The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Mission Operating Plans - Review


Timchenko, speaking for Working Group 1, addressed that team's four major areas of responsibility - flight operations, operations training, experiments, and spacecraft compatibility. Planning the flight operations had been an exhausting and time consuming exercise, for besides planning for the projected 15 July launch date, the flight planners had had to map out alternative flight plans for a series of launch dates so as to be prepared for a postponement in case of equipment failures or weather problems. Mission planning analysts led by Kenneth A. Young and Oleg Georgiyevich Sytin had to consider a host of variable factors with each subsequent launch date. Lighting conditions at the Soviet and American launch and recovery sites constrained their planning considerably. Experiments keyed to the position of the sun or other stellar objects had to be juggled around in each flight plan to make certain that they would take place at the precise moment and place required by the experiment plan. Each alternate launch date also required its own tailored flight plan and trajectory computations, as well as documents verified in both Russian and English.

Timchenko reported that the process of planning for prime and alternate missions was completed. ASTP 40 301, "Joint Crew Activities Plan," reflected their work. Furthermore, the other groups had verified these flight plans for compatibility; training exercises in the mockups and simulators had disclosed no difficulties in flying the mission as outlined. Timchenko concluded that there were no unresolved questions relating to flight procedures or the mission timeline.8

He then turned to discussion of the control centers interaction plan - how the two centers in Moscow and Houston would operate during the mission. Over the many months of negotiations, teams under M. P. Frank and F. C. Littleton and A. S. Yeliseyev and Timchenko had codified several key agreements concerning control of the mission. Flight operations were to be directed by a flight director in each control center, with each side having basic responsibility for its own spacecraft and crew. These men would [290] converse with the crews through the spacecraft communicator and with each other through the Joint Flight Directors and their interpreters. Under both normal and emergency conditions, these interpreters would play a key role in the management of the mission. Once the mission was underway, the burden of the responsibility would be on the shoulders of the flight directors and the Joint Flight Directors. Lunney and Bushuyev would act in a liaison and advisory role. To ensure the prompt resolution of technical questions that might arise during the flight, each side was to appoint a group of visiting specialists (the "consultative group," as the Soviets called these teams) to be present in a support staff room near the other country's control center.

George Low asked Timchenko about contingency planning. Should an emergency call for a deviation from the established flight plan, who would make the decision about the proper corrective action to be taken? Timchenko replied that the flight director would make the decision with preference being given to a solution based upon procedures that had been worked out before the flight. Low then inquired as to which side would make the decision about an in-flight emergency. In the case of a problem involving crew safety, Timchenko answered, the country whose men were in danger could take unilateral action. For example, the endangered crew could call for an undocking, which would be evaluated by that side's flight director, who would notify the other crew and ground controllers of his decision through the Joint Flight Director. Bushuyev interjected at this point that there were plans for a number of specific types of emergencies, the so-called "examined contingencies." Low probed deeper and asked Timchenko what would happen in a case where there were no communications with the ground. The Soviet group chairman responded that such possibilities were specifically addressed in the "Flight Plan Guidelines," ASTP 40 300, and the "Contingency Plan," ASTP 40 500. Going still further, Low inquired what would happen in the event of an "unexamined contingency."


 Flight Readiness Review

Flight Readiness Review, Moscow, May 1975. Seated together, the five Soviet Working Group chairmen: left to right, B. V. Nikitin, Yu. S. Dolgopolov, V. S. Syromyatnikov, V. P. Legostayev, and V. A. Timchenko.


[291] Timchenko said that the crews had been trained to make joint decisions on their own if necessary. Bushuyev added that each commander had the prime responsibility for his craft. Should a problem arise in Apollo, Stafford would have the responsibility to solve it; in Soyuz, such a decision would be Leonov's burden.9

Pursuing the issue of command further, Timchenko indicated that one country's spacecraft could communicate through the other country's ground stations to its own control center. This arrangement especially broadened the amount of contact time Moscow control would have with Soyuz since the ASTP trajectory took the craft on a path away from many of the Soviet ground tracking stations. In addition, communications between the centers would consist of ten voice channels, two Teletype channels, two television channels, as well as channels for retransmitting communications with the crews and for transmitting facsimiles of document pages or computer printouts. This complex system, worked out by the subgroup on Intercontrol Center Coordination led by John H. Temple and Viktor Dmitriyevich Blagov, had been tested in December 1974 and in March and May 1975. These tests indicated that the system and the bilingual personnel assigned to work on both sides as interpreters could work satisfactorily under normal and emergency situations.10

In his report on crew and ground support personnel training, Timchenko summarized the joint training sessions. While the crew sessions had received considerable publicity, the equally important work of the control center personnel had not. Teams of flight controllers, visiting 'specialists, communications technicians, and interpreters had worked in both the Moscow and Houston control centers for ten-day familiarization exercises. The American controllers completed their training in Moscow on 27 September 1974, and the Soviets finished their studies on 6 November 1974 in Houston. These sessions had been followed by joint simulations, which not only provided an evaluation of the communications but also gave all parties an opportunity to work together in a condition similar to that of the mission. Problems and equipment failures were introduced by the training leaders to give the flight control teams experience in coping with emergency situations. Timchenko indicated that the crews and flight controllers had successfully completed their training and appeared to be ready for the flight.11

In the final part of his report, Timchenko summarized the preparations made for conducting the five joint experiments. The requirements for each of these (microbial exchange, zone-forming fungi, furnace systems, artificial solar eclipse, and ultraviolet absorption) were documented in separate interacting equipment documents, and the operating procedures and plans [292] for each had been incorporated into the appropriate onboard instructions documents. Those procedures and plans had been verified and practiced by the crews in the mockups and simulators. Only the ultraviolet absorption experiment had required further work to perfect the flight maneuvers associated with it.12 Timchenko indicated that all the major tasks of Working Group 1 had been completed. The only remaining work related to solving some communications difficulties identified during the simulation and to conducting the June joint simulation. Otherwise, he reported that Group 1's personnel were ready to carry out their part of the mission. Having completed his remarks, he turned the meeting over to V. P. Legostayev, who addressed Working Group 2's preparations.

8. "Apollo Soyuz Test Project, Flight Readiness Review, May 1975," 25 May 1975, pp. WG-1-1 and WG-1-5; O. G. Sytin, "Ballistika EPAS" [ASTP trajectory questions], in Soyuz i Apollon, rasskazivayut sovetskie uchenie inzhineri i kosmonavti - chastniki sovmestnikh rabot s amerikanskimi spetsialistami [Soyuz and Apollo, related by Soviet scientists, engineers, and cosmonauts-participants of the joint work with American specialists], Konstantin D. Bushuyev, ed. (Moscow, 1976), pp. 77-99; and A. S. Yeliseyev and V. G. Kravets, "Upravlenie poletom" [Flight control], in Soyuz i Apollon, pp. 215-234.

9. ASTP notebook, kept by Nicholson, for May-Nov. 1975.

10. "Apollo Soyuz Test Project Flight Readiness Review, May 1975," 25 May 1975, pp. WG-1-12 and WG-1-13.

11. Ibid., pp. WG-1-22 and WG-1-26.

12. Ibid., pp. WG-1-27 to WG-1-40.