Soviet flight control center of the times of "Vostok" and "Sunrise"


    I was prompted to write this article by this phrase of Philip Terekhov from his review of the film “Time of the First” :

    “A separate interesting story with the Mission Control Center, as it is shown in the film. Alas, the beautiful picture above is a copy of the American MCC ... The internal organization of the premises was so secret that in the photo and video now you can only find an imitation for films. ”

    The observation was correct, I personally really wanted to find out what our MCC looked like during the first manned flights. And I still managed to do it.

    Of course, the MCC shown in the film has little to do with the real. But you can also find photos of our real flight control center. More precisely, the coordination and computing center, as it was then called. Moreover, I am sure that Philip saw him too, but did not understand that it was he.

    When I saw him for the first time in frames from the film about Venus-4, I also did not believe that this was a real MCC, taking it for decoration. But the more I studied the available information, the clearer my error became.

    To begin with, a bit of a dry story from the TsNIImash book:

    “The TsNIImash’s work on ballistic support for the flight control of manned and automatic vehicles began in 1963 and was a new and, to some extent, unexpected direction of the Institute’s scientific activity. This direction arose at the institute with the advent of the new director G.A. Tulina in 1959. He strengthened the composition of the Computing Center and equipped it with two M-20 machines. Director Yu.A. continued and developed the indicated lines of activity. Mozhorin, who came to NII-88 in 1961.


    M-20 computer. Snapshot from the site: Virtual Computer Museum

    The center was based on two M-20 computers. Two semi-automatic data input devices were installed at the KVC NII-88 for automatically receiving the results of trajectory measurements coming from the measuring points, similar to the devices of the KVC NII-4. In addition, a collective display system for the information received was ordered and developed. On the central screen of 2 by 3 meters in size, various geographical maps and the flight path of the satellite were projected against the background of the map, and the image of the satellite itself was given in the form of a luminous spot. The coordinates of the projection of the trajectory and the position of the satellite were issued by an electronic computer that processes the results of the current trajectory measurements. On two additional screens measuring 1x1.5 meters in size, placed on both sides of the main screen, static information was displayed,

    Then I corresponded with the late IMP mathematician Alexander Konstantinovich Platonov and, in order to check myself, asked him about the early MCC, attaching a few photos. Given his work, Platonov was there. He confirmed my suspicions and sent a lot of useful information, analogues of which I could not find anywhere.

    Here's what Alexander Konstantinovich wrote about the creation of the MCC:

    “Later, when Yu.K. Khodarev made the famous Evpatoria long-range space communications station, PUVDs appeared for transmitting the received radio data. These data and all telemetry via channels began to come to TsNIImash. Therefore, our gatherings firmly moved there. At first there was the hall I described above with a separate room for bosses, but later all the ballistics began to sit in their premises, and the Control Hall became similar to what is in your picture. I remember both the big screen and the running clock above it.

    We were commanded by Mikhail Alexandrovich Kazansky, very significant in the history of Soviet space. His task was to formulate the order of the next ballistic calculations, to compare our results and, most importantly, to filter messages in the control room in terms of their reliability and timeliness. He was very seasoned as a servant to the king, and by responsibility he was a father to his ballistic soldiers. Thanks to him, the ballistic control group worked together, without mistakes like clockwork.
    I remembered him because I was continually convincing him that our work (and it consisted of writing out operational calculations from the CC on a telephone by telephone, understanding them, and transferring some of them to the control room) somehow needs to be automated.
    One way or another, but further the development of control automation led to the installation of several televisions in the control room (probably more for the sake of solidity - usually there was a tuning picture on their screens), and later a reading camera was placed in our ballistic room, under which you can was to put handwritten text, which then will be seen in the control room with its televisions and telephones.

    Much later, the Ariston screen appeared under the digital clock in the control room. It was said that with this "Ariston" Shvernik's niece solved the acute problem of showing a TV program on a large screen. This was realized using a mirror in the form of a rotating disk with oil poured onto it, the profile of which was changed by the electric field generated by the TV signal. A powerful ray of light illuminated this disk, and the relief of such a liquid mirror formed a reflection of the desired TV image on the screen. All equipment was behind the screen, and the image was shown "in the light".

    On the huge screen of Ariston in this room, we, in a narrow circle of guests, watched the intercepted program of Apollo 11 with their jumps on the moon. "

    Since this MCC began work in 1963, it is not surprising that I found its first shots in the film dedicated to the joint flight of Bykovsky and Tereshkova on the Vostok-5 and Vostok-6 spaceships. This flight took place on June 16-19, 1963.

    Looking at him for the first time, it is difficult to believe that this is a MCC. It is too different from modern ones. More like a television studio. But the central screen is 2 by 1 meter, as well as the two side screens. Alexander Konstantinovich also recognized it. So it is he, it was through this MCC that they ruled the last “Vostoks”, “Sunrises” and the first “Unions”. As well as interplanetary stations of the 60s. And in general, perhaps it conveys the spirit of the time when it was just beginning to fly into space, but many nuances have not yet been developed or invented.

    It is very interesting that there was a moon globe in the hall.

    Close-up side screen:

    Girls in front of the screen are busy with something interesting:

    Most likely, they have in their hands tapes with a printout of information issued by a computer. It is also interesting to note the Earth globe and a map of the starry sky.

    The next slide shows how the information display system works. In this case - showing the parameters of the orbit:

    An example of changing the map on the central screen. The first option is to look a little higher. Initially, there was a map of the Soviet Union with a projection of the missile launch trajectory. After changing the projection to the Mercator one, the mapping of the ship’s orbit relative to the Earth began.

    Another perspective:

    Here is a snapshot of the same MCC, but from a 1967 film dedicated to Venus-4:

    Since 1963, the hall has obviously been slightly modified. At the top of the screens you can see the electronic clock and timer. The central screen, this time, shows the flight path to Venus. The globe has disappeared. The girls moved a little to the side, and a poster with the layout of the Venera-4 AWS was visible on the wall.

    A slightly better room can be seen on a black and white photograph from the TsNIImash official website.

    On the walls are posters with the image of one of the modifications of the “seven”. On the central screen is a map of the USSR with NPCs. The weighted summary of the media is displayed on the left screen. Words are hard to make out. But one of the lines is clearly “Block L” or “Block I”.

    The output path is very similar to the real one with an inclination of 65 degrees. The flight route just passes near the Kura training ground in Kamchatka. True, the left side of the trajectory is smeared. The track starts somewhere above Tomsk. There is a mark near Baikonur.
    You can compare it with the real track when launching Voskhod-2:


    It is also clear that the frame from the film about Vostok-5/6 shows this particular orbit.
    The last frame with this MCC that I found relates to Lunokhod-1, which sat on the moon on November 17, 1970:


    A workshop is ongoing. The Ariston screen has already been mounted, and through it there is a projection of a part of the panorama of the Lunokhod. On the table are printed panoramas of the moon. Apparently, it was Lunokhod-1 that was the last device with which this control center worked.
    In December 1970, the new coordination and computing center of TsNIImash was commissioned. After this, control of ships and interplanetary stations gradually passed to him. It works to this day.

    PS However, the history of Soviet MCCs is not limited to them. The fact is that before the MCC in TsNIImash was still similar in NII-4. There, too, was processing on an M-20 computer and projection onto screens. It is mentioned in the book of TsNIImash. But MUP NII-4 was much more secret. Unlike the “civilian” MCC TsNIImash, it was originally intended for the Strategic Missile Forces.

    So, as you see, there are not so many materials. But there is.

    An interesting fragment from Mozhorin’s memoirs about visiting this MCC (tentatively in 1959-1960) by artillery marshal V.F.Tolubko:

    “We went to inspect the coordination and computing center. Now, I think, they will look for "window dressing." I ordered that the KIK work be displayed on a large color screen in full, and I began to explain the essence of the displayed. Tolubko listened attentively and asked the question with echidtsya:
    “Where are the tarpaulin boots here?”
    He had in mind an anecdote about air defense, where on a large screen enemy planes were displayed, moving with the help of soldiers receiving telephone instructions. And from under the screen were the tarpaulin boots of the advertised “automation”. I calmly explain:
    “Everything that you see on the color large screen: the trajectory of the satellite, its movement,” all this is calculated by the computer-20, you can believe me. But the NPC “blinked” - the reception of telemetric information began. Then “tarpaulin boots” came into effect, but they sit in the next room and turn on the flasher by telephone command from the point. Of course, it would be possible to automate this operation, so that the flasher is turned on from the measuring point, but these are the same “tarpaulin boots”, however, they are more expensive and do not add anything to the automation of the display. Based on this display principle, it is possible to build screens at the command posts of the missile forces to monitor the readiness of the missiles and the rocket situation.
    “They also say that no screens are needed on the missile command post,” Tolubko expressed to someone his belated indignation. ”

    But again, Platonov left much brighter memories:

    “After the launch of the first satellites, the control processes moved to NII-4 in Bolshevo (they, headed by P.E. Elyasberg, were responsible for issuing“ target designations ”to all observation points). And so, during the very first of the unsuccessful flights to Mars, I (responsible for correction and other control operations on the trajectory from our BC) ended up in the first real Control Hall in my life! He made a big impression on me - both at first and then.
    First impression: a large hall with one or two desks with telephones at the entrance (behind them sat G.S. Narimanov - the head of space affairs at the NII-4, one of the many very cultured military people I met in life, and K.D. Bushuev - Deputy Koroleva, impeccably calm and business man, looks strictly, but speaks without pressure and on the case), and then behind them - a long, ceiling-high, translucent wall of this hall - with a world map on it and with soldiers shining behind it that marked the points and paths on this map.
    And in front of the wall and to the windows on the opposite side of the hall there are two or three rows of identical oak-plywood operator consoles with a semicircular recess of the table, with telephones and a high desk counter with a clock and two rows of some pointer devices.
    The first impression was respectful: I realized that they gave us the flight control hall of completely different products.

    We, the ballistics, were allotted a place behind the rear and the most remote diagonally from the entrance remote control. And so the three of us sat there - with Leonid Shevchenko, ballistics from NII-4, and with Alexander Dashkov, ballistics from Korolev (the joint venture jokingly called him “Count Dashkov.” Sasha Dashkov, graduate of Moscow State University, selfless enthusiast of celestial mechanics of interplanetary flights, was the man who, together with his subordinate Slava Ivashkin, found a surprisingly beautiful random (not related to celestial mechanics, but simply a gift of a ballistic event) property of the lunar vertical, zeroing out possible scary 20 m / s lateral speed when spin cial "soft" landing on the moon, what is actually saved by closing the project "E-6".

    And so we sat down, and here with great surprise and disappointment I found out that there is a clock on the remote control, and the remaining devices with arrows are drawn! I went to look at other remotes - everything is real there! In a word, on this farthest and perhaps not the most needed console, made according to the laws of symmetry and beauty of the hall, in case the generals looked from afar, these missing devices were simply painted.

    So we sat for a number of months at this console in NII-4. And this was the era of the “Monday on Saturday” of the Strugatsky brothers with their research institute FAQ and research institute KOVO.

    Finding photos of this MCC is quite difficult. I found only a few shots that may have been taken in it.



    You can understand that the last shot was taken in the same room by fluorescent lamps. This MCC is markedly different from TsNIImashevsky, but there are certain common features.

    Unfortunately, I could no longer clarify with Alexander Konstantinovich whether he had seen this building at one time.

    PPS I also wanted to note that I completed the layout of the first book on the exploration of the moon. More here

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