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September 16, 1958

Letter, Sergei Korolev to Comrade K.N. Rudnev

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

Outgoing Nº s/693ss/ov      

September 16, 1958


Top Secret

of Special Importance

Copy Nº 2




We submit for your consideration proposals to develop a reconnaissance satellite in two versions: a completely automated artificial oriented reconnaissance satellite (object OD-1) and an oriented reconnaissance satellite with a man on board (object OD-2).


 In the event of your agreement to conduct work on two versions of a reconnaissance satellite it would be advisable to submit the appropriate proposals for the consideration of the Council of Ministers’ Commission on Military Industrial Questions for preparation of a draft Decree about this work.


Since at the present time Comrade G. N. PASHKOV has already worked on a draft Government Decree about the first automated version of a reconnaissance satellite (OD-1), we have sent Comrade G. N. PASHKOV our proposals on the development of a reconnaissance satellite in two versions for preliminary familiarization for temporary use.


These materials have been sent at the same time to Comrades M. V. KELDYSH and M. I. NEDELIN for preliminary familiarization. 







September 16, 1958






The work done at OKB-1 [Experimental-Design Bureau No. 1], OPM MIAN [Department of Applied Mathematics of the V. A. Steklov Mathematics Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences], NII-1 of GKAT [Scientific-Research Institute No. 1 of the State Committee for Aviation Technology] and in other organizations has shown that at the present time there are the technical prerequisites allowing [work] to be commenced to specifically develop an earth satellite carrying a man on board. Development efforts in OKB-1 show that an apparatus on an earth satellite with a weight of 4,500-5,000 kg can be placed in orbit with the aid of a three-stage rocket of the 8K73 type. This means that it will be possible to place not only the equipment to ensure living conditions when it is put in orbit, during flight in orbit, and to return it to Earth, but also an apparatus for the photography of the Earth’s surface and for communications intelligence (see drawings Nº 1 and Nº 2). The justification of the possibility of the creation of a satellite with a man [on board] is cited in the report “Materials of a Preliminary Study of the Question of the Creation of an Earth Satellite with a Man on Board (object OD-2).”


Earlier we submitted proposals to develop an oriented satellite, OD-1, designed to photograph the Earth’s surface, which should essentially appear to be an automated reconnaissance satellite.   


We think that at the present time, along with the creation of an automated reconnaissance satellite, it is advisable to raise the question of the creation of a reconnaissance satellite carrying a man on board. This version of a reconnaissance satellite would also serve to research the possibilities of lengthy manned spaceflights with his subsequent return to Earth.


It will require conducting additional work to create a satellite with a man [on board] besides that which is associated with an automated reconnaissance satellite.


Such additional work will first include:


- the development of equipment to ensure the living conditions of a man in space;

- the development of equipment for the safe return of a man to Earth.


It ought to be noted that the creation of a satellite with a man [on board] does not remove the question of the creation of a fully-automated satellite, since an automated satellite can be equipped with a large quantity of photographic and communications intelligence apparatuses if it exists for a long time.


Therefore, in our opinion, it is advisable to make a proposal to organize parallel work to create reconnaissance satellites of two types:


- a version of a completely automated artificial reconnaissance satellite (object OD-1);

- a version of a reconnaissance satellite with a man on board (object OD-2).


It ought to be noted that one and the same booster rocket (of the 8K73 type) can be used for both versions and [as well as] many elements of equipment (the radio system, the orientation system, photographic apparatus, the ground observation and communications facilities, etc.).


It is advisable to conclude the first stage of work with the execution of draft designs in the third quarter of 1959 and holding experimental verification of the most important elements of the design. Along with this in the first quarter of 1959 it is advisable to outline a plan of measures which would ensure the manufacture and preparation for launch of the first models of the OD-1 and OD-2 objects in 1960.


In connection with the above considerations we have prepared preliminary proposals for a draft Government Decree concerning the development of these two versions of reconnaissance satellites (OD-1 and OD-2).




September 16, 1958


Archival source: Central Archive of RKK Energiya. Arkh. 1546, ll. 25-29.

signature – autograph



[1] Konstantin Nikolayevich Rudnev (1911-1980) was chairman of the State Committee of Defense Technology (GKOT), the “ministry” in charge of the missile and space programs.

[2] There were two attachments to this document. Only the explanatory note to attachment 1 (total 18 pages) is included here. Attachment 2 entitled “Materials of a Preliminary Study of the Question of the Creation of an Earth Satellite with a Man on Board (Object OD-2) in Two Versions,” including one book of 150 pages and one book of 90 pages, is not included here.

[3] Sergey Pavlovich Korolev (1907-1966) was chief designer of the Experimental-Design Bureau No. 1 (OKB-1).

Proposal from Sergei Korolev submitted to the State Committee for Defense Technology to develop a spy satellite with a cosmonaut on board.

Document Information


Selected, edited, and annotated by Asif Siddiqi. Translated by Gary Goldberg and Angela Greenfield.


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