Excerpts from "Der rote Orbit"

Sven Grahn, Sollentuna, Sweden

I have dusted off my old high school German and perused the book "Der rote Orbit" (Red Orbit) by Harro Zimmer, the former head of the Wilhelm-Foerster Observatory in Berlin and later a science broadcaster for RIAS-Berlin (Radio In American Sector) and Deutsche Welle. His book (published by the Franckh-Kosmos publishing company in Stuttgart, ISBN 3-440-07226-6) deals with Soviet space history and is based on personal inteviews with Sergei Afanasyev,ex-minister of Machine Building and his deputy Vladimir Alaverdov, Boris Chertok, Konstantin Feoktistov, Oleg Gazenko (professor of space medicine) G. Losino-Losinski (Buran project) and cosmonauts Kuklin and Manarov.

Dates and Facts

I have just jotted down some dates and facts given in Zimmer's book. I am sure these are not original data but derived from other sources. Anyway, I list them all the same (and please forgive the uncertain transcription of Russian names):

Vostok and Zenit

The following summary from Zimmer's describes the development of Vostok and Zenit and the text seems to be a summary of an interview with Feoktistov:

"........ In the beginning of 1958 a working group within OKB-1 under Nikolai P Beloussov was working on a project of manned flight in a ballistic trajectory. Feoktistov and a few other colleagues worked out some preliminary ideas for a manned orbital spacecraft and showed these to Korolev, using the fact that one of his deputies, Bushuyev, was on holiday. Bushuyev favoured the intermediate step in a ballistic trajectory, so it was important to by-pass him. the choice of a spherical re-entry vehicle saved a lot of time, otherwise needed to test the aerodymanical properties of a more complicated design. At this time Feoktistov also proposed the use of an ejection seat for the cosmonaut.

Korolev gave Feoktistov the task to prepare a more detailed paper on his ideas for a manned orbital spacecraft. This paper was circulated within OKB-1 in August 1958. The "Big Six" (Council of Chief Designers: Korolev, Barmin, Glushko, Kuznetsov, Pilyugin, Ryasanski) met in November 1958 to discuss i.a. manned spaceflight. There were presentations on three projects:

  1. The reconnaisance satellite presented by Yegenij F. Rjasanov,
  2. The manned suborbital project by Beloussov and finally
  3. Feoktistovs proposal for a manned orbital satellite.
Of course national priorities would favour the reconnaisance satellite, but Feoktistovs group had worked out a plan by which the manned spacecraft could be easily converted into a reconnaisance satellite by ripping out all the unnecesary equipment for manned spaceflight.

Korolev wanted a manned spacecraft, but was not immediately prepared to drum up support. A compromise was reached during this meeting in which the spacecraft would be designed to satisfy both the reconnaisance and the piloted spaceflight requirements. The reconnaisance satellite project naturally got top priority and the manned project naturally benefited from this. [Imagine if Corona and Mercury had been the same project in The US? Sven Grahn's comment]...."

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