Encyclopedia Astronautica
Soviet Space Tracking Systems


Soviet Space Tracking Systems

On 30 January 1956 work began on a satellite for military purposes. A KIK control system was under development for control of the first satellite. But the military raised the issue: how were they to be controlled without the use of military control points? Zhukov became personally involved. The requirements were fantastic for the period: a communications net of widely flung (separated by 1,000's of kilometres) radar, tracking, and command stations, all in instantaneous encrypted un-interceptable communication with one another. In fact, such a system had already been developed for the PVO for air defence and interceptor control. All necessary units were available, with minor modification. Therefore the General Staff instructions were to use Red Army communications for interconnection of stations.

The KIK tracking system development was authorised by a decree of 3 September 1956. It consisted of the following elements:

  • Telemetry Control System:

    • STK-1 Don
    • STK-2 Neva
    • Indikator T
    • Tral
    • RTS-2
    • RTS-3
    • RTS-7

    Tracking system:

    • Indikator-D
    • RUP
    • Fakel-D
    • Binokl-D
    • Irtish-D

    Optical units:

    • KT-50 cine theodolite
    • KT-80 cine-telescope

    The satellite control system consisted of the aircraft-mission system MRV-2M developed by NII-648 GKRE (NII TP Minobshchemash). The system worked at 35 to 50 MHz with a range of 1500 to 2000 km and could issue 20 discrete commands. The earliest control / tracking stations were:

  • IP-1 Tyuratam
  • IP-2 Makat
  • IP-3 Sary Shagan
  • IP-4 Yeniseik
  • IP-6 Elizovo
  • IP-5 Iskhupi
  • IP-7 Klyuci

    Assisting in launch tracking were:

  • IP-9 Krasnoye Selo
  • IP-10 Simferopol
  • IP-11 Sartichali
  • IP-12 Kolpashevo
  • IP-13 Ulan-Ude

    This combination of PVO and ICBM tracking systems made up the network. Trajectory information was fed into the centre for orbital calculations. The centre was staffed by 680 officers and 151 civilian scientists of the Soviet Army in four sections.

    Lunar and interplanetary programs brought new tracking requirements. IP-14 in Shchelkovo was first upgraded for the lunar program with the Kama-E distance measuring system. IP-41E (Simeyz) and IP-42E (Moscow) later received the same upgrade. NIP-16 at Yevpatoriya was equipped to handle interplanetary probes. The Pluton system sent commands to the probe, while the Saturn system received data. Saturn complexes were built at NIP-3, 4, 14, and 15. This consisted of a 16 m antennae with a 100 million km range. The RS-10-2M antenna was used, plus at NIP-10 the TNA-400. The Pluton Command-Tracking System was installed only at NIP-16.

    Development of the Tracking and Control System

    The basis for the modernised system was the draft project for a universal command-tracking complex for military space systems. By 1966 nine systems were operated in the KIK. The control centre had 18 military units with 6,936 staff, including 1,176 officers and 770 employees. Specialisations were created in the second half of the 1960's with the KIS (Command-Tracking Systems). The first system in operation was the Zenit control system. This used the cm-band 'Taiga' radio link (developed by NII-30 GKRE), the Orbital Radio Control Station (RKO) 'Kama E', and the Command-Programming Link 'Podsenzhenik', which used pulse commands in the cm band (developed by NII-10 MSP, Chief Designer M P Petelin).

    For the smaller DS satellites, redundant tracking systems 'Vympel' and 'Krab' were developed by NII-648 at the beginning of the 1970's. 'Krab' was used for telemetry, but was replaced in 1965 by the 'Post-2D' radio link and 'Korall' tracking stations at both Baikonur and Plesetsk.

    In 1966 Kub, derived from 'Taiga', and the Baza system were used for control of spacecraft with large programmable memories (250 kb) at geosynchronous altitude. (M I Borisenko Chief Designer).

    Two new tracking station, NIP-17 Yakutsk, and NIP-18 Vorkuta, were established the same year. They were equipped with KIS Kama, Podzenzhnik, Kub, Krab, and Korall systems.

    Encrypted radio channels for Podsnezhnik and Kub were introduced in 1967; they were called Veter and Shtorm.

    NII-885 built the modernised telemetry system RTS-8 using phased impulse techniques, greater tracking accuracy, and a greater period of data download. It was a 56 channel system with an accuracy of measured parameters of 1%. The Tral system used by the first Sputniks was replaced by the RTS-8.

    Eventually a KIS for interplanetary control was improved during the course of the lunar program from 1966. KIS Saturn was modernised to Saturn-M at NIP-3, 6, 14, 15, 16, and 23.

    5-NIIP-MO used complexes Foton, Mezon, and Kreon for sending commanding, receiving telemetry, photography, television, and ranging. NIP-15 was the centre for long-range tracking.

    Tracking equipment in 1958 consisted of the T3 4 MI MO OKB. The Leningrad Polytechnic Institute developed the Pozul-Kvartz system. Trajectory data was obtained from RTS Binokl-D and Kama-E, which was transmitted to the centre for analysis by telegraphic communications.

    PUVD was the computing device used at the centre for ballistic tracking and modelling at 4 NII-MO. It was replaced by the UTS 4 from 1968.

    In 1960 OKB LPI began serious development of a second generation system, Temp, which entered service in 1971. OKB Impuls built the multiple parameter RTS Bufer-1M, which was installed at all NIP's in the 1970's.

    Airborne tracking aircraft (SIP) and airborne tracking/control aircraft (SKIP) began in 1958 with 10 Il-20RT and 6 aircraft-antenna analogues Il-18I. These were under control of GUKOS (Chief Directorate of the Space Forces of the Ministry of Defence). In 1974 after military trials they were taken into the 94th Squadron of the Military Transport Regiment of 5-NIIP. They were combined with military units at the end of the 1980's for morale/resource reasons. These aircraft were used to solve tracking problems in the Far North, Far East, Central Asia, European Soviet Union, and Afghanistan. They were crucial in refining orbital measurements to determine corrective manoeuvres.

    The Centre, KIK, by 1970, consisted of 23 units, 19,955 military staff, including 4,080 officers and 3,540 civilian employees. By this time the whole military apparatus for satellite control was being institutionalised: engineer specialisations created, documentation created, etc. At the end of Eighth Five Year Plan there were seven new satellites, and 10 satellites and 8 launch vehicles were in series production.

    KIK Development

    New telemetry systems were introduced in the 1970's: Tral-K2N, RTS-9.

    In 1972 the Saturn-NS program was begun to better integrate and modernise the system consisting of: communication lines Korall, Kub, Basa; orbital control stations Krab-U, Izumrud; processing apparatus Podshezhnik, Veter-3N, and stations Kub-U, Korall-U, Kuch-U, equipped with SKAT. New telemetry station MA-9MKTM. Trials begun of new autonomous units, especially for naval deployments. In 1972, via KIK 120,000 communications sessions and 42,000 control sessions were conducted, three times more than in 1967. From 1973 the Third Military School of Junior Specialists was formed to eliminate the deficit in training staff.

    In 1962 Command Centre KIK Andrei Grigorevich Karass began work on autonomous relay of data to the centre. In 1966 the decree was issued for development of the Skat system. It was developed by NII-5, the Moscow Scientific Research Institute for Scientific Devices. The system could autonomously deliver processed data to the centre and five peripheral points. At the first stage of the project three types of satellites could be controlled, up to 150 separate satellites at time.

    The satellite builders themselves were not building automated control systems at this time. Therefore it was only possible to control each satellite from the centre and two peripheral points. Modernisation of the satellites was required, but it was very difficult to get the satellite makers to work to a common standard. It took a long time to undo the mistakes of the 1960's. 1971 was the last chance to impose common control requirements - otherwise many difference control centres would be required for the many different satellites planned. Work on automated guidance took ten years, until in 1981 the TsAK (Central Automatic System) was finally accepted into military service. TsAK was installed in the KIK centres from 1979.

    The TsAK common system allowed control of satellite systems from: Staff and political units; central command points; three control/administration stations. The Skat control system incorporated ballistic tracking sections; planning, co-ordination, and analysis sections; and materiel and finance units. Control of a satellite consisted of the following steps: ballistic tracking, telemetry control, satellite system status and health analysis, formulation of the control program, upload of the program to the satellite, execution of the program by the satellite. The system allowed professional operations control on a regular cycle, with individual satellite operations at planned intervals. The only exception was control of manned flights, which were done by a special separate system.

    Communications of the first generation (1954-1972) were based on telephone and telegraph channels, using hand commutators and vacuum tube apparatus in radio communications control units. In February 1961 the Beluga communication junction was put into use. In 1967-1972 military control points and standard communications were integrated into common communications junctions such as Golitsino-2 at Shabolovka, in Moscow. Region communications junctions were also used for control of lunar spacecraft, such as NIP-10 and NIP-16. In 1974 -1975 new systems were introduced: Gvardeyets and Kripton. Skat replaced all of these from 1975. From 1970 Bumerang system relayed tracking data between MO tracking centres and the Academy of Sciences.

    For cosmonaut communications the Signal system was developed for NI-KIK, telegraphic communications channels, command centres, the ministry of Communications, KGB, and MO. The first generation Zarya communications system for cosmonauts aboard Vostok was developed in 1960. The second generation Aurora system was developed for Soyuz/Salyut and was in operation from 1970. It allowed simultaneous communications between two spacecraft and ground control. It was used from 1976-1976 at NIP-KIK, and IP-1 at 5 NIIP MO. It was also installed in naval tracking ships.

    NIP-4, 5, 14, and 15 were equipped for communications with Gorizont-K geosynchronous satellites. The automatic communication systems and for naval units Rumb-M and Gorizont-KB. After 1975 tests of a modernised system at Goltsino and NIP-16, equipped to relay television and telemetry via Molniya-1 satellites.

    The first space television was aboard Vostok (Seliger-Tral 1 by OKB MEI, A F Bogomolov). The slightly modernised system was referred to as Topaz, then a second generation system was introduced from 1975. This was the Krechet, developed by VNII-30, A F Polushkin. It incorporated docking views, overlay of docking data, etc.

    Satellite time synchronisation systems of the first generation were developed at NII-195 by L N A Begun. This was the Bumbuk-D. In 1958-1963 the Leningrad NIRTI (P P Dmitriev) developed the modified units Bambuk-E, K, K1 with improved accuracy. These were installed in KIK and IP's. In 1963 to 1965 the improved accuracy Generator-5 of TsSGR-1 (B A Grebonovskiy) with an accuracy of 1 to 5 X 10^-10 seconds per day. Serious development began from 1970 for a single system for second generation systems. In 1971 Yu G Guzbva of the Rossiya Factory of Minradioprom began development of the SEV system. Methodical state trials of SEV VT and SEV systems were conducted by 4 NII MO and 50 TsNII KS. In January 1975 the SEV VT system was given the code name Vremya and accepted into service. It equipped IP's from 1977 on.

    The number of different equipment types at the KIK tracking stations rose from 85 to 90 in the 1970's to 150 in the 1980's. A program was instigated at the Centre under Lt-Gen N F Shlykov to improve the automation, reliability, and to rationalise the equipment base. In 1979 the P-2500 long range communications antennae was put into operation at Yevpatoriya in the Crimea. The 70 m diameter dish weighed 4920 tonnes and used the Kvant radio-technical system for its operation. By this time the ground-based tracking stations were supplemented by 11 tracking ships, each of which was on station for 7 to 8 months per year.

    Meanwhile equipment and facilities at Golitsyno-2 were upgraded as well. Three M-600 computers operating at 1.5 million operations per second were installed at the centre, while the tracking stations used M-220 computers operating at 40,000 operations per second. 1976 to 1977 saw the development of the ASU improved automatic control system, which entered operation in 1978. During the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans (1981-1990) 140 million roubles was spent on upgrading Goitsyno-2 Centre, of which half went for non-technical facilities (housing, entertainment, and recreation). Much of this went into the 'Object 413' military city. The population of Golitsyno itself rose from 5,000 in January 1976 to 10,000 by the end of 1981.

    At this time the communications network was handling 134,000-136,000 satellite communications sessions per year. Backup tracking stations were formed form 1982. These were comprehensively equipped with control equipment, telemetry receivers, and ballistic tracking sensors. Five reserve points and one backup centre were established in total.

    Beginning in 1981 systems entered service of automatic control of satellites. Over the following 18 years the KIK stations received new generations of equipment, microprocessor-controlled, with new displays and ELINT receivers. These included the control tracking systems Kub-Kontur and Taman-Baza. In the first half of the 1980's new systems were delivered with better navigation parameters. The KOS quantum-optical system used lasers and telescopes and functioned together with the Taman-Baza equipment. One such complex was established at Maidanak at 2600 km altitude in the Pamir Mountains. The station was built by NII Radiopribor under L I Gusev. From 1979 this served as a Command KIK point as well as conducting scientific research with improved living areas for increased staff and military units. The improved Romashka radio telemetry system provided higher power and four times the range of earlier systems. Modifications to the KIK's were also necessary to handle Buran and communications via the Luch relay satellites.

    In May 1977 NTS GUKOS developed a solution for mobile command-tracking posts. The military aspects were developed by 50 TsNII KS and NIR Sluchay and Adapter. In 15 February 1979 the RVSN issued the technical specifications of a Mobile Overland Command and Tracking System (PN KIP), code named Fazan. Full development was ordered on 29 August 1980 followed by a VPK resolution for limited operation on 17 January 1985. The first system was tested during the mid-1980's, based at NIIP-19. Improved tracking ships were also fielded in this period - the Marshal Nedelin in 1982 and Marshal Krilov in 1986.

    UNKS was reorganised again, with the three main KIK's (Yevpatoriya, Yeniseisk, Ula-Ude) designated Central Command KIK Control and Tracking Centres, and five trials centres being established (4 at Baikonur and 1 at Plesetsk). Under project 'Rokot' command points were established. The main point was at Golitsino-2, with a reserve pint at Znamenka in Tambovsk Oblast. By the end of 1988 the reorganisation was completed.

    Following break-up of the Soviet Union KIK Tracking stations no longer on Russian territory were abandoned, and to compensate three new tracking stations were built at Eysk, Maloyaroslavets, and Barnaul.

    More... - Chronology...

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