The Voskhod 2 mission revisited
1965 - Rumours in Moscow
spacecraft was launched on 22 February 1965 to test the
It was destroyed due to a procedural error by ground stations, but the
data gathered on the functioning of the airlock was sufficient to clear
the way for a manned launch in the period 15-20 March. This success
the first wave of rumours on 24 February about an upcoming manned space
launch (6). Kosmos-59, a Zenit
satellite, was launched on 7 March verifying that the airlock
ring would not affect re-entry and landing (1).
The State Commission met on 16 March to decide that the launch would
place on 18 March at 0700 UT. Obviously, the results of the State
meeting was leaked, perhaps deliberately, to media in Moscow, because
17 March 1965 intense rumours were circulating in Moscow about the
launch of a manned spacecraft, called a "space bus" in the rumours (5).
1965 - Launch and exit into space
Voskhod 2 spacecraft carrying Pavel Belyayev and Alexei Leonov was
at 0700 UT from Baikonur and put into a 169-473 km orbit at 64.8 degree
inclination and a period of 90.9 minutes. News agencies cabled the news
to the world at 0754 UT. By that time Alexei Leonov had already made
exit into space and was back inside the spacecraft (see map below). The
exit into space took place just before reaching the radio horizon of
ground station at Yevpatoria in the Crimea. It was this station that
up the TV image of Leonov "swimming" in space that TV viewers all over
the world could see later that day. Of course we now know about all the
difficulties Leonov had to squeeze himself back into the inflatable
It took Leonov 10-12 minutes to re-enter the airlock and he got back
just in time for the spacecraft's pass over the ground stations in the
Soviet Far East.
Telemetry Monitoring in the West
2 was announced by TASS as transmitting voice on 143.625 MHz, 18.035
and 17.365 MHz and having a "Signal" beacon transmitter on 19.996 MHz.
Of course the 143.625 MHz FM transmissions were used for line-of-sight
communications with ground stations while the short-wave frequencies
used to communicate with the spacecraft when it was far from Soviet
It also seems that 18.035 and 17.365 MHz was used in the simplex
mode, i.e. the ground stations used the same frequencies for their
to the crew in space.
Plenty of short-wave
were indeed picked up in Western Europe and the United States
18 March 1965. The monitoring post at Kettering Grammar School run by
Perry certainly received the "Signal" radio beacon on shortwaves
the day and the same was true at the "Junge
Welt" (Young World) listening post of the East German
Society (Deutsche Astronautische Gesellschaft) in Berlin headed by
Neumann. The receptions of these stations are summarized in the table
the right and in the map below.
The the "Signal"
was transmitted on 19.996 MHz and consisted of a frequency-shift-keyed
carrier where the pulses at the lower frequency represented heart rate
(pulse frequency) and respiration (pulse duration) in the manner
The short piece of
shown in the graph below was recorded in Kettering on rev 7 and one can
see that the heart rate is approximately 86 beats per minute and the
rate is 20 per minute (Click here
see the respiration signal plotted). Click on the graph
below to listen to the signal. (mp3 file)
on 19.996 MHz as picked up by the Kettering Grammar School on rev 7
1800 UT on 18 March
(Ordinate = frequency in Hz, Abscissa = Time in seconds)
Voice Monitoring in the West
Voice from Voskhod 2 was
up in Sweden by the telecommunication administration's spectrum
station in Enkoping at 1316-1318 UT on 17.365 MHz. The SOHIO Research
in Cleveland, Ohio picked up voice from Voskhod 2 on 18.035 MHz on rev
6 and 7.
1965 - going an extra orbit and landing in the taiga
As the spacecraft came
range of the Soviet VHF ground stations in the far East on
13 the crew reported the pressure in the air bottles had dropped from
to 25 atmospheres (1). This was a potential
threat to the mission but the pressure stabilized at 25 atmosphere as
crew could report on the following revolution.
of the automatic descent system
During the 16 th
the automatic landing system was programmed from the ground by sending
commands, probably from tracking stations in the Far East. Command
6" did not go through reportedly due to a fault in the solar
system (3). It is unclear when the
to go to the manual descent system was taken because orders to the crew
to use the manual descent system kept being sent as the craft came in
Africa at the beginning of the 17 revolution, quite some time after the
intended retrofire point.
for manual descent issued on shortwaves
Belyayev was ordered to
manual procedures for orienting the ship and firing its retrorockets on
either the 18th or 22st revolution. The intended landing points were
all located at about 52 degrees North where most recoveries of Soviet
satellites took place (See map above). At 0716 UT on 19 March 1965
space listeners could hear the
ground station Vjezna
3 (Spring 3) tell the crew (Almaz) to use manual descent. "Almaz,
Almaz, this is Vjezna-3, this is Vjezna-3. The circuit for the
descent orientation system has been (shall be?) switched off
and the system to control the descent manually is (shall be?) switched
on." The crew responded
on the same
voice frequency (17.365 MHz) and was asked to also respond by Morse
is interesting that the ground informs the crew at this point, when
should have occurred. Probably the commands to program the retrofire
supposed to have been uplinked from the stations in Kamchatka, but that
the commands did not go through. As can be seen from the map below the
short-wave call went out only about five minutes before the craft would
come into VHF range of ground stations in the Soviet Union. The message
was indeed urgent! At
0732 UT voice from Voskhod 2 was again heard by the Swedish monitoring
station at Enkoping and at 0747 UT and again at 0750 UT the German
station at Bochum could hear the ground order manual descent but no
from the crew could be heard! The spacecraft was over the Pacific (See
At 0840 UT the beacon on
19.996 MHz was again picked up by space listeners in Western Europe and
they faded out at 0853 UT. The
crew used the Vzor to orient the craft but this kept them out of their
seats which delayed retrofire by 46 seconds, which (coupled with an
attitude...?) led to a 2000 km overshoot in the landing point location.
According to some sources the service module failed to separate
until connecting wires burned through during re-entry. The craft
landed in Ural mountains at 59:34 N 55:28 E at 09:02 UT.
Kamanin described the landing phase in his diary (7):
"We received the
report of the spacecraft's descent rather quickly, from Odessa and
[both directly under the path of the spacecraft. Saransk located at 54
deg 12 min North, 45 deg 10 min East. S.G], but we had no reliable
as to the condition of the crew for four long hours. True the 'Krugi'
radio stations had located the craft, and Alma-Ata has received a
code several times via HF channel: 'VN...VN...VN' (this was a signal
the crew, meaning 'everything normal' [vsyo normalno]). It was nice to
have the radio fix and the 'VN' signals, but we wanted more convincing
data as to the condition of the cosmonauts. Finally, to the joy of
came the long-awaited report of the commander of one of the search
'On the forest road between the villages of Sorokovaya and Shchuchino,
about 30 kilometers southwest of the town of Berezniki, I see the red
and the two cosmonauts. there is deep snow all around.....'...."
"KRUG" is the
name for a Soviet direction finding circular antenna array ("Krug"
"Circle" in Russian). See picture on the right from page 263 of
1976-77 issue of the International Countermeasures Handbook. The
of the beacon that the Krug antennas picked up was probably 10.003 MHz
(8). The beacon system was called "Peleng"
announced and the return of the crew to civilization
Throughout midday Radio
was broadcasting music and interrupted the music several times as if to
make an announcement. At first, just after the the expected landing
the music was quite jolly, but gradually the music became more sombre
Tjajkovsky's first piano concerto) as if preparing listeners for bad
Finally, at 1344 UT, news of the landing was broadcast
by the famous announcer Yuri Levitan on Radio Moscow.
The spacecraft had
in deep snow wedged between two fir trees (2).
The first recovery helicopter spotted them around 1300 UT (just 45
before the announcement by Levitan) and could confirm that they were
and well (1). The helicopter could not
because of the thick forest. Around 1700 UT a helicopter was able to
about 5 km from the capsule, but a search party could not reach the
Warm clothes and supplies were air dropped to the crew. The crew spent
the night in the woods, surrounded by wolves (some say). The next
at 0430 UT a team of rescuers were dropped 1.5 km from the capsule but
it took another 4 hours for them to reach the Voskhod 2 crew. It was
too risky to lift the crew to a hovering helicopter, so the crew had to
spend another night in the taiga, in the company fo some 20 rescuers. A
helicopter landing zone was cleared at 1.7 km from the capsule and
at 5 km distance. By 0500 UT the following morning (21 March) the
skied to nearest landing zone, were airlifted to the second spot and
there flown in a big helicopter to the Perm airport where they were
by a phone message from Leonid Brezhnev. They then boarded a plane and
reached Baikonur at 1430 more than 48 hours after the landing!
Bart, "Kamanin Diaries 1964-66". Journal of the British
Society, Vol 51, No 11, November 1998, pp 422-423.
James, "Korolev - how one man masterminded the Soviet drive to beat
America to the Moon", John Wiley & Sons, 1997, pp 185-186
A. "Spacecraft Designer, the story of Sergei Korolev", Novosti
House, Moscow, 1976, p.97.
Geoff, Personal communication, 16 January 1999.
(Swedish daily newspaper published in the morning), Thursday 18 March
under the headline "Space Bus ready for launch"
Dagbladet (Swedish daily newspaper published in the morning),
25 February, under the headline "Space Rumours"
Rossiya, "Pages from a Diary. He soared freely above the earth: On
the 25 th Anniversary of the Flight of Pilot-Cosmonauts P.I. Belyayev
A. A. Leonov in the Voskhod-2 and the First Spacewalk", 17 March 1990,
Diary Entry for 9 March 1961. Translated by C.M. van den Berg.
to Space History Notes