroscopic platform.
This field of endeavor also dominated the Americans’ efforts.
The aspiration to have attitude control in space so that a spacecraft could
execute any turns and maneuvers was limited by the design of the gyroscopes’
gimbal mount. As soon as the angle permitted by the design of the gyro-
orbitant or gyro platform was exceeded, the gyroscopes “hit the stop” and a
glitch occurred—loss of attitude control. The gyroscopic systems of missiles
had no fear of this phenomenon because the possible angles determined by
the program of the powered flight segment were deliberately less than those
permitted by the gyro systems.
Somewhere within Legostayev’s theoretical department the idea cropped
up to do away with the classic gimbal mount because the very task of con-
trolling the orientation of an artificial satellite, due to the requirements for
unlimited angular evolutions (programmed turns, change of attitude-control
modes, docking maneuvers), suggested the need to do away with mechanical
restraint. Spacecraft systems should have no maneuverability-arresting devices!
That’s how the problem was formulated.
Theoretically, platformless systems, or, as they are now referred to, strapdown
inertial navigation systems (BINS), had been well known for a long time.
16. BINS—Beskardannaya inertsialnaya navigatsionnaya sistema.
People in the Control Loop
were even dissertations available on that score. But the most prominent rocket
control specialists, Kuznetsov and Pilyugin, believed that this was an amusement
for the theoreticians, sort of the latest version of perpetual motion. Nevertheless
the theoreticians confirmed that, in principle, one could create a platformless
attitude-control and navigation system if one mastered the numerical integra-
tion of systems of kinematical equations and conversions of coordinate systems.
The system of angles contained in the equations describing the movement of a
solid body, in principle, can simulate a gimbal mount for gyroscopes. If there is
a good computer receiving information, it can replace the sophisticated design
of gyro platforms.
The practical solution of such a problem exceeds the abilities of a pure
mathematician. This situation requires an engineer’s view on the classical theory
of the angular motion of a solid body. In this case it was necessary to find a
practicable method for replacing complicated mechanics with complicated
mathematics that have no “arresting devices” or metal weighing many dozens
of kilograms. How could this be done?
The history of science and technology shows that serious discoveries are
made by individuals or very small teams of two or three people. And when
the discovery has been made, then its implementation requires courageous
managers who will take a risk, pull a large staff onto this project, and find the
necessary resources. A proposal from two young MFTI graduates who came
to OKB-1 along with Rauschenbach should be considered the beginning of
the epoch of domestic platformless systems. In 1963, 27-year-old Vladimir
Branets and 30-year-old Igor Shmyglevskiy turned to the works of [Irish]
mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton, who was the first to come up
with the theory of quaternions in 1843, striving to find a convenient device
for studying spatial geometry.
In 1973, 130 years after Hamilton’s discovery, already battle-tested at the
rocket firing range, Branets and Shmyglevskiy published the work Application
of Quaternions in Solid Body Orientation Problems.
The Nauka publishing
house released the book two years after receiving the manuscript, which was
the result of many years of research. The work is considered to be classic and
has even been translated into Chinese. A grave illness prematurely took the
life of Shmyglevskiy, and he was unable to admire his own work rendered in
Chinese characters. Chinese scientists presented such a souvenir to Branets
when he went to Beijing on official business.
17. V. N. Branets and I. P. Shmyglevskiy, Primeneniye kvaternionov v zadachakh orientatsii
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
The methods of numerical integration of kinematical equations using
quaternions that Branets and Shmyglevskiy proposed for use in attitude-
control tasks of any flying vehicle, which mathematicians call a “solid body,”
also solved problems of optimal control, i.e., maneuvers and attitude control
with minimal power losses, and of stability of the process. However, even a
gimballess system with the most brilliant mathematics must “begin at the
beginning.” The “beginning” was the optical and even ionic sensors, which
had already been mastered and were flying. If these sensors were supplemented
with very simple angular velocity meters for each of the three orientation axes,
then the control system would have the requisite set of baseline information.
I already mentioned that producing a coherent formulation of the problem
for subcontracting chief designers required not only one’s wishes, but also one’s
own specialists, who knew the actual capabilities of the subcontractor. After a
subcontractor accepted an order for development, these specialists performed
engineering supervision, protecting our interests and resolving the discrepancies
that inevitably arose between what we demanded and what we actually got.
These specialists were called curators, thereby emphasizing how they differed
from pure developers. This division always seemed unjust to me. A specialist
standing between two chiefs is, if he is a creative individual, capable of making
contributions to the process of creating a new system that neither the customer
nor the contractor came up with on their own.
We had such creative curators: for optical instruments—Stanislav
Savchenko, whom I have already mentioned; for rendezvous radio systems—
Boris Nevzorov and Nina Sapozhnikova; and for gyroscopic instruments—Yuriy
Bazhanov. Together with Lev Zvorykin, Bashkin’s deputy, Bazhanov took me
out to an aviation design bureau that was able to manufacture lightweight,
simple, and reliable angular rate sensors (DUS) per our requirements.
acquaintance from prewar times—former Aviapribor Factory Chief Designer
Yevgeniy Antipov—turned out to be the chief of the needed organization. The
meeting gave us the opportunity to reminisce about our work during the hazy
youth of the aviation industry. As fate had it, we had not seen each other a
single time since 1934. After 30 years we very quickly came to terms with all
the issues, and before long Antipov had signed off on the VPK’s draft decision,
making him responsible for developing angular rate sensors according to the
specification requirements of Korolev’s OKB-1.
For this revolutionary leap in control systems technology, the most dif-
ficult question for those times remained to be answered: where would we get
18. DUS—Datchik uglovykh skorostey.
People in the Control Loop
a good on-board computer? The history of the creation of on-board comput-
ers is fascinating and instructive. But its telling requires a special place and a
separate chapter. In recent years on-board computers have blended into the
structure of spacecraft control systems so organically that a young specialist
beginning to work in our field simply cannot imagine how we could have
flown without them.
When creating the Soyuz spacecraft, of all the motion-control problems,
descent from orbit to Earth of the axially symmetric Descent Module with
poor aerodynamics and low design overload required special treatment. A
slight shifting of its center of mass in relation to its axis of symmetry cre-
ated the lift of such a spacecraft. It was necessary to develop a very reliable
structure, algorithms, and range and stabilization control instruments for the
Descent Module, minimizing the area of the possible landing zone for a rapid
search and crew evacuation. The descent control system should calm down
the Descent Module so as to guarantee the initial conditions for a reliable
introduction of the parachute system, which is controlled by an autonomous
landing system. To ensure the reliability of the descent and landing control
systems, they selected the simplest algorithms and used redundancy, and
sometimes triple redundancy, of instruments and assemblies, the failure of
which could have catastrophic consequences. For the first time, it was neces-
sary to create not just new control technology, but also a new developmental
organization, in which the baton of responsibility for motion control was
passed from department to department, from the staff responsible for con-
trol of orbital flight to the descent control specialists, and from them to the
landing system developers. In addition to their standard tasks, descent and
landing control systems had to perform functions as part of the emergency
rescue system during the insertion phase.
We created the three systems—descent control, landing control, and
emergency rescue—in the form of automatic units, calling for no human
intervention. Over a period of 30 years, in hundreds of launches, not a single
one of these systems let us down. Both we and the Americans had catastrophes
and off-nominal situations occur during the descent and landing phases for
reasons attributable to other systems.
The history of the development of spacecraft control systems is
part of the history of cosmonautics. Not wanting to thrust on the reader my
own conception about the degree of responsibility of a human involved in the
control loop, I shall move on to a description of actual events. I remind the
reader that after the death of Vladimir Komarov on the first piloted 7K-OK
spacecraft called Soyuz, there was a prolonged break in the flights of these
vehicles so that the parachute portion of the landing system could undergo
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
substantial modification. For the flight testing of the modified vehicles and, at
the same time, to test out the rendezvous and docking systems, we embarked
upon launches of unpiloted 7K-OK vehicles under the name Kosmos.
Kosmos-186 and Kosmos-188 approached one another, docked, separated,
and returned to Earth during the period from 27 October through 2 November
1967. Kosmos-212 and Kosmos-213 executed a program of automatic rendez-
vous, docking, and safe landing from 14 through 20 April 1968. As the saying
goes, “God helps those who help themselves,” and to be absolutely sure, on
28 August 1968 a single 7K-OK vehicle, or Kosmos-238, was launched and
safely returned to Earth.
To this day it is difficult to explain why the unpiloted 7K-OK vehicles
were classified as anonymous, secret Kosmos vehicles. With a human being
on board, the same vehicle was called a Soyuz. I dared to pose this question
to the KGB officer assigned to us back then.
He smiled and answered, “Our
organization has nothing to do with this game of hide-and-seek. What to
announce in TASS reports and how is the concern of political bureaucrats.
They are convinced that the best way to keep state secrets is this inane, overly
cautious approach and confusion in the open press. Such methods don’t increase
the standing of our nation.”
Five successful flights of the 7K-OK, despite the fact that they were called
Kosmoses, convinced not just us, the creators, but also all the skeptics from
the Air Force, TsUKOS, and the VPK that it was time to switch to piloted
launches. A governmental commission headed by the chief of LII of the Ministry
of the Aviation Industry, Viktor Utkin, summarized the results of the work
performed after the tragic death of Komarov and gave the clearance for piloted
flights of 7K-OK vehicles.
There was much arguing about the program for
the first flight. We insisted on a complete repetition of automatic rendezvous
and docking, but with a cosmonaut on board. Under pressure from the cos-
monauts, Kamanin demanded maximum human involvement in rendezvous
and docking control. They decided that from a distance of 150 to 200 meters
the cosmonaut of the active vehicle would control the final approach process.
“To begin with, it’s not worth the risk,” said Keldysh at the next discussion.
“Let the passive vehicle remain unpiloted and the active vehicle be piloted. This
is already impressive. A vehicle carrying a cosmonaut approaches an unpiloted
vehicle and docks with it.”
19. KGB—Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (Committee for State Security).
20. The M. M. Gromov Flight-Research Institute (Letno-issledovatelskiy institut imeni M. M.
aviation testing facility.
People in the Control Loop
“But now we have to call both vehicles Soyuzes,” said one of the critically
thinking members of the State Commission.
Together with the ballistics experts and control specialists, the planners
began to schedule the program hour by hour and minute by minute. Mishin,
with the support of Kamanin and Karas, insisted on landing both vehicles
during the first half of the day. In late October, the days in our latitudes were
already short. According to the program, the passive vehicle was inserted
first. A day was set aside to thoroughly check it out in flight and, if necessary,
perform an orbital correction so that a day later it would fly over the firing
range, from which the piloted active vehicle would lift off to meet it at the
calculated rendezvous point. Radio lock-on would take place immediately
after orbital insertion. During the first orbit the vehicles would approach one
another and dock. It was agreed that far approach should take place in auto-
matic mode using the Igla radio system measuring relative motion parameters,
and when the vehicle reached a distance of 200 meters, the cosmonaut of the
active vehicle would switch off Igla from controlling the vehicle and perform
berthing manually. The Igla on the unpiloted vehicle would remain activated
and control it so that the funnel of the docking assembly cone was facing the
probe of the active vehicle.
“If we show that we are capable of docking with our own vehicle right
after liftoff, it means we are capable of going right up, if necessary, to an enemy
satellite and destroying it.”
This argument was provided in favor of a liftoff with docking during the
very first orbit, especially since the method had already been tried out in the
two previous unpiloted dockings.
At one of the regular meetings on the flight program, which Bushuyev
conducted, Zoya Degtyarenko, who represented the ballistics experts, pointed
out that the most crucial berthing and docking segment was going to take place
in the dark portion of the orbit.
“Why have you planned it like that?” Bushuyev fumed. “Set the launch
time so that docking takes place in the sunlight portion.”
But then it would be necessary to abandon a guaranteed landing during
the first half of the day, and we couldn’t let Rauschenbach and Bashkin scare
us with “ionic holes.”
“No, these restrictions are absolutely necessary.”
“Why argue?” intervened Feoktistov. “Docking at night using lights is
even more reliable than during the day when the Sun might fall in the field of
vision of the optical sight.”
And so it was decided. The cosmonaut would have to learn to manually
control the spacecraft using lights, which we would install on the passive vehicle.
Rockets and People: The Moon Race
Rauschenbach tasked Bashkin, Skotnikov, and Savchenko to develop the proce-
dure for manual control using lights. The cosmonaut was supposed to observe
the lights through a periscope sight (VSK) installed in the Descent Module.
Using manual control, the cosmonaut was supposed to fire the approach and
attitude-control engines so that the lights located in the angles of an imaginary
trapezoid lined up in a straight line.
It all seemed very simple. The State Commission tasked Sergey Darevskiy
with quickly devising a simplified simulator so that the process of orientation
using lights could be understood not only by the creators of the manual control
procedure, but by the cosmonauts as well. Kamanin, guarding the interests of
the cosmonauts who had familiarized themselves with the control procedure
using lights, was satisfied.
During these very hectic days of program development, I was occupied
filling out flight readiness certificates and certificates for each of the systems. I
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