from the life of the full member of the Russian Academy
of Sciences Yuri Pavlovich Semenov, President and
Designer General of the S.P.Korolev Rocket and Space
The first steps of Yuri Semenov
in the field of rocket and space technology are associated
with the town of Dnepropetrovsk where, in the Special
Design Bureau 586 headed by M.K.Yangel, initially (from
1955), he received his practical training, and? subsequently
(from 1958), upon graduating from the Dnepropetrovsk
State University, he worked. The young specialist was
often sent on business trips to the Special Design
Bureau 1 which was working on the first long-range
ballistic missiles in our country.
Of course, it was very interesting and prestigious
for a young specialist to get transferred to an organization
like this. In 1963, such a job offer was made to Yu.P.Semenov
by S.P.Korolev himself. And what a job it was - the deputy
lead designer for the new Soyuz spacecraft! This event
shaped his destiny: for more than 40 years now his life
has been dedicated to space flight and inextricably linked
with the organization, which, at different times, was called
Special Design Bureau No.1, Central Design Bureau of Experimental
Engineering, NPO Energia, and at ppresent is called S.P.Korolev
In the now remote 1960s the team of the
Special Design Bureau No.1 was working hard opening up
one after another virtually all the fields in the domestic
rocket technology and the world space science known today.
tortoises - the first living things to fly around
the Moon onboard Zond 5 spacecraft
The work was characterized by the diversity
and multiplicity of projects: world's first manned spacecraft
Vostok and Voskhod, first scientific research satellites
Elektron-1 and Elektron-2, world's first interplanetary
probes Zond-1, Luna, Venera, Mars, first Earth remote sensing
satellites Zenit,, communications satellites Molniya-1,
an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear
warhead (R-7), which subsequently became the prototype
for the long-living and world's most reliable launch vehicle
Soyuz. first domestic solid-propellant intercontinental
missiles 8k95, 9k98. At the developmental phase at htat
time were launcher/spacecraft systems N1--L3 for manned
missions to the Moon and L1 for lunar fly-by.
In 1967 Yuri Semenov becomes the lead designer for manned
spacecraft 7K-L1 (Zond) developed to test the technology
for returning to Earth a spacecraft flying with escape
velocity, and for manned lunar fly-by. The results of this
program were the first photographs of Earth as seen from
the Moon, and umanned Zond-5 (1968) flew around the Moon
and its descent vehicle splashed down in the Indian Ocean.
The company was already working on the multi-purpose space
station. At the same time the design bureau was working
on the military space station (similar to the American
At the time the United States focused on the development
of space station Skylab. The launch was set for mid-1972.
The Soviet Union was clearly lagging behind in this high-priority
area. In order to catch up, the Central Design Bureau for
Experimental Engineering set up a team of its leading specialists
who confirmed the feasibility of creating on short notice
a space station for scientific and civilian applications.
Yu.P.Semenov was appointed the Chief Designer for long-term
In January 1970, the configuration of the future space
station became clear. In a short period of time, its basic
construction principles and the tasks to be addressed in
that project were defined.
|Mir space station
The first space station Salyut, built on
an unprecedented tight schedule, started its operation
in orbit on April 19, 1971. The Skylab space station (USA)
was launched on May 14, 1973.
After the manned lunar program was canceled
in 1970, the work on the orbital stations became one of
the major areas of activity for the Central Design Bureau.
In May of 1974, based on the Central Design Bureau for
Experimental Engineering, the Scientific and Production
Association (Russian acronym - NPO) Energia was established,
and academician V.P.Glushko, an outstanding scientist and
the farther of our country's liquid propulsion technology,
was appointed its director and general designer.
On December 26, 1974, a second-generation
space station Salyut-4 was put into orbit. The next year,
1975, became the the year of the Soviet-US Apollo-Soyuz
Test Project (ASTP). There were debates in the engineering
community about advisability of discontinuing the mission
to the Soviet space station for the period of the ASTP
implementation. That idea counted among its supporters
the general designer V.P.Glushko. However, Yu.P.Semenov
consider suspension of the space station program inadvisable.
Subsequent events have born out the decision that was
made, since it provided a first invaluable experience in
controlling two manned vehicles in orbit.
In 1976, for the development of the Salyut-4 space station,
Yu.P.Semenov was awarded the title of the Hero of Socialist
The main focus of NPO Energia general designer
V.P.Glushko during his first years in that position was
on developing a family of medium to super-heavy space launch
vehicles featuring commonality of design. Considered as
payloads for such launch vehicles were a suite of spacecraft
for lunar exploration and an advanced large space station.
At the same time, the principal area of the company's activities
remained the work on the space stations and their further
development. Radically new solutions by Yu.P.Semenov and
his colleagues (K.P.Feoktistov and V.S.Ovchinnikov) for
refueling the space station propulsion system in flight
opened up new possibilities. The concept of a space station
with a second docking unit was developed, which allowed
to replenish the space station with propellant and consumables
using specially designed logistics vehicles (which were
later named Progress), as well as to perform crew rotation
when two Soyuz spacecraft are simultaneously in orbit.
fruitful work in the field of manned space flight development
was appreciated by the management. In January 1978 he
was appointed a deputy general designer of NPO Energia,
the chief designer for space vehicles and stations, director
of the international cooperation program, and in April
he was awarded a Lenin Prize for the development of the
Salyut-Soyuz-Progress orbital complex. In 1980, under
his direction, an integrated program of NPO Energia activities
was drawn up emphasizing the development of orbital systems.
In late 1970s Yu.P.Semenov
singles out as the high-priority task the development
of manned transportation spacecraft Soyuz T featuring
a digital control loop. The first manned mission of this
spacecraft was accomplished as early as 1980.
There were some extreme
situations which called for a resolution. Thus, on February
11, 1985, during an unmanned mission phase, communications
with the space station was lost due to an error made
by a controller at the Mission Control Center. To restore
its operation, the problem of docking a manned spacecraft
with a "non-cooperating target" had
to be solved. And once again, under the direction of Yu.P.Semenov
different options were looked into. As the result, cosmonauts
V.A.Dzhanibekov and V.P.Savinykh who were flying Soyuz
T-13 rendezvoused and docked with the space station in
the manual control mode using targeting from the ground.
The space station was put into operation.
Those were the years of the rapid development
of the reusable space transportation system Energia-Buran.
The maximum use of the experience in the development of
manned spacecraft and the highest level of managerial and
technical supervision over the development of the Buran
orbiter were required, and that was why at the end of 1981,
at the designer general V.P.Glushko's insistence, the activities
in this particular field were headed by the chief designer
for orbital stations and space vehicles Yu.P.Semenov.
Buran was the largest of all the space projects completed
earlier. It involved participation of about two MILLION
people at more than a thousand subcontractors in the former
Soviet Union. Developmental testing of the system elements
continued 24 hours a day/7 days a week for about 1600 days.
NPO Energia was the prime contractor and integrator for
the entire effort.
In 1987, at V.P.Glushko's recommendation, our country's
top scientists elected Yu.P.Semenov a Corresponding Member
of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
On November 15, 1988, Buran orbiter successfully flew
in unmanned automatic mode. The technical manager of the
final phase of the program was Yu.P.Semenov. In two successful
launches the Energia-Buran system has proven its unique
performance. But in 1992 the project was terminated since
it was way ahead of the current needs of our country's
In spite of high workload associated with the Buran project,
Yu.P.Semenov continued to further develop the uses of manned
space stations. On January 10, 1989, V.P.Glushko died and
Yu.P.Semenov was appointed General Designer of NPO Energia,
and in 1991 he was appointed the General Director and General
Designer of NPO Energia. That was the last appointment
of general designer in the USSR at the top government level.
Yuri Semenov assumed the leadership of the company at
the moment when the funding, while remaining centralized
was continuously dwindling and nobody could yet imagine
that within a mere half a year this most technologically
advanced industry would start to crumble, and its preservation
would become the heavy burden he would have to carry.
During and after the days of the August,
1991 coup d'etat, NPO Energia, just as the entire rocket
and space industry, found itself in a critical situation.
Organizations that for many years had been instrumental
in maintaining the country's defense complex at the state-of-the-art
level, in assuring progress in science, technology and
national economy. were blamed for every conceivable shortcoming
and problem, for the approaching economic and environmental
disasters and so on, and so forth…
It was in this environment that Yu.P.Semenov,
being aware of the awesome responsibility for continuing
the life-work of his great predecessors who dedicated their
lives to the development of our country's rocket and space
technology and the establishment of one of the most outstanding
scientific schools in the world, rose to defend Russia's
manned space attainments.
In spite of the incredibly difficult political and economic
environment, he took active steps to give the company the
status that would allow it to continue working on projects
within its field of expertise in the new environment.
The situation was aggravated by the fact that Baikonur
launch site was transferred under the jurisdiction of Kazakhstan.
Yu.P.Semenov had meet with the Kazakhstan leaders and conduct
very difficult negotiations at various levels before virtually
every manned launch in order to coordinate the activities
(so as to avoid ruining the schedules and failing to meet
As the chairman of the Council of Chief Designers and
technical manager of Russia's manned programs, Yu.P.Semenov,
working for the last 15 years in a new political and economic
environment, has been sparing no effort to preserve and
further develop unique scientific and technological potential
of the company, to carry out the federal space program.
It is hardly unlikely that anyone will ever beat a sort
of a record established by Yu.P.Semenov in the field of
manned space flight programs: he supervised preparations,
launch and operation of 11 space stations and modules,
72 manned spacecraft and 106 unmanned logistics spacecraft.
Altogether, he saw off to space more than 170 cosmonauts
In July 2000, RSC Energia,
being the organization in Russia that is responsible
for the integration of the Russian segment into the International
Space Station (ISS), launched the Russian Service Module
Zvezda, which is the key element providing to the Space
Station the capability to fly in the permanently manned
mode. And in June 2002, the docking compartment/module
Pirs started its operation within ISS, which made it
possible for a second manned spacecraft Soyuz to operate
within the Space Station, and for the crew to go on space
walks wearing Russian spacesuits.
In the early 1990s,
on Yu.P.Semenov's initiative, an effort was started
to develop a space launcher system which would assure
optimal expenditure of energy for spacecraft insertion
into low Earth orbit in view of the emerging geopolitical
situation and constraints on the use of launch sites
caused by the need to reserve land for impact areas of
jettisoned rocket stages. Singling out the development
of a sea-based launcher system as one of the ways to
solve this problem, Yu.P.Semenov initiated preliminary
studies of this concept in December 1991.
Eight years later,
on March 28, 1999, the first demo launch of the Demosat
spacecraft was carried out from the sea-going launch
platform Odyssey. The launch and insertion of the spacecraft
into its target orbit were accomplished without any anomalies,
with the highest degree of precision marking the start
of operation of the unique launch complex. The first
commercial launch of the DirecTV spacecraft in October
of the same year opened a new page in the history of
commercial transnational use of space launchers. As of
March 1, 2005, there have been 15 commercial launches
of spacecraft under this program.
system Sea Launch
The Sea launch system has won recognition
as the best engineering project of the late 20th century.
the work is also continuing on new manned systems and
vehicles (Russian high-latitude orbital station, manned
reusable spacecraft and logistics systems). The project
that has progressed to an advanced stage is a reusable
six-seat manned spacecraft Clipper, a full-size design
mockup of which is being built at the company's manufacturing
plant. The project is complemented by proposals on the
advanced system Parom for space station logistics support.
It attracted interest of a number of potential partners
from abroad and is under Yuri Semenov's special control.
The Corporation's plans include projects of manned missions
to the Moon and planets of the solar system that are at
the phase of exploratory designs. They are infused with
new insights born in the minds of a new generation of designers,
whose training and career planning are a subject of a special
attention of Yu.P.Semenov.
The list of all the interesting new space projects that
were and are conducted under Yuri Semenov's direction is
very long, but his work as the head RSC Energia goes beyond
Addressing the problem of the use of the
unique scientific and technological potential, Yu.P.Semenov
pays special attention to diversification programs aimed
at putting space technologies to work in everyday life,
among which the use of space power systems in national
economy, development of orthopedic prosthetic appliances
and consumer goods.
His determination to give disabled
persons a chance to return to active life was instrumental
in quickly setting up production of state-of-the-art
orthopedic prosthetic devices for the first time in our
country. That was what allowed the President of Russia
V.V.Putin to hold at RSC Energia an all-Russia conference
on the development of Russian industry for disabled persons.
of reusable manned spacecraft Clipper
RSC Energia works together with the AvtoVAZ
company on the second prototype of an environmentally friendly
electric car with a fuel cell power generator running on
oxygen and hydrogen.
RSC Energia on the threshold of its 60th
anniversary, just as in the time of Sergei Korolev, is
once again capable of developing the world's most advanced
rocket and space technologies in any area of the modern
space flight. And credit for this should be given to general
designer Yu.P.Semenov who dedicated to rocket and space
technology 47 years of his life, out of which 41 years
were dedicated to manned space flight.
(73), April 11-17, 2005