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Kaliningrad Spaceflight Center

The work of the Flight Control Center (FCC) was described in an article by A. Militsin, FCC chief. (1) The ballistics data computing system operates first to compute an accurate launch time and desired parameters for orbit-injection. Estimated data on the actual orbit is received several minutes after the launch and in 10 to 15 minute predictions for the ballistic lifetime of the spacecraft and proposals for orbit corrections are produced. The coordinates of emergency landing areas are determined. During the flight the ballistics data computing complex provides the input data necessary for organizing all flight control operations, calculating the time and duration of engine firings, the orientations needed to perform the different flight tasks, and how the command, control and communications stations should track the spacecraft.

The greatest volume of data received comes from telemetry. Eight-hundred thousand units of information were received daily from the Salyut 6-Soyuz complex and processed by the data computing complex. This was said to be equivalent to "the complete text of an edition of Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika every second." (2) Data output from 150 channels is sent to 500 monitor consoles where specialists can retrieve the desired information on a display screen by pressing a maximum of two keys. On-line command communications consoles provide both individual and collective communications for the specialists. It was said that space flight chiefs, the communications chief and duty shift chiefs have direct communication with the crew and that their working places were also equipped with television camera transmitters. As a rule the chief operators are cosmonauts training for subsequent flights.

Balayan's technical memorandum gives a detailed account of the FCC, organization of work in the control room, control room operational support, and the training of control personnel. (3)

An illustrated booklet giving a general description of the Kaliningrad Spaceflight Center near Moscow, where orbiting and interplanetary spacecraft are monitored and controlled, was published in 1985. (4) As well as engaging in the actual flight control of spacecraft, the staff also carry out scientific investigations and develop methods and algorithms for solving flight control problems.

The FCC monitors the work and condition of the crew of piloted spacecraft via onboard and ground equipment, programming their operation. Programs are developed by gathering, processing and analyzing information about the condition of all elements of spacecraft and ground equipment. Telemetry transmitters (about 1,000on the spacecraft and more than 2,000 in the Center) produce readings 100 times a second.

In the control process, the FCC performs operational guidance of the flight and coordinates the operation of a network of ground-based tracking stations, the space support fleet of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and ballistic centers. It interacts with the launching and recovery complexes, training-simulation facilities, and various other flight support organizations.

It reports both the date and the exact time of launch to the cosmodrome and, until the spacecraft is injected into orbit, receives telemetry information from the cosmodrome about the condition of the spacecraft's onboard systems and the health of the cosmonauts,

television pictures from the launch site and the onboard TV cameras, communications between the cosmonauts and launch control, data on the progress of pre-launch preparations and the launch itself when it occurs.

During the flight, the FCC maintains communication with remote ground and floating stations with the aid of communication satellites. It specifies raw data for tracking stations to compute look-angles in azimuth and elevation when the spacecraft is above their radio horizons. Ballistics determine the orbital parameters of the spacecraft on the basis of radio measurements received from the tracking stations. Several hundred communication channels guarantee effective interaction of control groups simultaneously on several subjects.

A common timing system synchronizes operation of the FCC's computers. High precision of time-keeping (Moscow Standard Time, Greenwich Mean Time, Universal Coordinated Time, etc.) is guaranteed by a permanent link to the State Standard Time for radio and television channels.

A complex of tele-optical projection equipment, an alpha-numeric display controlled automatically by a system with an output of 1.5 million operations per second, guarantees the versatility and clarity of the large screen displays of generalized information about the flight path.

The performance of the spacecraft's onboard systems is evaluated by real-time processing some 3,000 telemetry parameters displayed in various forms for the controllers. During a communication session, information is received at a rate of approximately 500 kilobytes per second. Telemetry data processing, ballistic and command-program calculations are made using "El'brus" multiprocessing computer systems with 2,000 megabytes of internal and external storage.

Visual display units provide the data necessary for the controllers during operation. These include the results of ballistic- navigation calculations, telemetry data on the operating conditions of on-board systems and scientific equipment, and various types of reference information. The communication system makes it possible to carry on conversations both with the individual specialists and a group of subscribers. Individual specialist workstations are provided with equipment for space-video communication.

At the close of each communication session, the FCC's specialists remain at their consoles until the results of the session are analyzed and all reports have been received by the shift Flight Director.

Television shots from within the FCC appear from time to time, such as at the launch of the two Vega spacecraft and the launch of a crew with a foreign cosmonaut. During the summer of 1987, a team from the BBC's Children's TV program, "Blue Peter," who were making a series of features about the Soviet Union, were permitted to visit the Kaliningrad FCC. Presenter Yvette Fielding and BBC veteran space correspondent Reg Turnill were shown around the Center by Cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyev, Deputy Flight Director for the Soyuz TM-2/TM-3 mission. During their five-hour visit they received a special message to the young viewers of their program from Cosmonauts Romanenko and Aleksandrov onboard the Mir orbital station. (5) Turnill said that there appeared to be a team of 25 in the shift, approximately equal numbers of either sex and that, for much of the time, two or three consoles only were occupied between communications sessions. (6)

With the appearance of the Mir orbital station, Kettering Group members who were monitoring the voice communications between the cosmonauts and the ground noticed a departure from the long-established calling-up routine. In piloted missions to the Salyut stations, the cosmonauts would usually begin a communication session by calling " Zaria" (Dawn), the call sign of the control center. Romanenko and Laveikin, on Mir in 1987, used the new call-sign, which sounded like "Soup," heard occasionally in 1986 from Kizim and Solovyev. This is, in fact, the pronunciation of the initial letters "TsUP" for "Tsentr Upravleniya Poletom" or FCC.



The "Nazemniy Avtomatizirovanniy Kompleks Upravleniya" (NAKU) is the basic complex, universal to all types of spacecraft, of permanent and mobile systems and resources for exchanging command, telemetric and trajectory information with spacecraft, and resources for communication and automated collection and processing of information, together with necessary software, and intended to control all spacecraft functioning in space. (7)

A rudimentary command-measurement complex (KIK) encompassing the entire territory of the Soviet Union had been established in the 6 months prior to the launch of the first sputnik in 1957. Due to the relative simplicity of the early sputniks, the initial tasks of the KIK were comparatively simple. In the second phase, the KIK began to provide backup for the operation of space objects in orbital flight. The 1983 KIK was "a complicated, multifunctional, technically unique, automated control complex for controlling all of the Soviet space apparatuses, vehicles and stations in active existence in space." (8) Tamkovich disclosed that occasionally, in order to ensure uninterrupted communications with spacecraft on especially important parts of the flight, if it could not be done by ground stations or if it were impossible or inexpedient to use ships, aircraft were used. (9) Elsewhere he wrote that the main task of the KIK, during the first revolution of a piloted spacecraft, "was the monitoring of the lift-off into orbit, deployment of antennas and solar battery panels, as well as checking on the state of the cosmonauts' physical well-being and functioning of onboard systems, while on the second revolution they begin testing the spacecraft orientation systems and preparations for the first maneuver." (10)

The 1985 encyclopedia reproduces an organizational chart. A central command post (TsKP) has two-way interaction with the ballistic centers (BTs) and the telemetric processing center, which have a two-way link with the communication and data transmission sub-system, and the central spacecraft control point (TsPU) for automated spacecraft or the FCC (TsUP) for piloted spacecraft. Two-way links between the communication and data transmission sub-system provide control of ground resources from the TsKP and spacecraft control from the TsPU or TsUP. Control is linked from the communication and data transmission sub-system to the ground-based (KIP, formerly NIP) and ship command and measuring stations (KKIP) and measurements are returned to the communication and data transmission sub-system from the KIPs and KIPPs, and from airborne measuring stations. There is a telemetry link from the spacecraft to the airborne measuring stations and two-way telemetry, radio orbit control, command information and communication links between the spacecraft and the KIPs and KKIPs. (11)


Early Soviet pictures of space operations centers looked very simple by U.S. standards, but gradually over time, the pictures have shown advances in the kind of equipment the Russians have available. The program was about 10 years old before detailed descriptions of control centers began to appear, and it was only with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project that visits by Americans were permitted to one center.

Colonel General Tolubko described for Tass in November 1967 the role of the military in the launch of Venera 4, which can probably be assumed to be typical of so-called scientific flights. Members of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Force conducted the launch, and 10 minutes after lift-off, control passed from the military to the command measuring complex of stations all over the U.S.S.R. and on ships in several oceans. (118) That same month, Lieutenant General Leontyev stated that the Strategic Rocket Forces had been responsible for all launches of Sputniks, Lunas, Veneras, Molniyas, and the manned flights.(119)

In May 1968, Red Star described the computing coordinating center (KVTS) operated by the Soviet Academy of Sciences. This center collects data from stations all over the world where it is then processed, analyzed, evaluated, and compared. Red Star described the center as having a huge operations hall, with a large map of the world at one end on which the computed trajectories of the current spacecraft were displayed. Illuminated panels either side of the main map carry the principal steps of the launch countdown, and a status board of all other active Soviet payloads. Other walls are covered with more detailed diagrams, tables, graphs, and maps needed for the operation. The account went on to describe the receipt and use of many channels of telemetry. (120)

Pravda carried a further description in April 1969. This was in connection with the Venera flights. A side room was used for this purpose rather than the main hall. There were special telephones and apparatus for communicating with all computer coordinating centers and telemetry collection points throughout the U.S.S.R. Data on the flight position of the two Venera spacecraft then in flight were being plotted on a cylindrical recorder by tracing pens. In the telemetry section near by, the reporter saw more tracing pens plotting data from the spacecraft on paper bands. At the opposite end of the establishment were the big computers with the output unit passing out endless columns of numbers. In the main hall, primary data on the flight were being displayed on several large screens. The pictures were being drawn in full color diagrams by connection with a computer which was generating these displays directly from the telemetry. (121) This general description is highly reminiscent of the most advanced U.S. display systems.

More descriptions were released in June 1970. The reporter from Izvestiya reported that on the approach drive to the center he saw three large steerable antenna dishes which were receiving data. On this occasion it was Soyuz 9, and as soon as the ship came over the horizon, the large display screens showed live television from the cabin of the manned craft. He reported the tape was almost half a meter wide, as it poured out of a computer with many Blinking lights. (122)

A similar article in Krasnaya Zvezda discussed the problems of command and control during flights, recommending a combination of commands sent to the spacecraft by radio from Earth, and others program-timed on board the spacecraft itself. The report mentioned that the deep space flights launched from Earth orbit are observed by radio and sent command signals from ships placed in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which is consistent with our knowledge that the probe or escape rocket is generally fired somewhere over or near Africa. Other flights are supported by aircraft, particularly during the recovery phase, supplementing the ships used for search, rescue, and evacuation of spacecraft which have landed in ocean areas. Information from all these sources feeds into the ground complex. The total combination of all support aids involves systems for orbital path measurements, reception and registry of telemetry, controlling onboard instrumentation, communications, and a standard time service. Communications may be relayed through Molniya satellites, and reliance is placed on the Meteor satellites for supporting weather data. (123)

Communications in near-Earth space require a greater number of antennas, but those for flights to lunar and planetary distances need special, large antenna systems, special molecular and parametric amplifers, and special narrow band filters to sort out weak signals amidst space "noise." At least two but not more than four deep space stations if sufficiently spread out, are all that are needed for planetary flights. (124)

Still another account in Pravda described the antennas as 25 meters in diameter at the main space flight control center. The main receiving antenna is close to the buildings of the center. The transmitting antenna to the spacecraft is about 10 kilometers away. Because several different frequencies are used, and these pass through the receiving antenna, special devices sort them out to deliver the separate components of television, telemetry, and telephonic information. These are all recorded on magnetic tape, while the information on orbital information especially is fed immediately to the computers. When commands are sent to the spacecraft, these are in coded form which has been put into the computers, so that only pressing a button on a panel is required. When these signals are played back to Earth correctly from the space craft, only then does the "execute" command go out to the spaceship. (125)

It was interesting that through all these years of partial disclosure, there was never a clue as to the location of the space control centers. Certainly the launch itself is controlled by military men at the individual launch sites. It was this immediate block house with its periscopes that was declared off limits when American astronauts, technicians, and other higher officials visited Tyuratam in connection with the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

When the Apollo-Soyuz mission was approaching, the Russians opened some more information by making known they were building an entirely new space control center for this mission in the general vicinity of Moscow. It was revealed that the Soyuz 12 flight was the first one controlled from this new center northeast of Moscow. (126) At first the site was believed to be at Kalinin, 150 kilometers northwest of Moscow. But the site was finally located accurately when the U.S. press representatives were allowed to visit it in mid-May 1975. It was in Kaliningrad, 10 kilometers northeast of Moscow and 10 kilometers northwest of the Yuriy Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center at Zvezdny Gorodok. (127) It had been building since 1970. The main operations room has 5 banks of consoles, 24 in total with a large screen map of the world in front center, with the orbital path and all tracking stations shown on the map with additional data listed on side panels.

It is evident from these disclosures that there must be a different and possibly more versatile center already in use elsewhere. The Russians were evasive on this point, but during the Apollo-Soyuz mission mentioned almost casually that the Salyut mission was being controlled from a center at Yevpatoriya, the same site in the Crimea where the deep space tracking station is located. Still more information became available when the official histories of ASTP appeared in 1978 and 1979. The Russian description, by Lev Lebedev, a senior researcher at the Institute of Space Exploration of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, does not refer to the second control center. It defines flight control and lists other responsibilities of the Mission Control Center including determination of orbital parameters and calculation of any maneuvers necessary for changing the orbit, rendezvous with another spacecraft, and reentry. The account continues with a description of the personnel, their roles, and the equipment. The cycle of operations is described in the following extract.

When the spacecraft enters a ground station's zone of radio visibility the trans-mission of commands to the spacecraft in conformity with the flight program begins. The relevant on-board systems are switched on. The ground stations start to receive and to retransmit to Mission Control Center telemetric and trajectory information and also TV images from the spacecraft. The telemetric and trajectory information is automatically processed by the Mission Control Center computers and serves as the basis for further control decisions. Specialists analyses the incoming data and assess the condition and operation of each on-board system.

In case of deviation from the normal modes of on-board systems operation they analyzes the effect of the failure on each system and prepare proposals to eliminate the failures. The medical officer thoroughly analyses the bio-telemetric data and assesses the physical condition of the crew. The cosmonaut communicator carries out voice exchanges with the crew. The specialist responsible for the ground station network monitors the operation of the stations, with which he maintains direct communication.

The Shift Flight Director summarizes all the incoming data and makes decisions with regard to the further flight program. If no deviations in the functioning of the on-board and ground systems are observed he gives permission to proceed with the nominal program. If program correction is required it is done by the specialist responsible for program planning. Corrective actions can be taken during both the current and subsequent events. In case of need the spacecraft model and cosmonaut complex simulator can be utilized for failure identification and corrective action verification. (128)

A black and white photograph of the interior of the Kaliningrad control center is to be found in the same book. (129)

An account of a visit by American ASTP specialists to the Kaliningrad control center by M. P. Frank, a flight director, is given in some detail in the source notes of the Ezell's The Partnership. (130)

He gained the impression that the center was no more than 3 years old and, although impressed by its quality, he had the definite feeling that it did not have the performance capability of the American control center. He went on to give details of the computer facilities which consisted of three main frames, each containing 16 memory drums with a capacity of 32,000 48-bit words.

In addition to former cosmonaut, Aleksey Yeliseyev, the Soyuz flight director for ASTP, two other Soviet officials were named in the account of the October 18, 1973 visit: Dr. Abduyevskiy, the deputy director of the control center, and Dr. A. Melytsin, the technical director. The visitors were told that the facility had been used in the past for unmanned flights but that Soyuz 12, 3 weeks earlier, had been directed from there. They planned to direct future Soyuz missions, including ASTP, from there.

In an exchange between Senator William Proxmire and NASA Administrator, James C. Fletcher, shortly before the ASTP mission, it was disclosed that Prof. Konstantin Bushuyev, Project Director for the U.S.S.R., had assured his American counterpart, Dr. Glynn S. Lunney, that in the event of the Soyuz 18/Salyut 4 mission overlapping ASTP, the Soviets would use two separate ground control teams and control centers for the two missions. ASTP would be directed from the center at Kaliningrad, while Soyuz 18/Salyut 4 would be conducted by the center that had been used prior to Soyuz 12. Whether there are still other major control centers is not known. It is reminiscent of the fact the United States has control facilities at each of its major launch sites in Florida and California, and also has additional facilities in Houston, Tex.; Greenbelt, Md.; and Sunnyvale, Calif, at the very least. So for some purposes, the Russians may also have additional locations in use.



1. Aviatsiya i Kosmonavtika, December 1981, pp. 40-41.

2. Ibid.

3. U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, op. cit., pp. 57-59.

4. Tsentr Upravleniya Poretom, Mashinostroyeniye, Moscow, 1985,

5. The program was transmitted on BBC1 TV, 1605 GMT, October 19, 1987.

6. Private telephone call to G. E. Perry, 1742 GMT, October 23, 1987.

7. Kosmonavtika Entsiklopediya, op. cit., pp. 260-262.


119. Trud, Moscow, Nov. 19, 1967, p. 1A.

120. Red Star, Moscow, May 16, 1968, p. 4.

121. Pravda, Moscow, Apr. 12, 1969, p. 6.

122. Izvestiya, Moscow, June 4, 1970, pp. 1, 4.

123. Dmitriyev, G. Eyes and Ears of the Earth. Moscow, Krasnaya Zvezda, June 12, 1970, p. 2.'

124. Idem.

125. Smirnov, V. Information From Orbit. Moscow, Pravda, June 9, 1970.

126. Aviation Week, New York, Nov. 5, 1973, p. 20.

127. Soviet Aerospace, Washington, May 19, 1975, p. 18.

128. Lebedev, L., and A. Romanov, Rendezvous in Space: Soyuz-Apollo, Moscow, Progess Publishers, 1979, pp. 74-77.

129. Id., pp. 72-73.

130. Ezell, E. C., and Linda N. Ezell. The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Washington, D.C., NASA, 1978, pp. 388-389 (NASA SP-4209, 1978).


49. Special Section No. SPA-AA/343/1484 annexed to IFRB Circular No. 1484, Sept. 1, 1981.

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