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March 30, 1961

Report from D. Ustinov et al to the CPSU CC regarding the Preparation and Launch of a Manned Spacecraft

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Nº VP-13/534   


March 30, 1961


Top Secret


Copy Nº 1


To the CPSU CC[1]


We report:


In accordance with the resolution of the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR of October 11, 1960[2] regarding the preparation and launch of a manned spacecraft, as of now all necessary preparation work for a manned flight into outer space has been completed.


With this purpose a large amount of scientific-research, experimental-design and testing work was performed both in ground-based and flight conditions.


The result of this work is the creation of the space satellite-ship Vostok-3A designed for a manned flight.


The craft, its systems, equipment. and components went through all the stages of ground-based and flight testing both independently and in conjunction with the rocket booster.


The system for the orbital insertion of the ship, the in-flight life-support systems in the pressurized cabin of the craft, the systems for orientation, braking, deorbiting, and return to Earth of a reentry vehicle and the cosmonaut, as well as the search-and-rescue equipment were tested.


In total seven launches of the Vostok orbital satellite-ship were conducted: five launches of Vostok-1 and two launches of Vostok-3A.[3]


Out of the five launches of the Vostok-3A satellite-ship, three were satisfactory and provided a lot of material to ensure normal flights of spacecraft going forward.


The two subsequent launches of Vostok-3A satellite-ships the design of which fully corresponds to the design of the craft intended for manned flights, were successful. The cooperation between technical resources of the Missile Forces, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Merchant Fleet, the Committee of National Security under the USSR Council of Ministers, and the National Air Defense Forces was set up in order to create a system for locating and searching for cosmonauts.


At the same time cosmonaut training was conducted. Comprehensive training of the cosmonauts was conducted for this purpose in accordance with a special program and in the conditions simulating the fight conditions to the maximum extent.


The results of work conducted to fine-tune the design of the satellite-ship, the landing gear, and on training the cosmonauts, make it possible to conduct the first manned flight into space at this time.


Two Vostok-3A satellite-ships are prepared for this purpose. The first craft is located at a test range, and the second one is in the process of being prepared for shipment.


Six cosmonauts have been trained for the flight.


The launch of the satellite-ship will be conducted for one rotation around the Earth with a [scheduled] landing on the territory of the Soviet Union along the Rostov- Kuybyshev-Perm line.


There will be life support equipment for a cosmonaut in the pressurized cabin of the satellite-ship (an air regeneration system, a ten-day supply of food and water, etc.), pilot’s [instrument] panel, manual landing equipment, recording equipment, and other types of equipment, as well as two-way radio equipment for communications between the cosmonaut and the Earth on ultrashort and short-wave lengths. Additionally, television equipment for monitoring the cosmonaut within the range of direct visibility of the craft from the territory of the Soviet Union is installed in the cabin of the satellite-ship.


According to the selected orbit for the satellite-ship, in case of a failure of the craft’s landing system, the descent of the craft is provided through natural atmospheric braking over two to seven days with a landing between 65° north and south latitude.


In case of an emergency landing on the territory of a foreign country or of a rescue of the cosmonaut by a foreign vessel, the cosmonaut has appropriate instructions.


In addition to a 10-day supply of food and water, the cosmonaut’s cabin is equipped with a man-portable emergency food and water kit designed for three days, as well as with radio equipment and a Peleng transmitter whose signals will allow the location of the cosmonaut’s landing to be identified. The satellite-ship does not have a system installed for the emergency detonation of the reentry vehicle.


The launch of the first Soviet manned orbital spacecraft is planned between 10 and 20 of April of this year.


It would be advisable to publish the first TASS press release about the launch of a manned satellite-ship immediately after data is received that the satellite-ship has reached orbit. The second TASS press release should be published after the cosmonaut returns to Earth.


Draft TASS press releases are enclosed.


We believe that it is advisable to publish the first TASS press release immediately after the satellite-ship reaches orbit based on the following considerations:


a) In case of necessity this will make it easier to quickly organize search and rescue efforts;


b) This will exclude the possibility of some foreign country announcing that the cosmonaut is spying for military purposes.


In case the satellite-ship doesn’t reach orbit because of insufficient speed, it can land in the ocean. In this event we also consider it advisable to publish a TASS press release to facilitate the rescue of the cosmonaut. Draft TASS press release for this event is also enclosed.


We propose that the satellite-ship should be identified as Vostok in TASS press releases.


We request permission to launch the first Soviet manned satellite-ship and to approve the enclosed draft TASS press releases.


D. Ustinov[4]

K. Rudnev[5]

V. Kalmykov[6]

P. Dement’yev[7]

B. Butoma[8]

M. Keldysh[9]

K. Moskalenko[10]

K. Vershinin[11]

N. Kamanin[12]

P. Ivashutin[13]

S. Korolev[14]




Archival source: APRF, f. 3, op. 47, d. 278, ll. 101-104. Original. Signatures are autographs.


[1]The note was distributed to Central Committee members and candidate members on March 31, 1961 under Nº P464.

[2] See Document no. 10.

[3] Vostok-1 prototypes were launched on May 15, 1960; July 28, 1960; August 19, 1960; December 1, 1960; and December 22, 1960. The Vostok-3A piloted vehicle was launched on March 9 and March 25, 1961.

[4] Dmitriy Fedorovich Ustinov (1908-1984) was chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission.

[5] Konstantin Nikolayevich Rudnev (1911-1980) was chairman of the State Committee of Defense Technology.

[6] Valeriy Dmitriyevich Kalmykov (1908-1974) was chairman of the State Committee of Radio-Electronics.

[7] Pyotr Vasil’yevich Dement’yev (1907-1977) was chairman of the State Committee for Aviation Technology.

[8] Boris Yevstafyevich Butoma (1907-1976) was chairman of the State Committee of Shipbuilding.

[9] Mstislav Vsevolodich Keldysh (1911-1978) was vice-president of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

[10] Kirill Semenovich Moskalenko (1902-1985) was commander-in-chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces.

[11] Konstantin Andreyevich Vershinin (1900-1973) was commander-in-chief of the Air Force.

[12] Nikolay Petrovich Kamanin (1908-1982) was deputy chief of the Air Force responsible for combat preparations.

[13] Pyotr Ivanovich Ivashutin (1909-2002) was 1st deputy chairman of the KGB.

[14] Sergey Pavlovich Korolev (1907-1966) was chief designer of OKB-1.

Memo from representatives of industry, the scientific community, the armed forces, the KGB, and the space designer community to the Central Committee report on final preparations for piloted spaceflight and asking for permission to launch a spaceship with a human on board.

Document Information


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


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