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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 

unauthorized activity.”

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 

docking assembly.


 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-

periferiynyy agregat stykovki-75 or APAS-75), which dispensed with the earlier probe-and-drogue 

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.


 We need 

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 

Supply Vehicle.

“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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