Vostok commu system
Vostok communications systems schematic
Credit: © Mark Wade
Launched: 1964 August. Number crew: 1 .
Vostok 8 was a ten day manned flight that was originally planned for the last quarter of 1963 and would be the second high altitude flight into the lower Van Allen radiation belt for radiological-biological studies. Opposition by the Ministry of Defence led to it being cancelled, only to be resurrected and evolving into a ten-day group flight with Vostok 9 set for the late summer of 1964. Finally all further Vostok flights were cancelled in favor of the multi-manned Voskhod in February 1964.
Kamanin, the head of the cosmonaut corps and a believer in a larger role of the Soviet military in space, had lobbied for production of a second series of ten Vostok spacecraft for use in military flights. These would be used for experiments in proving military reconnaissance and combat systems in space. He got nowhere with these ideas, but Korolev had personally planned that four to eight further manned Vostok missions would be flown after the all-female Vostok 5 / Vostok 6 group flight. Korolev, without authorisation, had begun assembly of four additional Vostok spacecraft for these missions in late 1962 (the Vostok had a great deal of commonality with the Zenit-2 reconnaisance satellite, of which 13 were in production at the time). In February 1963 the leadership finally approved completion of four additional Vostok spacecraft. These were to be used for three male cosmonaut ten-day flights and a single biosat mission. Vostok 8 was to be the second high altitude flight into the lower Van Allen radiation belt for radiological-biological studies. The spacecraft would have been allowed to naturally decay to a re-entry after ten days. Komarov was named to train for this flight. Then, on 21 March 1963, Ministry of Defence opposition to Vostok led to the decision to have the additional four Vostok spacecraft cancelled.
Korolev managed to get the plan resurrected in the summer of 1963 and a training group for additional Vostok flights was formed on 17 September 1963: Belyayev, Gorbatko, Khrunov, Komarov, Leonov, Shonin, Volynov, and Zaikin. After a 10-11 day unmanned biosat mission, there would be three cosmonaut flights of ten days with significant military and scientific experiments. A new ground control system would be installed and tested to handle all in-flight emergencies, as well as a new autonomous on-board navigation system. Korolev wanted the military to take over conduct of future Vostok flights - they were taking up too much of his time and nerves. But Khrushchev and Brezhnev didn't want anyone else handling the flights, and neither the VVS or the Ministry of Defence wanted responsibility for them.
By November 1963 it was clear that the first Soyuz flights would be delayed, creating a gap that would allow the American Gemini flights to steal the lead in the space race. Alternative scenarios were considered. The Vostoks might be flown manned in two group flights with record durations of 8 and then10 days. Or the Vostok could be modified to accommodate more than one cosmonaut, to bet Gemini in flying the first mult-crew spacecraft. A plan for 1964 was agreed at the end of November. One Vostok biosat flight would be followed by a single Vostok 7 flight with an eight-day duration, followed by Vostok 8 and 9 being flown in a group flight of 10 days duration. Crew selection began in January 1964 with the first manned Vostok mission set for June 1964. Volynov, Khrunov, Belyayev, Leonov, Komarov, and Beregovoi were named to train as prime crew and back-up for the three Vostok flights. At the end of January this training group departed to Kirzhakh for parachute training, but changes were already afoot. The military hierarchy had lobbied for test pilot Beregovoi's inclusion, but this was resented by other unflown cosmonauts who had been in training since 1960. Volynov was moved to the Soyuz training group after anti-semitic higher-ups objected to a Jew representing the Soviet Union in space. But before the training group even returned from their parachute jumps, Korolev had already decided to convert the Vostoks to a multi-seat configuration dubbed Voskhod. This would be the only way to upstage the Americans before their Gemini launches. The Voskhod plan was approved by the Military-Industrial Commission on 13 March 1964. The Vostok plan was not officially cancelled, and the possibility lingered for a month or two that the Vostok missions might still be flown in parallel with the Voskhods. But Kamanin observed in April that no resources were available for completion of the spacecraft due to Korolev's concentration on Voskhod, and no more is heard of the flights after that.
Kamanin discusses with Rudenko the need for construction and flight of ten additional Vostok spacecraft. Korolev still plans to have the first Soyuz spacecraft completed and flying by May 1963, but Kamanin finds this completely unrealistic. The satellite is still only on paper; he doesn't believe it will fly until 1964. If the Vostoks are not built, Kamanin believes the Americans will surpass the Russians in manned spaceflight in 1963-1964. From 13:00 to 14:00 Nikolayev spends an hour in his spacesuit in the ejection seat. Kamanin finds many mistakes in the design of the ejection seat. There is no room for error in disconnect of the ECS, in release of the seat, and so on. At 17:00 the State Commission holds a rally to fete Gagarin and Titov in the square in front of headquarters. Kamanin finds the event very warm but poorly organised. At 19:00 Smirnov chairs the meeting of the State Commission in the conference hall of the MIK. Korolev declares the spacecraft and launch vehicle ready; Kamanin declares the cosmonauts ready. Nikolayev is formally named the commanding officer of Vostok 3, and Popovich of Vostok 4. Rudenko gets Popovich's name wrong - his second serious mistake. He had earlier called the meeting for the wrong time.
At Baikonur for the launch of a Venera probe, the Soviet space leadership discussed future plans. The female cosmonaut training group was there for their first rocket launch. The next Vostok would carry the first woman into space; Ponomaryova, Solovyova, and Tereshkova were the leading candidates. Flight plans were discussed at a meeting in the evening between Kamanin and Leonid Smirnov. It would be possible to make the flight by the end of 1962, but March-April 1963 was more likely, depending on the final report on the Vostok 3/4 flights. The work force would be fully occupied in August-October in launching probes to Venus and Mars, also probably delaying any Vostok flight until the following spring. The next flight would probably be part of a group flight of two or three spacecraft, piloted by both men and women. The female flights would be limited to three days, while the male flights would last for 7 to 8 days. Additional Details: here....
The prospects did not look good for authorisation of production of ten further Vostok spacecraft. In a heated discussion between Rudenko, Ivanovskiy, and Grechko, it was argued that production of further Vostoks would delay flight of the first Soyuz spacecraft by a year. On the other hand this would mean no Soviet manned flights in 1963-1964. Furthermore Ivanovskiy reported that production of the female version of the Vostok space suit could not be completed until the end of 1962. Therefore this meant that the flight of two female cosmonauts in the final two available Vostok spacecraft would be delayed until March-April 1963 - the very end of the storage life of the spacecraft.
Korolev, still very ill in the hospital following a collapse six days earlier, supported Kamanin's plan for acceptance of the Vostok manned spacecraft for military service with the Soviet Air Force. It could enter series production and be used for continuous military research flights. However the General Staff continued to oppose any expansion of manned space flight. It it wasn't for Khrushchev, Korolev noted, there would not be any Soviet manned space programme at all.
At a meeting of the General Staff on space plans, it was reported that the Ministry of Defence supported completion of two additional Vostok spacecraft to allow four Vostok flights in 1963. But Malinovskiy was adamant: the Vostok fullfilled no military objectives, would not be accepted for military use, and he would recommend to the Military Industrial Commission that the additional flights be rejected. Kamanin noted that history was repeating itself - fifty years earlier Tsarist generals had rejected the acquisition of aircraft by the Imperial Russian Army.
Kamanin prepared recommendations for General Staff discussions on future Vostok military flights. His plan involved construction of ten additional spacecraft including new versions to test military equipment for reconnaisance, interception, and combat objectives. Flights would begin in 1963: manned flights of ten days duration; flights with biological payloads of 30 days duration; flights with biological payloads in high orbits to test the effects of Van Allen radiation belt exposure; flights that would conduct a range of technology experiments, including manual landing; landing with the cosmonaut within the capsule; depressurisation of the capsule to vacuum test equipment and suits for future spacewalks; etc). The plan was killed by his superiors.
They agree to a plan for a national centrifuge facility: specifications to be determined in 1963, and the facility completed by 1967. They are not if favour of building more Vostoks - they want to move on to the Soyuz spacecraft. But this will produce an 18 to 24 month gap in Soviet manned spaceflight, during which the Americans will certainly catch up (Cooper's one-day Mercury flight is already scheduled).
Meeting of the Interdepartmental Soviet of the Academy of Sciences reviews space exploration plans. In the next two years, 5-6 Luna probes will be sent to the moon, including soft landers with a mass of 100 kg, and orbiters to map the surface. There will be flybys and landings of Mars and Venus. Two Zond spacecraft will study the space environment out to 20 million kilometres from the earth. In earth orbit, 10 Zenit spy satellites, 10 to 12 Vostok manned spacecraft, 4 to 6 Soyuz spacecraft, and 10 to 12 Kosmos satellites will be launched. The Kosmos will fly missions in meteorology, communications, television transmission, and heliographic, and geological studies. Kamanin finds this a good program, but it nearly all relies on a single launch pad and one-time transmission of data from a few satellites. The military plan is not reviewed; it must go through the VPK Military-Industrial Commission first. An Expert Commission is to be formed on the Soyuz spacecraft. Smirnov and Korolev have dictated a letter to Ustinov asking that eight more Vostoks be built. On the other hand, some on the general staff want 60 cosmonauts trained in the next two to three years, to support 8 to 10 flights of single-place spacecraft and 7 to 8 flights of multiplace spacecraft.
After eight months of debate, a Vostok project plan was finally agreed. There would be a single female cosmonaut flight in March-Apriil 1963. This would be followed by 4 to 5 additional Vostok flights in 1963 and 2 to 3 flights in 1964. This plan was approved by Malinovskiy, Keldysh, Smirnov, and Dementiev and forwarded to the Communist Party Central Committee. However Rudenko and others were still opposed.
Korolev and Kamanin meet to lay out Vostok flight plan. There were three variants possible for the March flights: 1) A single female flight of 2 to 3 days; 2) Two female flights launched one day apart, but landing at the same time; 3) An 'absurd' version: launch of a female cosmonaut for a three day flight, followed two days after her landing by a male cosmonaut on a 5 to 7 day flight. The planners selected the two female flight variant.
The Soviet Ministers finally issued decree 24. Four additional spacecraft are to be completed in the first half of 1963. Together with the two existing spacecraft, these will be used for two female flights, three male flights of up to ten days duration, and one 30-day biosat flight.
Ustinov, Smirnov, and other industry leaders challenge the plan for dual female flights. They would send only one woman aloft in Vostok s/n 007. Vostok s/n 008 would be held as a reserve. If Vostok s/n 007 was successful, s/n 008 would be used for a simultaneous manned flight. Training was to be complete by 1 April. The Soviet Air Force was categorically against this sudden revision. There were four women that had completed advanced training and were ready for flight, while there were only three men in training for flights later in the year. It would be impossible to complete the training of the male cosmonauts in a few weeks. However the spacecraft would reach the end of their storage life by May-June 1963 and would have to be used by then.
Vostok flight plans were drastically curtailed at a meeting of the Presidium of the Communist Party. Korolev presented the plan for 1963 as approved by the Interorganizational Soviet at the beginning of the year. This plan, already in an advanced stage of execution, was rejected utterly by Kozlov and Vershinin. The Ministry of Defence announced its categorical opposition to further Vostok production. It was finally decided that there would be only two flights in 1963 using existing spacecraft. These were scheduled for June and would consist of simultaneous female and male flights. Kamanin was infuriated that although he was ordered by a leadership decree in December 1961 to train five women for spaceflight, the same leadership was now asking - Who ordered this? What was the purpose? Are we sure they're ready?
Another meeting is held with Korolev on future manned space flight plans. The same plans are presented as have been discussed for over a year - one animal flight, three manned flights for 10 days / to 1000 km. This issue must be resolved. Soyuz will not fly before 1965 - therefore Vostok must be flown or there will no Soviet manned spaceflights in 1964. In reality Soyuz is likely to be delayed, and 6 to 8 Vostoks are needed, not just 4. Equipment to be tested on the flights included soft landing equipment, a back-up retrofire engine, long-range communications systems, and scientific experiments. The physicians are too conservative - zero-G is obviously not as big an issue as thought. There should be nothing to prevent flight of non-pilot passengers. Korolev points out that if the cosmonaut is consumed by fear, or if any serious problem arises, as long as you can survive for an hour an emergency return to earth can be made. Within an hour the passenger will be in Cuba or Vladivostok. Kamanin would like Gagarin to be appointed next head of the cosmonaut centre, but this is opposed by Rudnev and Vershinin. Tereshkova has talked to Khrushchev - he's now supporting award of a Hero of the Soviet Union medal to Nikitin.
Kamanin picks up a new Volga automobile. It cost him 5513 roubles, but one door doesn't fit and the trunk is scarred with excess hardened resin. Sukarno has asked for Tereshkova and Bykovskiy to visit Indonesia for two weeks in August, but this is impossible.
In a three hour meeting Korolev goes over his future flight plans for Vostok. The first flight will be unmanned, with a biological payload, in February or March 1964. The flight is to last 10 or 11 days and take the specimens up to 600 to 1000 km altitude, into the lower reaches of the Van Allen radiation belts. This will be followed by three cosmonaut flights of ten days with significant military and scientific experiments. A new ground control system will be installed and tested to handle all in-flight emergencies. A new autonomous on-board navigation system will be flight tested. Korolev wants the military to take over conduct of future Vostok flights - they are taking up to much of his time and nerves. He has told this repeated to Khrushchev and Brezhnev without result. Meanwhile Kamanin lobbies within the military hierarchy for the removal of Odintsev. It is decided that the matter will be taken up at the next meeting of the Military Soviet.
News reaches Moscow that Kennedy has been assassinated. Kamanin talks with Rudenko, who is not interested in Kamanin's plans for a wider VVS role in space. Rudenko believes Korolev's promises that Soyuz will start test flights in 1964 and that no further Vostok flights are necessary. Kamanin pleads that without such flights the American Gemini program will fly unopposed and give the Americans a decisive lead in the space race. The Soviet Union could launch a modified Vostok - a three place spacecraft - to upstage Gemini but the decision has to made now. Rudenko is unmoved.
Four Vostoks are planned for 1964, one of these with dogs and other biological specimens, which will fly for ten days at altitudes of up to 600 km. This is to be followed by an eight day manned flight, then two Vostoks on a ten-day group flight. The altitude for these latter flights will be decided after the results of the dog flight. Then, by the end of the year, the first Soyuz flights will be made. Two to three of the new spacecraft are being prepared. Therefore the crews must start training for circumlunar flights and cislunar navigation. Kamanin decides that he must select 3-4 navigators, 1-2 mathematicians, and 2-3 astronomers to make up a training group of cosmonaut-navigators for these flights.
Kamanin meets with Rudenko, to discuss selection of three crews for Vostok and three crews for Soyuz flights in 1964. Ioffe reports that the Soyuz docking simulator will be completed by 25 December. Tereshkova, Nikolayev, and Bykovsky are in Indonesia on a public relations tour, to be followed by Burma.
Kamanin is to put together a cosmonaut training plan for additional Vostok and new Soyuz flights by 1 February. Due to a lack of completed spacecraft, the next Vostok flight will not be possible until June 1964 at the earliest. The travel plans for the cosmonauts during the first half of 1964 are also to be drawn up. Tereshkova, Nikolayev, and Bykovsky are to tour India, Indonesia, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka later in the year. Tereshkova will go to Ghana and Lebanon on 20 January, then to England on 31 January.
The General Staff of the VVS considers future cosmonaut assignments. The acceptance of Beregovoi into the active cosmonaut corps is hotly contested. He has passed all the tests, but is 43 years old, and the official maximum age for a cosmonaut is 35. Finally it is decided that on 25 January six cosmonauts will begin training for Vostok flights (Volynov, Khrunov, Belyayev, Leonov, Komarov, and Beregovoi). On 1 February four crews will begin training for Soyuz flights: Crew 1: Nikolayev, Shonin, Demin, Kugno; Crew 2: Bykovsky, Zaikin, Artyukhin, Gulyayev; Crew 3: Popovich, Gorbatko, Ponomaryova, Kolodin; Crew 4: Titov, Shatalov, Solovyova, Zholobov.
Kamanin prepares schedules for Tereshkova's visit to England on 4-10 February. Leonov's Vostok training group travels to Kirzhach to complete parachute training. Kamanin tries to pressure Korolev, Zverev, and Ivanovskiy to accelerate work on further Vostok flights.
Korolev is supporting establishment of a new institute, the IMBP, for study of biological reactions to spaceflight. He plans to complete 8 additional Vostok capsules, of which two or three will be used for unmanned life sciences missions. There is continued controversy over the next few days about the acceleration of Beregovoi's training to qualify him for an early spaceflight, and Volynov's movement from the Vostok to Soyuz training groups.
The cosmonauts visit Korolev at OKB-1 for the first viewing of the mock-up of the Soyuz spacecraft. Korolev announces that single-place Vostoks will fly no more, and that instead four of the spacecraft will be completed during 1964 to take three crew members. This decision has been taken since it was now certain that Soyuz will not be ready to fly in 1964, and the impending first flights of American Gemini and Apollo spacecraft will give the USA a lead in manned spaceflight before Soyuz missions can be flown.
Kamanin is disturbed by the decision. He recalls that in 1961 flight of the Vostok with two or three crew was discussed, with flights to occur in 1962-1963. But at that time Korolev cancelled the plans, saying the Soyuz would be used for such missions. Now Soyuz will not fly until 1965, and he has changed his tune. Furthermore, the modified Vostok is inherently risky, with no way to save the crew in case of a launch vehicle malfunction in the first 40 seconds of flight. Unlike Vostok, the three crew will not have individual ejection seats or parachutes to give them a chance of escape in the event of an abort. The crew will be subject to 10 to 25 G's during an abort. There is no assurance the environmental control system can be modified to handle three crew. It all seems very unsafe, and Kamanin believes the six consecutive successful Vostok flights have given Korolev's engineers a false sense of the safety of the Vostok system. Kamanin is perplexed. How does he plan to convert a single-place spacecraft to a three-place spacecraft in a few months? Korolev has no clear answers, but asks for the cosmonauts' support of the scheme.
Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) Decree 59 'On approval of work to convert Vostok to Voskhod and use it for three-person space missions' is issued. The resolution instructs GKOT to complete four Vostok spacecraft to the multi-passenger Voskhod configuration. The first is to be completed by 15 June 1964; the second by 30 June; the third and fourth, in July. The crew for the first mission will consist of a pilot-cosmonaut, a scientist, and a physician. Launch is set for the first half of August 1965.
Kamanin receives the directive issued by Biryuzov to implement the Voskhod Party resolutions. Four spacecraft will be completed, two in a three-man configuration, to be flown in the second half of 1964, and two in a configuration that will provide an airlock and allow one cosmonaut to exit into open space. Less than a year is allowed to develop the new spacecraft version for the spacewalk, as well as develop the space suit. This will be a crash priority program, and allow Korolev no resources to complete and launch five Vostok spacecraft on manned and life sciences missions beginning in May.