Posts Tagged ‘USSR’

The space race was big news and in 1960, Komarov was picked, a Soviet test pilot and aerospace engineer, he was picked to be a cosmonaut. He was going to be one of the first man to go into low-earth orbit; alongside him was Yuri Gagarin, he was the first human that went into space.

The USSR decided to be brave several years later or just criminally reprehensible. They wanted to capture a docking between two Soviet spaceships in space. The Soyuz 1 would carry one cosmonaut and a second would have two more and one in space both spaceships would dock. The men would then switch spacecrafts and one would return to earth, a plan doomed from its very creation.

Soyuz 1 was to be Komarov’s craft, he knew it was doomed and so did a great many but the officials were going ahead with it regardless. Komarov knew it was pretty much a suicide mission, he also knew however that if he backed out his friend Gagarin was next to go in.

Komarov and Gagarin both showed up on April 23rd, 1967. This is the same year the US lost three astronauts in the Apollo fire. Gagarin apparently made strange demands and demanded a pressure suit, some through he may have intended to delay the launch. The mission went off according to the plan, well until Soyuz 1 made it to space. The ship did not operate properly and did not have enough fuel, one of the solar panels was compromised and when the capsule set for descent the parachutes did not open.

The parachutes failing and then their back-up entangling with a canopy meant to fill the larger spelt the demise of Komarov. The exact conversation has never been disclosed by the USSR, an unofficial account says in a sate of hysteria when he spoke with Alexsei Kosygin, a high ranking official, who cried with him saying that he was a national hero. He had a brief call with his wife about what to tell their children and they both plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere. It hit the ground with the force of a 2.8 ton meteorite. Some also say that he died screaming and cursing the people who contributed to his death.

His charred and unrecognisable body was then recovered and given an open casket, state sponsored funeral with military honours. It is worth mentioning again at this stage the stories about the alleged conversations and curses are speculation and probably just urban legend. What is worth mentioning is his incredible bravery and contribution to science and the exploration of space.

Fallen Astronaut.jpg
By NASA – Original image at http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/as15-88-11894HR.jpg Another: http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/caption_direct.jsp?photoId=AS15-88-11894, Public Domain, Link

 

Advertisements

So its that time! Time to look at communication, specifically an old over-the-horizon radar system called the Duga from the former Soviet Union (Russia/Ukraine for the purposes of this article.) Over The Horizon (OTH) or Beyond The Horizon (BTH) are radar systems for long range use. Most were used in the 1950’s and 1960’s because they were early warning systems, just think about the Cold War and the idea of it being a necessity; the ones I am looking at here are the Duga system but they were used all over the world and still are, if modern reports online are correct. I am no expert so correct me where you can if I get things wrong.

The system operated from July 1976 up until December 1989, there were two deployed in Chernobyl and Chernihiv. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine and Chernihiv is Siberian. They were powerful and appeared without warning, sounding like a repetitive tapping on 10Hz, they became nicknamed by the listeners as the Russian Woodpecker.

They seemed to pop up pretty randomly and could interrupt legitimate broadcasting and all variations of stations. Complaints were sent in about them but I can’t imagine it being easy to prevent them. Some of the radio and television users began including blockers in the circuit to try and filter out interruption.

The first type of Duga was built in the Ukraine and did successfully detect rocket launchers from 2,500 kilometres. With its success they worked on the larger project. The first signal was picked up in 1976 and amatuer radio users gave it the name woodpecker, some people had reported it as early as 1963. Regardless of the date the Russian Woodpecker was traced back to the Soviet Union. The sources were found in Kiev, Minsk, Chernobyl, Gomel and Chernihiv but eventually narrowed down through speculation has been made that there was more than one transmitter. Wireless World, 1977 muses that along with the OTH system the Russians might be trying to utilise radar returns or another source that worked along side it, or around two or more spots.

I wondered if this was plausible or were we just putting more technical knowledge to that in retrospect or are we accepting that NATO might not have been entirely accurate? The NATO name for DUGA-1 is quoted as STEEL YARD, some sources also use STEELWORK. It is officially recorded name may well be different but not disclosed for security purposes.

Some points of interest are that they realised when listening that it was not used as a form of jamming because Moscow and pro-Soviet Stations were also caught by it, so it couldn’t be reliable enough for that. The signal used three repetition rates of 10Hz, 16Hz and 20Hz, but the most common was 10. They used a fairly wide bandwidth, usually 40Khz.

An attempt to stop the signals causing interruptions came along, one of the ways was tor try and use signals at the same pulsing rate, people formed a club called The Russian Woodpecker Hunting Club. The transmissions slowed down in the 1980’s by 1989 they had disappeared. This slow down and eventual end does coincide with the Cold War closing down, the official end being 8th December 1971 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Another factor in the close would be a further advancement in early warning systems, satellite systems are far more advanced and less likely to be affected by adverse weather.

The original Duga system was experimental and it lies outside of the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. It was restored in 2002 after it was badly damaged by fire. As of October 2013 there is a possibility to visit the Ukrainian site via tour operators for Chernobyl who know how to get the correct paperwork.

For those who like modern reference here are some ways the Duga has been imported into modern media.

If, like me, you enjoy games like Metro Last Light or S.T.A.L.K.E.R then you may already know this… Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a heavy feature in S.T.A.L.K.E.R and specifically around the nuclear accident. The Duga array is in Clear Sky after the main campaign game. It is in the fictional city of Limansk-13 you can see it and visit it in game. The ‘Brain Scorcher’, a military installation, is inspired by the idea that Duga-1 was used for mind-control.

Call of Duty:Black Ops the map ‘Grid’ is placed in Pripyat and the array can be seen in game there too.

A documentary by Chad Garcia looks into the Chernobyl disaster and the potential links to the structure. The documentary interviews people directly involved in the building and operation of the installation.