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For the first time, many will read about the USSR Naval Space Fleet. It was sold out and scrapped for a long time, like almost all the space pride of our country, and the memory of the great scientific ships that provided Soviet cosmonautics was gradually erased from the history of the star race, and the unique ships turned into ghost ships.
A whole detachment of expedition ships provided missile tests, participated in flight control of manned spacecraft and orbital stations, and controlled the launches of distant spacecraft to the planets of the solar system. From the first steps of the national cosmonautics to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Maritime Space Fleet did not disrupt a single mission.
Container for sailors …
To control the flight of spacecraft (SC), a command and measurement complex was created, which includes the Mission Control Center (MCC) and a large network of ground measuring points (NIPs). But to ensure a good connection of spacecraft with the Earth at any time of the day, the territory of the country was not enough. After the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, the calculations of ballistics showed that out of 16 orbits that the spacecraft makes per day, 6 pass over the oceans. They were called "blind spots", from the territory of the USSR they were "invisible", which means that the flight took place blindly, without the possibility of control. We did not have islands and bases in the other hemisphere in order to equip NPCs there. The solution to the problem was scientific vessels capable of providing communication between the Earth and space almost anywhere in the ocean. Subsequently, thanks to the use of the space fleet, all 6 hard-to-reach loops became visible.
The birth of the space fleet - 1960. According to S.P. Korolev in October of this year, the first launches of distant spacecraft to Venus and Mars were to take place. On his initiative, three dry-cargo vessels Dolinsk, Krasnodar and Voroshilov (later renamed Ilyichevsk) were urgently equipped with telemetry equipment. On August 1, Krasnodar and Voroshilov from Odessa, and then Dolinsk from Leningrad, leave for the Atlantic to control the second launches (when the object accelerates from the first space speed to the second in order to fly to distant planets). In 1961, all three vessels operated on the first manned flight around the Earth.
April 12, 1961
“Each of the ships was equipped with two sets of Tral radio telemetry stations, capable of receiving and registering dozens of parameters from the sides of space objects,” recalls Vasily Vasilyevich Bystrushkin (a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. In 1961 - the head of the expedition of a floating telemetry station in the Atlantic motor ship "Krasnodar." Direct participant in the flight support of Gagarin, the main representative of the customer for the construction of specialized ships of the Maritime Space Fleet; laureate of the State Prize of the USSR). - Until that time, these stations were manufactured only in an automobile version, and for sea conditions they did not have time to finalize them in time. Therefore, automobile bodies with the equipment placed in them, but, of course, without a chassis, were lowered into the holds of motor ships and fastened there in the sea.
The ships received the coordinates of the working points in the Atlantic Gulf of Guinea and were supposed to track the operation of the onboard systems at the landing site. "Krasnodar", on which I was the head of the expedition, was appointed chief of the complex, since there were the most experienced specialists on board.To the south along the highway, one and a half thousand kilometers away, the Ilyichevsk motor ship received its operating point. The point of operation of the "Illichivsk" allowed him to be the first to record the reception of telemetry, if suddenly on board the landing program was switched on ahead of time. The motor ship "Dolinsk" took its workplace north of the island of Fernando Po (near Cameroon). Its radio visibility zone made it possible to record the operation of onboard telemetry in the event of a delay in the activation of the braking propulsion system (TDU). Such an arrangement of ships made it possible to receive telemetry with a margin of time from the start of the onboard orientation system until the end of the TDU operation when the spacecraft entered the dense layers of the atmosphere. Until April 12, daily training of operators took place, and only the antenna devices of the Tral stations, in connection with the requirements of the secrecy regime, continued to be disassembled, covered with a tarpaulin. The weather in the work area on this day (April 12) did not differ from other days of the year at the equator, a bright sunny day, calm.
The vessel is heading south-west at a slow speed, antennas are set up according to target designations. An hour after the start from the "Vostok", a stable signal was received. The spacecraft landing orientation system (AC) was operating normally. Operators of the Tral station accurately recorded the duration of the operation of the braking propulsion system. The telegrams of operational reports were urgently sent to Moscow, two or three minutes after the start of receiving telemetry, they were at the MCC. The landing of "Vostok" took place according to a given program, and it was clear from our reports: the ship should land at the calculated point. But in the stuffy hold of the ship, work was in full swing for a long time: in the darkroom, they continued to develop multi-meter sections of film. The decoders looked at the still wet, not completely dry tape on the tables, analyzed the parameters of the ship's onboard systems for transmission to the MCC of the second stream of telemetric measurements. An atmosphere of joy and pride reigned on the ship for the new success in space exploration. By this time, the first mate had managed to hang out a huge banner: "Long live the world's first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin!" - and solemnly held an impromptu meeting.
In the conditions of secrecy and the race for primacy in space, the ICF vessels went on voyages under the flag of Sovtransflot with the legend of "supplying containers with Soviet fishing vessels." This aroused suspicion among the authorities of foreign ports, where expeditions called to replenish supplies of water, food and fuel. Acute situations arose, our "space" ships were often seized at sea, in ports. Officially, nowhere was it said that they were scientific, that they were engaged in measurements, and this could lead to serious problems. Therefore, in 1967, in a TASS report, our ships were declared belonging to the Academy of Sciences and began to sail under the pennants of the academic fleet. Now their calls at foreign ports were processed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It was in 1967 that the first specialized ships of the Maritime Space Fleet appeared: the floating command and measurement complex, the research vessel (R / V) "Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov" and four telemetry points - R / V "Borovichi", "Nevel", "Kegostrov", " Morzhovets ". All were built and equipped in Leningrad in connection with the expansion of lunar research programs, including Soviet cosmonauts flying around the moon. We have already participated in the lunar race, we wanted to be the first here too.
Under the second lunar research program (the landing of Soviet cosmonauts on the moon) in 1970, a ship that looks like a passenger liner entered the ranks of the space fleet. It was the R / V Akademik Sergei Korolev, a 180-meter vessel with a displacement of 22 thousand tons and a power plant with a capacity of 12,000 hp. The vessel had an unlimited navigation area. Soon, the second great ship of science appeared, recognized as the flagship of the USSR space fleet, the world's largest research ship "Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin". It was built at the Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad in 1971.It was a real floating flight control center. Both vessels are unique. The equipment specially designed for them had no analogues. It was created by our designers on the basis of domestic technology: complex radio-technical complexes capable of issuing the necessary commands on board spacecraft, receiving telemetry information about the state of on-board systems, conducting radio communications with astronauts, and much more. An expedition and crew were on board each vessel. Expedition - those who controlled the flight, provided communication sessions (engineers and technicians), and the crew - service personnel: navigators, captain and navigational assistants, deck crew, engine room. The ships went on voyages for 6-7 months, sometimes more.
For example, the third flight of the Queen was 9.5 months. The space service ships were remarkable for their amazing architecture. Snow-white, with delicate antennas, some of colossal size, they have become a vivid symbol of the growing space power of the USSR. Only the mirrors of the antennas of "Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin" in 25 meters or 18-meter balls of radio-transparent antenna shelters on the "Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov" amazed with truly cosmic proportions. ICF vessels had excellent seaworthiness, they worked in all regions of the World Ocean, at any time of the year and in any weather. "Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin", for example, could cover 20 thousand miles without entering the port - this is almost a round-the-world trip. From 1977 to 1979, the fleet was replenished with four more telemetry ships: "Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov", "Cosmonaut Pavel Belyaev", "Cosmonaut Georgy Dobrovolsky" and "Cosmonaut Viktor Patsaev". By 1979, the ICF consisted of 11 specialized vessels that participated in the management of manned flights, docking and undocking of spaceships over the ocean. Not a single landing of manned spacecraft and launches to distant planets could do without them.
The main point of operation of the large ships of the space fleet was the area off the east coast of Canada, near the treacherous Sable Island. Barely discernible in the morning fog, a small island that has the oddity of changing its size and coordinates, for many years moves along the ocean, as if it were animated. Slowly but menacingly, the island is creeping towards the Atlantic, moving an average of 230 meters per year. In winter, the storm almost never subsides here, and in summer there is always a thick fog. Woven from quicksand, the island for centuries captured and pulled ships into its dunes, for which it was nicknamed "the ship-eater" and the "cemetery of the North Atlantic". It was here, near the island of ill fame, that our "Komarovites", "Kings" and "Gagarinites" stood, replacing each other, on duty at the "invisible" loops.
"Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin" is striking even in photographs. It was twice the size of the Titanic. The displacement of the vessel was 45 thousand tons (for comparison, the Titanic had a displacement of 28 thousand tons). The vessel is 232 meters long and 64 meters high. The deck width was about 30 meters. Four parabolic antennas towered above it, two of which were 25.5 meters in diameter, together with their foundations, their total weight was about 1000 tons. Unique antennas rotated in three planes. An eleven-deck turbo-ship with a 19,000 hp power plant. had a speed of 18 knots. Despite the high power of long-range space communications transmitters, the antenna beams were very "thin" and it was necessary to accurately keep pointing at the object in rolling conditions. Thanks to the Foton multifunctional radio-technical complex, the ship could operate simultaneously with two space objects. For communication between the NIS and the cosmonauts with Moscow, relay satellites "Molniya" were used, thus, the full exchange of all information was in real time. The ship had 1,500 rooms with a total area of 20,000 sq. meters. It would take two days to get around them all. More than a hundred laboratories were equipped here. The total number of the crew on board reached 330 people.
“Unlike the first-borns of the space fleet, all the necessary conditions for comfort were created on the Gagarin,” says Anatoly Kapitanov, a veteran of the Moscow Film Festival. - A modern (for those years) cinema hall for 250 spectators was located in the bow of the flagship, and a gymnasium under it. There were three swimming pools, recreation areas with a billiard room. The capacity of the ship's air conditioners was three times higher than the air conditioning system installed in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. All these benefits from the Leningrad shipbuilders were fully justified. We went on 6-7-month flights to work at different sea latitudes. We were accompanied by severe physical and psychological stress. Particularly annoying was the frequent change of working hours, during the flight it shifted three times into the night and back. Sometimes, due to interruptions in flight control, they went to work twice a day. Often the total run time exceeded 10 hours. It is good, of course, that, unlike the land-based lifestyle, you do not need to "go" to work by transport, worry about any purchases, everything was on schedule and free of charge."
1996 year. In Odessa, in the port of Yuzhny, an extraordinary ship stood alone at the pier. On its side was the strange name "AGAR", which did not say anything to those who first saw the steel giant who had arrived from somewhere from the great past. It was our flagship, the best scientific vessel in the country and, perhaps, in the world. How did it get here? In 1991, the "Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin" was left by his main expedition. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reduction of space programs, astronautics experienced a very difficult time - it was out of work. One of the main symbols of the space flotilla R / V "Gagarin" now presented a terrible sight: rusted, desecrated by vandals, littered and plundered. The Maritime Space Fleet was completely disbanded in 1995. In 1991, Gagarina was privatized by Ukraine, and soon the titanium was too expensive for the Black Sea Shipping Company. It is still unknown what happened to the ship's library and museum, where the portrait of Y. Gagarin, presented to the crew by Anna Timofeevna Gagarina, disappeared. In 1996, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was sold at a price of $ 170 per ton. It was a shame to sell scientific pride for scrap, so the name of the vessel was covered with paint, leaving only the letters "AGAR". "Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin", who made 22 expeditionary voyages, set off on his last journey to India. There, in the port of Alang, in a matter of days it was cut into large, shapeless pieces. Perhaps this metal will come back to us in the form of pots or souvenir badges, or in the form of other ships, but no one will know about this. To date, only one vessel remains from the entire IFF - "Cosmonaut Viktor Patsaev", it is in the port of Kaliningrad, at the pier of the "Museum of the World Ocean". Sometimes it is involved in work on the ISS - it conducts periodic communication sessions. But it does not go out to sea, it stands "on a leash."
Today in many countries of the world there are sea vessels built to track space. The United States and France have several, China is constantly expanding its space fleet: our eastern neighbors already have 5 specialized ships equipped with systems for receiving telemetry and controlling spacecraft. Not having a large network of NIPs and foreign bases, the Chinese understand perfectly well that for the development of astronautics, they vitally need ICF ships.