Radio Traffic from Vjezna stations during early Soyuz flights observed by C.M. van den Berg

As told to Sven Grahn

During the Vostok and Voskhod flights shortwaves was used extensively to communicate with the cosmonauts. Often the communications were simplex, i.e. the ground and the spacecraft transmitted on the same frequency. Duplex was also common.

However, during Soyuz flights very little HF downlink or uplink voice was detected on the announced frequencies (15.008 MHz, 18.035 and 20.008 MHz). I have always speculated that HF voice operated on unannounced frequencies and not on the official Soyuz HF frequencies . I found that this had indeed been the case out when I talked to Chris van den Berg at the International Astronautical Congress in Amsterdam 1999 (Picture on the right).

He told me about the Vjezna HF transmitter network transmitting uplink to early Soyuz crews. Especially, Chris had noted that they sent instructions to the crews on HF about when to keep in contact on VHF. Long messages and instructions were also uplinked on AM shortwaves. The HF stations were normally used as broadcast relay stations. In this HF ground station network the various site had the designation Vjezna and  a number. Vjezna-1 up to Vjezna-6 have been noted. It is interesting that this uplink voice was extensively used, but very little downlink HF voice detected on still unknown frequencies? Anyway, Chris van den Berg wrote me a long message where he described his receptions of HF uplink thirty years ago. Here is an edited version of his fascinating account:


During the flight of Beregovoy in Soyuz-3, " Argon" in the period 26 - 30 October 10, 1968: "... I received the Vjezna uplink traffic on 20.005 MHz. In that period there were also signals of Soyuz-2 (telemetry). The quality of the recordings is poor. Also Vjezna-1 had problems with the reception and obviously there were a lot of misunderstandings between earth and Beregovoy.."

Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5

During the flights of Soyuz-4 and  -5 in the period 14-18 January 1969: "... I picked up the HF uplink traffic on the same frequency as during the flights of Soyuz-6, 7 and 8 (see below).  During that period now and then also Vjezna-3 showed up...."

Soyuz-6, -7, and -8

During the Soyuz-6,7,8 group flight the spacecraft had the following numbers, call signs, and crews:
Soyuz-6  -Antey-   Shonin and Kubasov.
Soyuz-7  -Buran-  Filipchenko, Volkov,V.N. and Gorbatko.
Soyuz-8  -Granit-  Shatalov and Yeliseyev.

Chris van den Berg writes about his monitoring of the HF uplink:

"....The frequency was 22.205 MHz. This transmitter almost continuously relayed the Radio Moscow broadcast (even there was once a football match, which was interrupted by Vjezna).  Never understood this and also never got any explanation or confirmation,  Russians I spoke about this did not know or did not want to say anything. When there was a message for the cosmonauts the broadcast transmission stopped and then there followed  a call in CW (in fact A2, so modulated tone on carrier WSN-1, transmitted by wireless operator who did not have the usual skill of soviet wireless operators.)  Followed by Vjezna-1 in phone. I found this frequency by 'searching', which I always did, not only for space flight frequencies. .... During the same period I also picked up Vjezna-4, for instance on 13 October 1969.   On the same strange frequency and with relays of radio Moscow broadcasts......Sometimes the incoming beacon signal [telemetry on 15 or 20 MHz, SG:s comment] in the background of the operator of VSN-1 could be heard..."

Times for VHF communications sessions

First recording: 15 October, 1969 at 1145 UT: Vjezna-1 orders Antey to work on VHF between 1556-1600 DMV [1256-1300 UT], to Buran to do that from 1548-1556 DMV [1248-1256 UT] and to Granit from 1556-1600 DMV [1256-1300 UT]. We can hear that the radio operator breaks into music at the beginning of the message. It is interesting that Soyuz-7 gets much more "air time" than the other craft. Could the reason be that Soyuz-7 was the "active" spacecraft in the rendezvous operations underway during 14-15 october? From the map below we can see that the VHF contact with Soyuz-7 would start through Yevpatoria.

The communications session with Soyuz-6 and -8 was planned after that Soyuz-7 and performed through the stations at Baikonur and Barnaul (see map below)

That Baikonur was an active ground station for VHF is evident from an order about VHF communications session at 1527-1534 UT relayed Vjezna-1 to Antey (Soyuz-6) on 12 October 1969. This time period agrees perfectly with a pass over Baikonur as can be seen from the map above.

Greetings and operational messages

Second recording: 15 October, 1969 at 1310 UT, Vjezna-1 to Antey: "....Radiogram for Soyuz-6,  pilot-cosmonaut Shonin, G.S. The command and the political section of the airforce of the 2 times awarded with the Red Star Baltic fleet, send you the proud and the enthusiasm of the seamen of the Baltic with your flight and that of our whole union. We ask you to send  a short wish to the pilots and the whole staff  of the airforce of the Red Star baltic fleet, where you stated your service in the airforce and did your first steps into the heaven and space. In the name of the  seamen and the pilots of the Baltic Fleet, Gulyayev and Olenin...." (translation by Chris van den Berg)

An example of a more detailed operational message is that transmitted to Antey and Buran at 1245 UT on 12 October 1969 by Vjezna-1 and received, recorded and translated by Chris van den Berg:

"....Starting operation. Orbit launch nr. 21. The direction you get from Buran during the 20th orbit. 191500. Start 195100 adjusting  0 telemetry on the second. Engines DO  Here is VSN-1 , how did you read? Antey, Antey write down a radiogram according to form 9. Nr. 112 starting operation , launch (or: start) orbit 21, direction you get from Buran during the 20th orbit. Ts.V.U. . Time to switch on the program 19100.    Start 195100 Adjusting 0 telemetry on the 2nd engines DO. Antey report if towards the end the Katushka antenna did not deploy. Antey report the results of the experiment A-16.

Use of HF broadcasting stations for uplink after Soyuz-8

Chris van den Berg did not observe the HF uplink via broadcasting stations after Soyuz-8. Perhaps the ground station network and tracking ship fleet had been expanded to the degree where HF was not used so extensively for voice, but only held in reserve.

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