"Kosmonauts" on the seven seas

30 enero 2007

Until 1992, the Russian Navy kept a fleet of about twelve tracking ships in every ocean of the world. These giant ships formed part of the infrastructure of control centres and measurement points for soviet spaceflight operations. As part of their duties, the ships gave assistance to important space programs as Soyuz, Progress or Buran flights.

Kosmonavt Vladimir Komarov, Kosmonavt Yuri Gagarin or Akademik Sergei Korolyov, were some of the vessels which sailed the Baltic sea, the Artic or the north Atlantic in order to guarantee space missions success. According to witnesses, "the unusual applied naval architecture of these vessels was connected with the powerful aerial system, which drew everybody’s attention".

"Both the aerial system itself and the scientific laboratory equipment place exacting technological standards upon the navigability of these vessels, which are to be employed in all the regions of the World Ocean, under any weather conditions and in any season".

The progress of space exploration demanded to widen the zone of radio visibility of the land commanding instrumentation, as spaceships went out of monitoring zone while orbiting the Earth. To solve the problem, Russians de¬cided to lace the equipment aboard the vessels, including telemetry stations, power-supply units, and uni¬versal time apparatus.

On november 15th, 1988, Buran spacecraft was in communication with mission control in Kaliningrad during the entire mission using a combination of tracking ships and satellites. The ships Volkov and Belyayev were stationed in the south Atlantic. The Marshall Nedelin was stationed off the coast of Chile and the Dobrovolski was stationed to the west of the Nedelin's position.

Thanks to the tracking ships, Buran made its first orbit over the pacific, South America, the South Atlantic, Africa, the USSR and back to the Pacific.

Finally, most of the vessels of the Marine Space Fleet were struck off because of the disintegration of the USSR. The vessels "Kosmonavt Yuri Gagarin" and "Akademik Sergei Korolyov", registred at the sea port of Odessa, became the property of the Ukraine, and in July 1996 they were sold out as crap metal to India.

At present only 2 vessels are left, which can be used properly: the "Kosmonavt Victor Patsaev" and the "Kosmonavt Georgi Dobrovolsky".

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 / Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

See also: Yuanwang, the chinese tracking ship / and: The Caspian sea monster