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An In-depth Analysis of a Critical Aspect of the Cold War: The Soviet Manned Lunar Programs, from the American and Russian Perspective.

Anti-Climatic End of the Lunar Race

11-03-10 - 11-29-10/8-10-11/ 10-12-15

By Charles P. Vick, 2008-2010-2015
All Rights Reserved


The victorious Apollo-11 mission that culminated in man's first landing on another celestial body. But perspective on what happened to the Soviet effort in the closing days of the Lunar Race was lost. The impact on humanity of the triumphant U.S. space effort produced a major diplomatic windfall for the United States. The Nixon administration sought to take full advantage of the success to support U.S. diplomatic efforts in world affairs. But President Lyndon Baines Johnson, President Richard M. Nixon and National Security Adviser Dr. Henry A. Kissinger (HAK) had kept their eye's over their shoulders, looking at what the other side was attempting.

The suspected July 3, 1969 Soviet launch failure of the "J" vehicle at 20:18:32 UT was thought to be it's first flight test attempt. This event was known by the White House within the first 24-36 hours after it happened. This is the first report of many that follow [when declassified] that were developed on the details of the event and what was learned.

The United States, Intelligence Community primarily Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and to a degree the then Air Force Systems Command - Foreign Technology Division (FTD) [now National Air & Space Intelligence Center (NASIC)] as well as the Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (BIR) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) organizations have released very little on the considerable information that was learned from this space event.

Equally the Russians have released only some excellent imagery and some historical information but few details to the Russian, Soviet people of what was apparently planned and what was actually flown hardware wise both in description and imagery leaving several great voids in the historical record. This is why U. S. intelligence reports are useful to cross check the official Soviet/Russian histories. The U. S. had in fact seen very little Soviet manned lunar programs activity since January and part of February 1969 before the period starting around May 12, 1969. That view of little activity would change dramatically prior to mid June 1969 but was not known until shortly after the middle last half of June 1969. Up to just days prior to the Apollo-11 launch most of the top NASA associate administrators still did not know what had taken place on the Baikonur Cosmodrome. What follows is a taste of what was expected from the Central Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) declassification with further details.

Identification of the Central Intelligence Bulletin [CIB] of August 15, 1969

This CIB document has been doggedly pursued which was first identified from a citation in a CIA released declassified report during November 2005 but the actual; document has had a long trek to being declassified. The document was identified in a citation in the subsequent years in the: "Memorandum for The Record, Morning Meeting of August 15, 1969 Top Secret Approved for release: 2005/11/23: CIA-RDP80R01284A0018001110061-9 from the CIA, CREST archival system" available to the public at the National Archives. One quote from that is noteworthy. "DDI called attention to today's item in the CIB showing that the Soviet's largest space booster exploded on the launching pad on 3 July."

It was first identified in 2006 by Charles Vick at NARA and finally put through Mandatory Declassified Review starting in 2007 separately by Peter Pesavento and 2008 by Charles Vick. It was subsequently forwarded to the ISOO [Information Security Oversight Office], Information Security Classification Appeals Panel, ISCAP in 2008-2009 after the CIA failure to respond one year after the MDR's request was submitted and the case was finally resolved in 2010 via ISCAP. Though ISCAP's organization [ISOO, Supreme Court of declassification] case review effort was a worthy effort on their part however their were things redacted from the documents text that if they were known by the reviewers would not have been deleted or screen covered as will be explained. This is not a criticism of the ISCAP process and excellent personnel but rather respect of the learning process for what they did open for the general public.

Expectations: What would this CIB reveal was the Question?

CIA: "Central Intelligence Bulletin", dated Aug. 15, 1969, article on the J-Vehicle launch failure that deal with the Soviet manned lunar program. Expectations of what this CIB would reveal and confirm were not a blind area of knowledge of students of the secret Soviet manned lunar space programs?

It was believed that this CIB of August 15, 1969 contains information on the DMSP-Block-4B weather film based image photograph of the Central Asia explosion flash from the July 3-4, 1969, launch failure on or about 20:18:32 UT. It was obtained by Dino A Brugioni of CIA-NPIC, as acknowledged in interview that was also published as written information in the open literature of that era. This image has yet to be found or declassified but is known to exist but may be lost for ever historically. At this writing pursuing the image and its film has been a game in depressing futility compounded by a lack of cooperation to procedures in the USAF Weather FOIA/MDR offices. The image did exist but may have been lost or destroyed based on the research effort carried out. The image was not displayed in this declassification rendition of the CIB. It also contains the first J-1 pad destruction imagery with its artist palate shaped burn mark declassified CORONA imagery of August 3, 1969, mission 1107-2 reports from NPIC, along with the previous pre-rollout, launch GAMBIT, KH-8 imagery of June 11, 1969 and subsequent post failure GAMBIT, KH-8 imagery of August 29, 1969 that was later added to the growing data fusion in subsequent reports on this event. The first two images did indeed show up in the report but it was premature to expect the post failure GAMBIT, KH-8 imagery of August 29, 1969 image. The heavily screened KH-8 Gambit image is so heavily screened it has reduced it below the declassified CORONA and KH-7 imagery quality standard and represent an insulting mockery to the citizenry of the United States. This has made the image reading notes material nearly unreadable.

So great was the destructive force of the launch vehicle explosion it sent shrapnel over 20 kilometers from the point of the high energy conventional explosion equivalent to a tactical nuclear weapon registered on regional atmospheric, acoustic and seismic sensors. This is beside the huge night time flash of the explosion captured on weather satellite film imagery that has since disappeared from the historic record. The lunar cosmonauts and State officials were on site during the launch exercise enduring the earthquake and shock wave damage effects of the catastrophe on the region.

It also contains the evolving NSA, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) & CIA, Department of State, Human Intelligence (HUMINT) reports indicating there were both Zond and Soyuz spacecraft telemetry frequencies data links indicated, the full meaning of which was not fully understood. We saw only one vehicle fly but were seeing data that was perhaps as expected that more than one vehicle may have been planned to be involved in that effort. However the data streams overwhelmed the U. S. capability to absorb all that was coming from the launch operation before its destruction. This was in addition to the booster performance data and mission planned sequence & performance expectations, timeline data previously obtained from repeated countdown demonstrations observed in May and June 1969, in August through December 1968 and earlier. Unfortunately only some hints of the data's existence has been intimated within historic interviews. In fact NSA identified the launch failure almost as it took place but the analysis of the data took a while on July 3 and 4, 1969 as reported from Washington in the London, UK based Sunday Telegraph of July 6, 1969 from its Washington report. The word was out as early as the evening of the 4th of July 1969 and the morning of the 5th of July as a weekend report. Certainly only the NSA, SIGINT expected data is assumed because it is publicly known to be a standard process even in the latter 1960's but as usually has not been acknowledged when given the opportunity to do so two years ago from a NSA, FOIA effort started in 1997. The CIA suggestion that they continued to iterate that the manned lunar landing mission required two launches of the "J" vehicle through EOR was wrong from the start but they had to learn the hard way. Only one launch was required as most in the military intelligence community believed but due consideration of a "J" Vehicle launch followed by a Soyuz launch was early on considered probable but CIA was in charge then.

The HUMINT data was suggested in previous CIA attempt to refuse to declassify this document for Peter Pesavento implicating why it was not being declassified and must be assumed that there is more information on the attempted mission that appears in this classified rendition or subsequent renditions of the growing reports. It is known that the U. S. had many on site and regional sources reporting over time back to the U. S. on the Soviet Space Activities on the Cosmodrome.

The State decreed dream that did not make it was that information gotten through HUMINT and SIGINT data is believed to have revealed it was to be flown to low earth orbit for a full day before trans-lunar injection was to take place and a full lunar orbital mission with the lunar orbiting spacecraft (LOK-Zond L-3S dok) return to earth from lunar orbit. The Luna Cabin (LK) was to be flow with the Lunar Braking Module (LBM) stage [Blok-D] through its powered descent and separation but no soft lunar landing because of booster payload limits. The LK was not fully fueled for powered descent flight. The LK separated from and LBM both of which were intended to crash on the moon’s surface. This precluded a soft moon landing and automatic sample return operations to lunar orbit that was previously considered but not necessarily adopted by the Soviets in open published discussions. They simply were not ready to fly such a mission so soon after the previous failure. No Soyuz EOR, manned lunar orbit mission was considered. The game was already over because of superior U. S., NASA planning management directive rigidly follow through.

Comment CPV: In reality after study of the available preponderance of declassified U.S. and Russian Federation information there is only the conclusion possible to draw on the 5L mission hardware is that which follows. 5L’s earth orbit insertion mass was greater than the 3L payload as dictated by the State plan. Since the N1 booster was years behind in its development from the State decreed schedule no manned flight was possible or contemplated. I am left with the conclusion that the actual payload flown on 5L mission as being the Bloc-G, Bloc-D, LK mass instrumentation module and L-3S/L-1S/7K-L1S hybrid spacecraft payload utilizing an LOK computer in the Zond-L1 descent module even though another option was possible. The 5L mission fell far short of the minister’s goal intent. In front of the Zond spacecraft was the LOK, doc unit presumable intended to be jettisoned before TLI. This design precluded and crewing of the spacecraft before launch or in earth orbit. Not until after the N1-L3, 7L mission if the entire flight tests had been reasonably successful would a manned lunar orbit mission have been possible as planned by the State. Again the ministers failed in their efforts as 5L blew up in their faces. All of this was supposed to have taken place years earlier to forge ahead of the United States but that did not happen along with the wasteful Proton Zond program reducing the two programs down to a wasted futile geopolitical game.

It is further believed that the Soviets had undertaken the most unprecedented space fleet deployment ever seen in June, July 1969. This blue water naval activity breakout was due to the space event support ships activity. In June and July 1969 they deployed both the older space event support fleet and new 9 ship of the space fleet globally. This was never seen before this time and has not been seen afterwards except for the OKEAN subsequent five year plan naval exercises that followed this event in 1970 and afterwards with each five year plan. The Soviet had deployed upwards of 65 naval, merchant marine and Soviet Space Event Support Ships during that June, July 1969 period [verses the 53 seen in December 1968] with 13-18 in the Pacific Ocean, 10-15 in the Atlantic and 10-20 in the Indian Ocean. In 1969 the Soviets deployed 65 naval ships in the Mediterranean greater that the existing U. S. ship numbers. Both deployments and their justification remains a mystery unexplained to this writing. Again this was not covered in the declassified CIB.

Its launch failure was analyzed both through the countdowns and through the launch defining the failure mode. Initial analysis indications of a launch pad static test failure were eliminated from consideration as a result of this data analysis & HUMINT data received. Much was learned initially from among the tracking, range ships & ground tracking stations communications intelligence (COMINT) gathered communications helping to again cross confirm the data analysis on what had been planned & what had happened. Much of this data has been partially revealed by the Russian's released histories while this CIB actually addresses the revealing COMINT data received that confirmed the NSA data analysis completing the tipping off of the US intelligence organization with in the first 24-36 hours as the tracking ships came off station. Certainly the NAS, SIGINT data gave away the area of failure as the launch failed even though it is not directly acknowledged in the CIB but apparently appears in separate reports along with the Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) acoustic and seismic as well as barometric spiked data records confirming the multiple confirming data's on the failure.

The Department of State, declassified HUMINT reports indicated that we knew that it was not initially intended to be manned but the revealed telemetry data's may indicate something else was planned for that did not take place as a result of the devastating failure and the previous Proton SL-12 Luna Automatic Soil Return (ASR) mission losses. There was also HUMINT data on the mission's plans intent and failure as previously noted. There were indeed based on historic interviews more reports that followed this report on the same subject as the accumulating information analysis evolved.

This extensive accumulated information was later believed to have been ordered by then sitting President R. M. Nixon to not be revealed for which Defense Secretary Melvin Laird strongly disagreed on withholding information the American people should know. In late October of 1969 a sanitized release of the information well convoluted was let go of from approved none acknowledged sources that was in part published on November 17,1969 in Aviation Week & Space Technology aerospace industry trade magazine.

I am uninterested in the HUMINT sources and methods only the information obtained for declassification. I also have former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird's interview comments and others in the research I have documented and conducted through the years. In the future I hope to expand on this and other historic Soviet space issues. CPV.

Comment CPV: Thanks to a few honest, honorable knights of both sides of the Lunar Race the truth has been partially declassified for the general public. Much more remains to be declassified to pry loose the intelligence communities "Holy Grail" with its "Crown Jewels" brings into question the veracity of President Obama's ordered declassifications. That in my view is highly improbable as the community with rare exception only declassifies the product user side of the information and almost never declassifies its internal intelligence communities TS-SCI "Holy Grail" with its "Crown Jewels". However enough information has come out that will eventually allow a much fuller picture to be developed of what was and is known by the intelligence communities regardless of the with held "Holy Grail" with its "Crown Jewels". Indeed many of the TS-SCI subject & title documents have been identified & denied declassification or are forever historically lost due to GSA ordered destructions.

Two Line Orbital Elements Indicates the Days the Imagery was Taken:

In order to understand when the August 15, 1969 report image was taken one has to match the orbital satellite two line data elements for the most advantageous day passes with in the KH-8 Gambit spacecraft capabilities. This was reviewed previously. It shows that the best days for imagery of the Tyuratam "J" Vehicle pads were June 10, 11, 12, 1969 with the best day by far June 11th. Two of those views are model duplicated displayed here. In actuality KH-8 took two full images for stereo imaging efforts on each photo pass so the timing of the variation views is mere seconds apart but gives dramatically different view of the period of time.

69. (7 table-II) View of the June 11, 1969 image of N1-L3 (1M1) (#7 table-II) This is a simulation of the KH-8-22 mission view of the "J" vehicle 1M1 on the J-2 pad on June 11, 1969. (CREDIT: By Charles P. Vick 2004 All Rights Reserved)

69a. (7 table-II) Close up of the 1M1, "J" vehicle model Note 1M1 did not have the SAS/LET solid motor attached to its nose pedestal. (CREDIT: By Charles P. Vick 2004 All Rights Reserved)

See image above as well as cib815693, cib8156914 series cib8156015 the first declassified kh-8 image of June 11, 1969 cib815694b below I believe because CORONA imagery are not that good.

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