Author Topic: New Article on Cold War Space Race and Declassificed US documentation coming out  (Read 4027 times)

Offline Flying Spaghetti Monster

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Just wanted people to know that independent researcher and scholar Peter Pesavento is having a new article appear in the BIS periodical "Space Chronicle" in mid-July.

I myself am looking forward to reading this, and the article's other installments (apparently it is a serialization) as time proceeds.

Rather than me attempting to provide something akin to a "Cliff's Notes" synopsis, I will just cut-and-paste what Pesavento wrote about it on the fpspace forum list serv a couple of days ago.  He says it best.

I find his comments, and the topic of what the US knew and understood quite fascinating.


Greetings Everyone.


The latest issue of the British Interplanetary Society periodical “Space Chronicle” is scheduled to publish in mid-July, and contains an article I wrote.  This will be Volume 70, Supplement 2, 2017.


Its overall title is:


Lifting the Veil, Part 2:  Further Declassification Disclosures Reveal What US Intelligence Knew about the Soviet Space Program During the Space Race


It is the first part of a multi-part serialization on the theme of what the US intelligence community knew contemporaneously about events during the Space Race between the USSR and USA, from the 1950s up through the early 1970s.


In my view, there are two parts to the Soviet/Russian space history chronology. There is the Russian historical canon segment, and there is also the American intelligence-community-perspective side of the Soviet space story.  You might call them “the US pieces of the Soviet Puzzle.”


Much of what historians and historiographers have in hand comes from Russian published sources, as well it should.  But until recently, the historical canon on what the Americans knew about the Soviet space program was quite spotty at best.  Too much of the information in hand was either heavily redacted, or unavailable in declassified format.


This multi-part article is an extended overview of some of the contemporaneous results to fill in the gaps (and highlight the resulting document acquisitions) on the American side of the record, as to what the USSR space activities were, and how they were executed.


Readers will notice that the newly disclosed American record about Soviet space events covered in this article serialization much of the time substantially diverges from the Russian historical canon, and many current Russian disclosures.  Elsewhere, the US historical canon amplifies (at times, very extensively) upon what Russian-sourced histories currently reveal.


Why the divergence?  There are no doubt a number of reasons.  For me, I personally think it is (in very large part) because of the fact that there are many “memory holes” in the Russian space history telling, and some of the time the Russians were not very good record-keepers of their own statistics.  Other adjunct factors include Russian secrecy rules still “on the books,” as well as bureaucratic intransigence towards the idea of broad-spectrum declassification of old materials—while those accurate records remain locked away in filing cabinets in basements of engineering collectives that rarely have visitors.


Indeed, US records about Soviet space activities (as can be seen via the declassified documentation) were very exacting and precise, a reflection of the overall applied meticulousness, as well professional analysis and interpretation.  As readers will see in Part 1 (and in the other upcoming serialized segments), the US IC analysts even corrected Soviet press announcements as to timing benchmarks (when something arrived in orbit, impacted or landed on the lunar surface, returned to Earth, etc.), cosmonaut activities (disclosed and undisclosed), spacecraft mission highlights (achievements claimed and unclaimed), and so on.  The materials were gathered with a spectrum of techniques—among them telemetry intercepts, communications intercepts, radar returns, seismographic and infrasound information, satellite remote sensing, as well as “good ol’ five fingers and eyeballs” acquisitions (human intelligence sources).


The reason for all this effort at meticulousness is that the US analysts had to strive to be very sure.  As sure as they could be. The USA’s safety and security were riding on their assessments.  The amount of uncertainty had to be reduced to as close to insignificance (near to zero) as they could possibly make it.  A great deal of the time, this was reasonably achieved; and sometimes, no.


One can ask whether the US IC got things wrong.  Yes, at times they did. But never as often as those things that the US analysts got right.  Indeed, in regards to Soviet space and other high-tech endeavors, the ratio seems to be—based on my personal reading of thousands of declassified documentation examples—roughly near 90%+ correct and less than 10% incorrect.


And I think that this is a pretty good result, considering the penchant of Soviet officials and media outlets to be secretive and misleading in trend during the Cold War.


However, based on my own reading of declassified materials, the noted mistakes were due much less to misinterpretation of intelligence-intercepted information (that, on occasion, could cause error), but rather from the effort to derive intent and purpose, as well as from attempting to figure out Soviet policy trends (and goals) for upcoming time swaths of interest. 


Bear in mind that some US prognostications were based on (at times) sparse “dots on the graph” (keep in mind what intelligence documents are supposed to do—estimate where things will be in “X” (weeks, months or years) time frame from now—which top level decision makers in the US government need so they can make the proper policy decisions).  Other erroneous conclusions came from attempting to analogize Soviet processes of experimentation/engineering pathways of application with those trends found in the US experiential base.  But even here, when new, superceding information was gathered by US IC analysts, the old misinterpretations were thrown out fairly quickly, and the new, more accurate ones put in their place.


I hope that space historians can now begin--with the aid of these new declassified materials--what I term the attempt to “reconcile” the two historical canons.  Where there are pieces missing in one narrative, these can be found in the other.  And where there remains missing segments in both canons, this will be an opportunity to conduct further research.


In addition to the all-new disclosures from declassified documentation, the overall piece includes graphics/illustrations never before published in an open-sourced publication.  Indeed, there are significant illustration contributions from Russian sources as well, in particular materials from personal scrapbooks.   Among such materials in Part 1, for example,  are the video transmits from orbit of the first manned Voskhod mission.


I should also add here that this article serialization can be viewed as the “current, yet interim” report on what declassification has revealed.  Currently, I have pending more than 200 Mandatory Declassification Review (or MDR, these are not FOIA) cases, of which approximately 100 are currently with the Inter-Agency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the final arbiter (kind of like the Supreme Court of declassification for the US Government, and they are located in Washington, DC) of what gets released.  So over time, more information on Soviet space activities will be forthcoming. The total number of documents in these cases of mine undergoing appellate declassification review processing is probably in the neighborhood of close to 1,000 reports—give or take.


To preview the content of Part 1, here are the titles of the sections therein.  (There are also nine figures accompanying.)


1.0  A New Era of Soviet Space Historiography—Hard Won

2.0  Out of Secrecy Blackness, A Startling Mosaic of Unknown History—Rectifying Mistold Soviet Records and Histories

2.1  Ignoring the Signals:  NSA, Sputnik, and the (Neglected) Use of Soviet Communications Journals as Early Forewarning

2.2  Intercepting Video Transmissions of Laika from Sputnik 2—Contra-indicating Soviet Histories

2.3  New Data on Lunar Programs:  Luna 9 Dethroned, and Other Revelations from US Intelligence Records

2.4    Vostok/Voskhod, Soyuz, Manned Precursors, and “Number 20”

2.4.1  Vostok Monitoring—On the Ground, In the Ocean, Plus COMINT Revealing a Hitherto Unknown Psychological Crisis In Space in 1962

2.4.2  Voskhod and Cosmos 110 Disclosures Revise Mission Histories

2.4.3   Soyuz 1 Revelations:  Biotelemetry Intercepts on State of Komarov’s Health; Hints Death Happened After Re-entry Interface; Ship Deployments Indicate Option Open to Fulfill Mission for Several Weeks Afterward; NSA Documentation Highlights COMINT

2.4.4   SIGINT Supremacy: What US IC Intercept Captures Told About Cosmoses 133 and 212


As I mentioned previously, keep in mind that additional serialized parts will be published by the BIS, and when those are “on the cusp” of appearing in print, I will provide updates.  The subject matter will include military themes, what the US IC knew about Soviet rocketry and space endeavors in the 1950s (this new material is an update of my “Before Sputnik” two-part paper that appeared 2010 and 2011), what Soviet space materials actually reached the daily notice of  the US Presidents, as well as further new documentation disclosures on the Soviet manned lunar projects.  In addition, there will be a few article side-bars that will contain disclosures on focused topics that are linked to subjects in the main text.


I hope that readers will find this article serialization informative and illuminating.


For those of you who wish to obtain print or electronic copies, please contact the BIS on their home Web page , where they have instructions about how to order their publications.


Offline Star One

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It would be helpful if you put which volume and supplement number this is to appear in of Space Chronicle?

Offline Flying Spaghetti Monster

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Star One, Pesavento states it in the full first paragraph, the last sentence.

Offline Star One

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Star One, Pesavento states it in the full first paragraph, the last sentence.

Sorry I missed that. Thanks.

Offline RIB

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So where is Part 1 of the article?

Offline Magic

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Space Chronicle Vol. 60 Suppl. 2 2007 pp 49-87

Offline Flying Spaghetti Monster

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On the fpspace forum, independent scholar Peter Pesavento has posted a message that the third segment of his article "Lifting the Veil, Part 2" is soon to be available (maybe today, or maybe next week it seems to me--I am going to look more into this for myself).  This is available from the British Interplanetary Society and is appearing in their Space Chronicle magazine.

I am looking forward to getting a copy and reading it.  He nearly always has new and very interesting information to impart.  I find learning about new stuff on this topic to be exciting. 

I am going to cut-and-paste here his entire announcement.  He also includes a listing of the sections of the article.


Greetings Everyone.

I am pleased to announce that the third segment of my long-in-gestation article serialization is going to be appearing in print this month of June.  I have been informed that the magazine went to the printers last week, and will be appearing in hard copy on June 8th, that is today.  It includes 22 figures.  There are also numerous explicit references.

Before I provide the usual subjects and subtopic headings of what is appearing in the article, I thought I would speak to some issues. 

I also will add here that these are my opinions.  Whether you agree with them, or disagree, is up to you.
Here are three quotations that are directly germane to this discussion.

--“Your book on Korolev could play a great role…It could have international importance and must be done well.  The trouble is that in Russia there are no good publications focusing on the space program.  Everything that has been printed about the lunar program…has contained distortions.  There are people still alive who are withholding the truth, and they are still influential.”

--Georgiy Vetrov, from James Harford’s preface to his 1997 volume Korolev

Even though it is 20 years on from Vetrov’s published comments, I strongly believe that a substantive amount of the truth about the Soviet manned lunar program is still being withheld by influential people and associated institutions inside Russia, and the factual telling of the Russian prism of events still has significant omissions (which in themselves can bring on distortions).  There still is no “complete story” yet told.

--“History, especially Soviet history, is full of secrets, and very often evil [ones].”

--General Dmitri Volkogonov, notes from early 1990s during his time as participant of the US/Russian Joint POW/MIA Commission (US Library of Congress archives)

The Russians can be quite forthcoming and candid, but they do so at times and places of their own choosing.  It is up to us to provide them with as many opportunities as possible to do so.

--“Keep this in mind: It is not the business, nor obligation, of the US intelligence community to correct the public record, or public perceptions on what happened during the Cold War.  And that includes the Space Race.  However, I can tell you that the accurate, and complete story has yet to be told about what happened during the late 1960s, as well as in other segments relating to the space competition.  In the public mind, the Russians weren’t aggressive rivals racing the USA, and Apollo had a “lock” on the win.  Not true, not even close.  The true fact is that America’s lead over the USSR in putting astronauts on the lunar surface was quite precarious and fragile.  The Soviets have had a tradition since the Stalinist 1930s of committing human lives to very dangerous--and a lot of the time, incompletely tested--equipment to achieve political ends.  It is telegraphed repeatedly.  Sometimes they were able to achieve their objectives, and at other times, good men lost their lives, usually unnecessarily. Plus, the Russians through time have demonstrated a keen sense on what to take extremely high risks with, and when to, with a reasonable expectation (in their view) of the outcome.”

--Ed Cameron, one of the NSA’s “Seven Wise Men,” 2005.

When Americans who have “insider’s knowledge” from the US intelligence community (US IC) make the decision to hold forth and provide commentary, we historians have to be on our marks and recognize the significance of what we are being told.  And then, make the effort to transmit that information to the public as accurately as we can.

Even decades on, the pace of declassifying what the US intelligence community contemporaneously knew about the Soviet space program has been very slow.  Slower than I was expecting, and slower than what I think it should be.  But the antidote to this slowness is perseverance by researchers—over many, many years of accumulating evidence.

Besides new document families appearing in the public realm that I was able to access, so too are some methods of information acquisition that have either new mentions (such as a MASINT method, dealing with acoustics) or further details (as in, more historical insights about over-the-horizon radar systems during the late 1960s and early 1970s in the southwestern Asian theater of operations).  Also included are what I think are key oral recollections, previously unpublished—two American, one Russian. These too also get highlighted in my text.

I also explicitly reference where the new information comes from, so that others, if they are so inclined, can themselves “repeat the experiment.”  That too is lacking with far-too-many of the  Web-based articles on the topic of what the US intelligence community knew about the Soviet space program, including those that have appeared on The Space Review.  For a space historian, such unreferenced pieces have very limited value, if any.

That is why I personally favor publication in hard-copy periodicals, and value the same.  The publishing protocols are more professional, and lasting.  And can aid others in continuing the research efforts themselves.

There is this view by some who think the US prism of events is incorrect in that what we are seeing in the released materials and oral histories is merely a “belief system,” rather than judgements made and based on sound evidence, or judgement calls on trends made by knowledgeable analysts who have worked in the topic over many years.  No one will be able to persuade those who think that US intelligence estimations are in whole, or in greatest part, to be mere “belief statements” to be otherwise.  But I wish to highlight here why that anti-US prism interpretative view is demonstrably false.

Some people will bring up (what I call) the “GarbageINT” from the run-up to the second Iraq war as conducted by Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice of the George W. Bush administration—yes, CURVE BALL and all the rest (the United Nations presentation by then Secretary of State Colin Powell also comes to mind).  What happened there was a textbook case of Cheney and the others asking for the raw data (rather than processed intelligence, or in some cases, ignoring the processed intelligence), and making their own judgement calls to fit a predetermined narrative. 

As far as I am able to ascertain, this was not done on the Soviet space program intelligence that was gathered during the 1960s and early 1970s.  Different time frame, different type of personnel involved, a different value system held by those involved, and certainly a different attitude towards the application of the derived intelligence.  This is made especially manifest in the LBJ-era President’s Daily Brief documents.  These daily reports are very carefully worded when speaking to sleuthing out future actions by the Russians.  But all the estimations that appear in these PDBs are based on very good, solid evidence gathered via a confluence of intelligence sources and methods.  What has the greatest uncertainty are the predictions about what may happen in the future.  Such “estimations” however, are usually based on numerous data points gathered beforehand that help to delineate trends—which is what intelligence, in part, is supposed to do well.  (This is part of the “art” of intelligence interpretation.)

While intelligence reports in general do have elements of uncertainty about them, an effort is made to not only keep such uncertainty to a minimum, but also to label that uncertainty explicitly so that top policy makers can distinguish between the two things—facts, and estimations (guesses and extrapolations based on facts in hand).  That is why, where and when there is significant uncertainty, these paragraphs have labelings of “confidence levels.”  When one has a report without such labeled “confidence levels,” it usually means that the amount of uncertainty in the judgements of the report is very small, or non-existent.  And the materials referenced in my third segment of “Lifting the Veil Part 2” do not exhibit the “confidence level” labels in their content.

In closing, I fully expect that the contents that appeared in all three segments of “Lifting the Veil, Part 2” will eventually be superseded by newer, as well as more complete, information by future historians and historiographical efforts.  But this work I have completed here had to be done, now, with the materials on hand.

And now, the headings and subheadings of the third segment. Additionally, there are two added “Notes in Proof” dealing with further CIA information on December 1968 Soviet space activities relating to lunar flight, as well as NRO materials on a SIGINT satellite series (mentioned in the text, connected with Ed Cameron’s recollections about July 1969).

Lifting the Veil, Part 2:  Further Declassification Disclosures Reveal What US Intelligence Knew about the Soviet Space Program During the Space Race.  Part 3.

3.0  The “President’s Daily Brief”:  What PDBs Told President Lyndon B. Johnson About Soviet Space Activities
3.1    What the President’s Eyes Saw:  Area J—Overhead Satellite Photography of Great Clarity from both CORONA and GAMBIT 3 Programs, Hitherto Unseen
3.2    Contemporaneous Reportage As Manned Space Events Happened
3.2.1        Efforts at Forewarning, as well as Concern for Voskhod 2 Crew’s Safety Highlighted
3.2.2  The Drama of Soyuz 1
3.2.3  Preparations for a Crewed Circumlunar Mission in December 1968: The Possible Soviet Active Plan to “Go for Broke”/“Shoot the Works”  Soviet-connected, Validatory Materials Further Support Notion of December 1968 Circumlunar Shot
3.3  PDBs and the Ed Cameron Connection
4.0  Rendezvous With History:  The Latest Disclosures on Area J and the Soviet Effort to Compete With Apollo
4.1  Providing Background: Contemporaneous Comments by US Intelligence Officials on the Moon Race
4.1.1  From the Evert Clark Files
4.1.2  From the Charles S. Sheldon II Files
4.2  Melvin Laird Remembers Early July, 1969:  “I Thought the Soviets Would ‘Go Up’”
4.3  “Still Highly Classified”:  Intelligence Compartmentalization and the Dissemination of Information about the Sensitive “J Vehicle” Rocket
4.4    Sleuthing in the Murk: Unclear Intelligence and the 19-22 February 1969 Area J Firing Attempt
4.4.1  NSA SIGINT Summaries Highlight Uncertainty of Area J Event Activity Interpretation
4.4.2  Was RADINT Involved?  Facts and Speculations
4.4.3  Post-February 1969: Evidence of the US IC Looking for a Two-rocket Countdown
4.5  US Pieces of the Soviet Puzzle:  New Insights on the July 3, 1969 Area J Launch Attempt
4.5.1  NSA Reportage of Tracking Ships Going On Station: Space Vehicle Recovery Ships in the Pacific?
4.5.2  CIA Documentation Reveals New Details of What Data US IC Analysts Gathered, and their Early Conclusions 
4.5.3        Initial NSA Reports on the Area J Launch Failure
4.5.4  The Recollections of Ed Cameron: An Eyewitness to Moon Race History, and Its Subsequent US IC Analyses
4.6.  New Russian Disclosures Point to Hitherto Unexpected Data on Launch Plans and Payloads, Bolstering Segments of the US Prism of Expected Events of 1969
4.6.1  The Recollections of TMKB Soyuz Engineer Oleg Sokolov
4.6.2        “Apollo 7 Launch Plans”: Soviet Perceptions of the American Moonlanding Timetable, and Its Potentiality as Significant Driver of the Area J Launch Schedule 
4.7  Contemporaneous Media Reports of the Anticipated Mission , and Its Aftermath
4.7.1        The Mystery of Soviet Journalist Victor Louis: “Used in Various Unofficial Ways by the Soviet Government”
5.0  Conclusion:  The State of “the State of the Art”
6.0  Acknowledgements
Appendix “A.”  The Nixon and Ford PDBs:  Uncovering Further Surprise Pieces of the Space Race Mosaic
Appendix “B.”   New, Unexpected Details of Soviet Space Activities Revealed from Declassified August 1969 Documents
Appendix “C.”   Declassified Documents Confirm OTH Radar Monitoring of Tyuratam, and Reveal CIA Expectations of December 1968 Soviet Crewed Circumlunar Timetable

Copies of the Space Chronicle issue can be ordered on-line at the British Interplanetary Society’s website on the appropriate drop-down menu window.

« Last Edit: 06/08/2018 01:59 PM by Flying Spaghetti Monster »

Offline Magic

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For those following along at home, the “Lifting the Veil” series of articles by Mr. Pesavento are listed below:
-Lifting the Veil: What US Intelligence knew in the 1960s about the Soviet Space Programme
JBIS Space Chronicle (entire issue called Lifting the Veil) Vol 60 Supplement 2,  2007 pp. 48-87
-Lifting the Veil, Part 2: Further Declassification Disclosures Reveal What US Intelligence Knew About the Soviet Space Program During the Space Race - Part 1
JBIS Space Chronicle (General Issue) Vol 70 Supplement 2,  2017 pp. 56-73
-Lifting the Veil, Part 2: Further Declassification Disclosures Reveal What US Intelligence Knew About the Soviet Space Program During the Space Race - Part 2
JBIS Space Chronicle (General Issue) Vol 70 Supplement 3,  2017 pp. 101-118
Further declassification disclosures reveal what US Intelligence knew about the Soviet space program during the Space Race – part 3*
JBIS Space Chronicle Vol 71 Supplement 2,  2018 pp. 50-90
As additional Nixon/Ford administration documents are declassified, more will likely follow, but hopefully under less confusing titles.  :)

Offline Magic

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With regard to reference 95 in Lifting the Veil, Part 2, Part 2; wish to direct the author's (Mr. Pesavento) attention to an interesting correspondence published in the July 2000 issue of Spaceflight from Saunders Kramer on page 308.     

Offline Archibald

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However, I can tell you that the accurate, and complete story has yet to be told about what happened during the late 1960s, as well as in other segments relating to the space competition.  In the public mind, the Russians weren’t aggressive rivals racing the USA, and Apollo had a “lock” on the win.  Not true, not even close.  The true fact is that America’s lead over the USSR in putting astronauts on the lunar surface was quite precarious and fragile. 

Fact is, while Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 were immense triumphs, the Soviets somewhat tried to diminish / downplay that prestige. Their strategy was to attack it from different sides.

Example 1
Zond. Lunar flyby is of course nothing like Apollo 8 or Apollo 11. Yet had a crewed Zond bet Apollo 8 to cislunar space, it would have been a symbolical victory for the Soviet Union. Of course it soon would have been dwarfed and utterly crushed by Apollo 11. don't get me wrong, there is no question about that !
Zond at least got a symbolic victory: first living beings around the moon in september 1968. But who cares about tortoises and worms ?  ;D

Example 2
Luna sample return. "How I, the Soviet Union,  got lunar samples at far lower cost and risking no human lives"

Example 3
Mishin's L3M. "Sure, Apollo 11 bet us to the lunar surface by three years - L3 would have been ready by 1972 at best. So what ? Apollo was rushed, and good for nothing. L3M will crush it in capabilities, and get a Moonbase running in the early 80's."
For the record, L3M started in 1970, got big political support in 1972, and even Glushko killing of the N-1 did not stopped it: Glushko just rebranded it for Energiya and kept working on it until 1978, when Buran finally prevailed.
« Last Edit: 08/25/2018 08:06 AM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...