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ENERGIA's driving force

Pages 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 Corporation Energia.

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 RSC Energia.

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.

Examination of 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 MOL).

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 orbital stations..

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 Labor.

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.

Yu.P.Semenov's 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.

Buran orbiter

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 space science.

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 international commitments)

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 and astronauts.

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.

Space launcher 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 it.

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.

Full-scale mockup 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.

Vladimir STRELNIKOV

"FeldPochta" No.13 (73), April 11-17, 2005

 

 

 

 

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