The flight of Vostok-2, notes of nostalgia
The flight of the second
traveller is deeply ingrained in my mind, because it took place the
day that I left for my first travel outside Scandinavia. The day after
the landing of Vostok-2 I started off on a sea voyage across the North
Sea from Gothenburg to London's Tilbury docks on the steamship Svecia.
Just as Gherman Titov had suffered space sickness during his flight I
green gall aboard the Suecia as it fought its way through a
storm on the North Sea. As we reached London I rushed for newspaper
to read about my new hero. I was fifteen years old and had been "badly
bitten" by spaceflight.
As Saturday, August 5,
drew to a close in Western Europe, the Agence-France-Presse sent out a
cable from Moscow reporting that rumours flying in the Soviet capital
that the second Soviet space traveller would be launched within 24
An hour later AFP was even more precise and said that the announcement
of the new flight would be made early on the Sunday (8).
about the flight profile during the summer of 1961
described in (3) plans for Vostok-2
sketched in early 1961 and focused on a day-long mission. In the middle
of May 1961, Korolev and the cosmonauts as well as biomedical experts
other officials went on vacation to Sochi on the Black Sea. Korolev
for a a day long mission, while General Kamanin (director of
training), the cosmonauts and doctors were more careful and thought a
mission should be the next step. Kamanin even called Korolev
in his diaries (4). The map on the right
the ground tracks for such a three-rev mission and a possible landing
However, Korolev ordered his deputy Bushuyev (later known as the Soviet
manager for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project) to prepare for a daylong
In June, Air Force officers, physicians and cosmonauts again favoured a
three-orbit flight in a meeting with the Air Force deputy
Korolev brought the dispute all the way to Smirnov, chairman of the
Committee for Defence Technology, who decided to favour Korolev's
for a seventeen orbit flight.
In early June, the
Commission for the flight convened and tentatively assigned Gherman
as the prime pilot and Andrian Nikolayev as the back-up. The launch
was et for August, a mere two months later. The detailed technical
setting out the specifics was signed by Korolev and other officials on
7 July, 1961 (3).
gets an "order" from Khrushchev
the middle of July, Khrushchev had invited Korolev and other aerospace
leaders to a meeting at the Crimea vacation home of the Soviet leader.
Korolev informed Khrushchev about the planned flight. Khrushchev hinted
that the flight should occur no later than 10 August (3).
It seems that this flight came to provide some propaganda cover for a
disturbing political event planned for 13 August, the construction of
Berlin Wall - the most enduring symbol of the Cold War.
6 August 1961 - the flight gets off
Vostok-2 carrying 26-year
Major Gherman Stepanovich Titov was launched from Baikonur at 0600 UT
Sunday 6 August 1961. At 0745 UT Radio Moscow interrupted its
and the famous wartime radio announcer Yuri Levitan announced the
The spacecraft mass was given as 4731 kg and the orbit altitudes
were 178-257 km at an inclination of 64.93 degrees. Yuri Gagarin, the
space traveller, was visiting millionaire Cyrus Eaton in Deep Cove,
Scotia. Gagarin decided (was ordered?) to fly straight home when he
the news about the new flight.
orbit Titov felt very disoriented and uncomfortable. Titov tries to eat
lunch at 0930 UT and "supper" at 1400 UT (1).
When he tried to eat on the sixth orbit he vomited (3).
The graph on the right shows pulse rate and respiration as a function
elapsed time (in hours). The pulse rate dropped significantly about
hours into the flight, i.e. at about 1630 UT, which was about an hour
Titov said "goodnight" to ground staff (see below).
picked up in the West
the official TASS announcement of the flight the radio frequencies were
given as 15.765 MHz, 20.006 MHz, 143.625 MHz for reports from the
and 19.995 MHz for telemetry. The first two short-wave voice
were amplitude modulated, while the VHF voice frequency was frequency
- and of course is still used by the Russian segment of the
Space Station. The VHF link was used only over the Soviet Union, while
the other channels were used everywhere else. Interestingly, a TASS
gave unusual details about the VHF radio link. In the Pravda issue of 7
August 1961 the 143.625 MHz voice transmitter was said to be
with a frequency deviation of ± 30 kHz! Why would such technical
detail be released? Well, the flight would last quite a long time, and
many people around the world would have the chance to listen in. To
maximum excitement and "propaganda effect" it was essential that
outside the Soviet Union would be able to tune in, but it was also
that people did so, in order to avoid any claim from the West that the
whole flight was a fake! Indeed this information would probably be most
useful to professional ELINT organizations that could set their
receivers to the correct bandwidth to get clear voice.
Many listening posts
the world heard Titov's voice between 0930-1000 UT (7).
As Vostok-2 passed over Western Europe at about 0900 UT, two
after launch, the observatory at Meudon near Paris could hear the
voice and Reuters' monitoring station outside London could pick up the
telemetry beacon signals on 19.995 MHz. Radio specialist Sgt James
in Arlington Virginia (see picture) picked up greetings in Russian from
Titov to the American people. The Soviet Embassy in Washington provided
(7). This must have happened
around 1450 UT because this was the only pass over North America before
going to sleep. The frequency was either 15.765 MHz or 20.006 MHz,
the latter. The BBC monitoring station picked up Titov's call to ground
stations, his report about the temperature (22 degrees C) and his
In (2) it is stated that Titov had to make
contact on shortwaves twice an hour, regardless of position.
signals on shortwaves were heard weakly at 1345 UT and the
beacon on 19.995 MHz was picked up at 1514 UT on Sunday, August 6, by
Råö space radio observatory near Gothenburg on Sweden's west
Swedish radio amateur
Stridh operating from Ulvsunda in Stockholm picked up the telemetry
on 19.995 MHz for periods up to 20 minutes. At the pass around 1805 UT
he also noted that the beacon was switched off an on (9).
The monitoring station
the Swedish Telecommunications Agency at Enköping near Stockholm
the telemetry beacon on 19.995 MHz from Vostok-2 throughout Sunday,
6, 1961, starting at 1000 UT and then for about 15 minutes every orbit
that the spacecraft made around the globe. The last signals for the day
were picked up at Enköping at 2241-2254 UT as the spacecraft flew
southbound over the Atlantic (9).
Titov tried manual
control already on first orbit as he came out of eclipse at 0720 UT (2)
and later at the end of the seventh orbit (3).
As far as be ascertained this experiment worked satisfactorily. At 0738
UT, after completing first orbit, Titov and Khrushchev exchanged
and goodnight wishes while flying over Moscow at 1516 UT. Titov then
from 1530 UT until 2337 UT. However, before going "to bed" he suffered
from vertigo, nausea and headaches. Despite this Titov was able to
He overslept by 35 minutes, but still felt bad. However, at the end of
this twelfth orbit he began to feel better (3).
The cosmonaut ate breakfast at 0245 UT.
The monitoring station
the Swedish Telecommunications Agency at Enköping near Stockholm
the telemetry beacon at 0534-0552 UT as the spacecraft streaked across
the launch site on its penultimate orbit around the earth (9).
A Japanese monitoring station said it picked up its last signals from
at 0710 UT (10).
re-entry the instrument section of Vostok was still attached to the
re-entry vehicle by straps and Titov suffered the same nerve-racking
as Gagarin. Aerodynamic heating finally severed the two modules and the
re-entry vehicle descended safely. Titov ejected from the capsule and
by parachute to finally land at 0718 UT on 7 August 1961 near Krasniy
in the Saratov district. The successful landing was announced by Radio
Moscow at 0904 UT.
A film about Gherman
flight, "To the Stars Again", was released in October 1961. It was a
standard Soviet propaganda film with extremely little technical detail
about the flight. However, in several scenes the orbital motion of
was illustrated using a model of Vostok that later turned out to be
inaccurate. When the film appeared, a friend of mine and myself rented
the whole film reel from a company in Stockholm that distributed such
("Föreningsfilmo"). We then made prints of the frames containing
inaccurate mock-up (se picture on the lower right) and tried to analyse
the spacecraft design. In an another web article "Soviet
Space Deceptions - not so many after all!" I have described the
twists and turns of the Soviet description of the Vostok spacecraft and
"faked" Vostok-2 configuration.
From Sputnik to Gemini. Interim History. A Facts on File
Burchett, Anthony Purdy, Gherman Titov's Flight Into Space, Panther
Books 1372, 1962
A. Siddiqi, Challenge to Apollo, SP-2000-4408
The Kamanin diaries 1960-63, JBIS, Vol. 50, No.1, January 1997, pp
evening paper Aftonbladet, 6 August 1961, p.6
evening paper Expressen, 7 August 1961, p.6
daily Dagens Nyheter, Tuesday 8 August 1961, p.5.
wires transmitted via the Swedish news agency TT at 2159 and 2304 UT on
5 August 1961
Swedish news agency TT at 1042 UT on 7 August 1961.
from Tokyo relayed by the Swedish news agency TT at 0835 UT on 7 August
to "Space History Notes"