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Meticulous Assessments Characterize Soviet Perceptions

The Russian booklet is an unusual survival, in that it originally appeared in a Moscow-based auction very near the time of the fall of the Soviet empire. The booklet was held in the interim by a colleague in Korolev, until I was given the opportunity to acquire the document in the autumn of 2006. There are physical indications that "'Apollo 7' Launch Plans" was a limited publication issue, and perhaps was part of a much larger series of publications that may have dealt with not only the Apollo mission series, but also other significant US space missions. However, this is the only example currently known to have surfaced.

The booklet's makeup appears to indicate limited distribution in that four photographs (of the Apollo 7 crew, the manned capsule in the process of being mated in the Kennedy Space Center high bay, as well as a heavily-numbered exploded view of the command module, plus additionally the Saturn 1B on the pad) were printed separately and then glued into the text (wrinkling some of the pages that the glue was affixed to).

The text itself is in typescript format, with some blanks for launch times that were filled in later with ink pen, and some typographical errors corrected as well. There are also two tables, one for basic performance numbers of the different stages of the Saturn 1B (as well as propellant weights per stage), as well as the even more significant table of future Apollo missions, and what was expected by the Russians to take place with each flight (details of this particular table will be discussed in detail later on).

In a significant departure from the more politically-flavored US document, the Russian booklet is bereft of nationalist commentary. In fact, due to the singular meticulousness and frequent data exactness of the content, I suspect that this document may have been made for the chief engineers of TsKBEM, the Council of Chief Designers, as well as perhaps for the heads of the military-industrial complex.

The data contained therein reveals that perhaps this was a document that benefited from technical intelligence collection by Soviet clandestine services, and reflected the interests and concerns of the USSR's top space engineers in what they wanted to know. What follows here are some examples that amplify upon this suspicion.

For instance, in the section that deals with the command-management-control of the Apollo 7 mission, we read:

"Management of the flight of the space ship 'Apollo 7,' as well as all ships of the 'Apollo' series, is going to be carried out by the Control Center in Houston (USA, state of Texas). The command-tracking complex for the 'Apollo' ships include 16 ground stations located between 40 degrees N. Lat. and 40 degrees S. Lat. with an additional five ship-borne stations, and also eight station-equipped airplanes. For station communication with the Control Center, the commercial satellite 'Intelsat 2' will be used in particular. At launching, three ship-borne tracking stations, and all airplane and ground stations will be working. Four ground stations are intended for tracking the space ship 'Apollo' following its outbound trajectory for the Moon. Since at launching 'Apollo 7' will not be transitioning to such a trajectory, these four stations will be used only for trial testing of equipment and personnel, and apparently the ground station near Madrid will not be used as the 'Apollo 7' will not practically enter into its visibility range. This station too may only be testing equipment, and training of personnel, as similarly will be the plane-borne platforms which basically are intended for tracking the 'Apollo' ship in its transition from geocentric orbits on a flight trajectory to the Moon. The tracking stations meant for 'Apollo 7' basically indicate that they all will be working in the centimetric range, which has been specially created for the 'Apollo' program. As in auxillary usage, the meter and decimeter ranges had been used previously and created for within the confines of the 'Mercury' and 'Gemini' programs.. The search and rescue component for 'Apollo 7' includes 14 ships and the aircraft carrier 'Essex' that has 49 aircraft. The aggregate number of personnel to be involved is about 7200 persons.."[52]

In the description of the command module itself, the Russians paid close attention to its component construction, as well as its radio-frequency ranges for the anticipated communications:

".the shell of the crew compartment is made of laminar panels honeycombed with stainless steel (between two sheets of stainless steel) and supplied with heat-shielding surfaces made from cellular fiberglass with a packing medium of an ablative substance (phenolic-epoxy resin). The thickness of the surface is up to 63 mm (on the bottom part). The shell of the impellent compartment is also made of laminar materials (constructed of aluminum alloy honeycomb between two sheets of aluminum alloy).. The radio-engineering equipment includes combining [several elements with] the transceiver (reception frequency 2106.4 Megahertz, transmission frequency 2287.5 Megahertz), FM-sending (2272.5 Megahertz), and also combining of [lower-frequency bands with] the transmit (296.8 Megahertz), and the receiver (259.7 Megahertz) with the transceiver (243 Megahertz and 10.006 Megahertz). Such on-board means of centimetric range work during orbital flight provides voice communication, transfer telemetering information, trajectory measurements, as well as telecast and reception of set points and commands.."[53]

In regards to the radio engineering descriptions mentioned, what this basically meant was that there was two bands of frequencies used, around 200, as well as 2000, Megahertz by the Americans. The Russians' interest may have been piqued because all of the elements were integrated into one box, something the Soviet engineers probably couldn't do at the time (because of a lack of widespread usage of integrated circuits in Soviet high technology). The versatility of Apollo 7's "black box" meant that all requirements-voice communications, telemetry, video and navigation was controlled by this single piece of equipment.

And one further comment that showed that the Soviet engineers recognized that if Apollo 7 was successful in completing all aspects of its mission, then the manned circumlunar step could be next for the Americans:

".Even if the [entire] flight takes place according to schedule, the assessment of operations of the on-board systems of the ship will be completed no earlier than the beginning of November, 1968. On the basis of this estimation, the decisions on following up issues following the launching of ('Apollo VIII') will be made. If 'Apollo VII' will successfully complete its mission, then most probably [this success] will provide 'Apollo VIII' with [the grounds] for the conclusion of its mission with a piloted spaceship in selenocentric orbit."[52]

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