TZUP - Spaceflight Control Centre

by Peter Gülzow

last updated on 08 January 96

The Mission Control Centre (MCC) is situated in Kaliningrad in the vicinity of Moscow and operated by NPO Energia. Built in 1973, the MCC practically controls the missions of the MIR and Salyut orbital stations, Soyuz TM space ferries, Progress space trucks, space-flying science kits for orbital complexes, reuseable space shuttle Buran and Venus , Mars , Zond , Vega , Phobos and other unmanned spaceprobes.

Leonid Labutin (UA3CR), Peter Gülzow (DB2OS) and Sergej Samburov (RV3DR) at the MCC

The spaceflights are actually managed by numerous experts in control, space technology, ballistics, telemetry, communications, automated control, tracking systems, and by experts of scientific institutions who share the experiment and research. The flight of the orbital complex MIR is controlled in two rooms of the centre. The Main Control Room is in charge for the station MIR , other two handle Soyus TM ferries and Progress trucks. The Main Control Room in the new building was used for Buran and will be used for the International Space Station Alpha .

MCC Main Control Room

A huge visual display in the centre of the Main Control Room is used to show the current position of the spacecraft in orbit, it´s ground track, tracking stations and other information. Screens on the left and right side can be used for images beamed by TV cameras from space or other tracking and navigation maps. On top there are several digital and character displays for actual mission elapsed time, counters, telemetry data, orbital characteristics, etc. The large screens are mostly used for general reference. Specific information comes directly to each individual controller´s computer screen and display unit.

These pictures were taken while the German Cosmonaut Thomas Reiter was talking live via TV to children at the "Kanzlerfest" in Kön/Bonn. Children (left screen) could ask questions to the MIR crew (right screen) in realtime. They were assisted by Ulf Merbold, who already flew on the Space Shuttle and the MIR space station.

At 13:45 local time there will be another visible MIR pass and Peter Gülzow (DB2OS) is preparing to talk live to the Cosmonauts and Thomas Reiter using internal communication (not ham radio).

On the right picture you see the Mission Director standing up and talking to the Cosmonauts. Unfortunatly there were some technical problems and our planned talk had to be delayed. A visible pass is very short, so we ran out of time to make a contact. However, there were plenty of time to talk directly to other Cosmonauts during my stay.

If you ever see the MCC and wonder who put the AMSAT Phase-3D sticker in the Main Control Room, than now you know who it was...

Peter Gülzow (DB2OS) is presenting the AMSAT-DL Journal and other gifts to Sergej Samburov (RV3DR)

Dr. Valery Polyakov (U3MIR) arrived on MIR on Soyus-TM 18 in January 1994 and returned to Earth on Soyus-TM 20 on March 21, 1995. He lived in orbit for more than 438 days, a world record!

Polyakov's first flight onboard the Russian MIR Space Station was from August 29, 1988 until April 27, 1989. The third generation station MIR was launched on February 20, 1986 and is the first permanent space station. Except for two brief periods (July 1986 - February 1987, April - September 1989), Russian cosmonauts have lived aboard MIR continously for the past 10 years, demonstrating proven experience in space station operations. The complex presently weights nearly 100 tons, and consists of the MIR core, the KVANT , KVANT-2, KRISTALL and SPEKTR modules. The new modules PRIRODA will be launched in 1996. The Russian-build "Stikovochnoy" Docking Module was carried and attached to MIR by the American Space Shuttle ATLANTIS on STS-74 in November 1995.

Siegmund Jähn was the first "German" cosmonaut. He flew nearly twenty years ago onboard the space orbital complex Salyut-7 in 1978.

Salyut-7 , a near twin of Salyut-6 (1977-1982) was launched in April 1982 and was home to 10 cosmonaut crew's, including six long-duration crews. The longest stay was 237 days. Salyut-7 was abandoned in 1986 (when MIR was launched) and reentered Earth's atmosphere over Argentina in 1991. Siegmund Jähn is now working for the DLR/ESA at the Mission Control Centre in Kaliningrad to coordinate and communicate with the German/ESA cosmonaut Thomas Reiter. Thomas (DF4TR) uses the ham radio callsign R0MIR when he is active onboard the space station. When he returns to earth in February 1996, Thomas Reiter will keep the record for the longest western/ESA astronaut in space.

Klaus Flade (left picture) joined the cosmonauts in the MIR space station for about a week from 17. March 1992 until 25. March 1992. Ulf Merbold (right picture), who already flew two times on the American Space Shuttle , even stayed onboard MIR for about four weeks from 3. October 1994 until 2. November 1994. Both used the ham radio station during leisure time. Klaus used the callsign DP1MIR, while Ulf operated under the crew callsign R0MIR and DP3MIR during his stay.

The left picture was taken in the Main Control Room during an live TV transmission from the MIR space station. It shows Thomas Reiter (standing up) giving detailed explanations using a small model of the MIR station. Thomas uses the Call R0MIR for his contacts to hams all over the world.

Ham Radio (Amateur Radio)

Amateur Radio on board the Space Orbital Complex MIR started in November 1988 with the third Crew. Vladimir Titov (U1MIR), Musa Manarov (U2MIR) and Valery Polyakov (U3MIR) made a lot of contacts to hams all over the world using an YAESU FT290R 2m-Transceiver with 2 Watts RF output. A small groundplane antenna was specially mounted outside of the space station. In February 1991 the transceiver was replaced by an ICOM IC228A/H with 5/25 Watts RF output. In addition a PacCom TNC-2 and IBM PC compatible "Laptop"- Computer were installed for digital Packet Radio (AX.25) operation. It could be used for direct communication, but also as a "flying Mailbox". It was demonstrated, that this was an very reliable way to exchange information with groundstations, even while the cosmonauts are sleeping. A similar system was later used for the internal communication between MIR and the Mission Control Centre. In the following years some more experiments were taken to the MIR station, including the AREMIR 2m FM/Voice/CW/Packet Radio beacon package from Austria and the German Digital-Voice-Memory Microphone. During the mission of Thomas Reiter, more ham radio equipment was delivered to the space station. It also includes new antennas and transceiver for 2m/70cm duplex operation. More than 40 cosmonauts (some counted twice, because they flew more than one time) used the amateur radio station onboard the MIR space station during the leisure time. Not only that it helps them to keep motivated due to contacts with the home planet earth, specially during long missions. It also provides some margin of security in case of an emergency.. There will always be amateur radio stations around the world, who listen to the MIR frequencies. In fact, there are certain periods when the MIR station is not visible for the groundstations in Russia or the geostationary relay satellites. All cosmonauts are getting a special training in StarCity were they are learning how to use the amateur radio station for voice and packet radio contacts. On 1. January 1993 the cosmonauts got a new series of calls, like R0MIR, R4MIR, etc.

Sergej Samburov (RV3DR) is the MIR QSL Manager and he confirms all contacts with the Space Station. He is also Chief of the Cosmonauts Amateur Radio Department RKK "Energia" . Sergej coordinates all ham radio related activities with the cosmonauts in the MIR station. He is a descendant of the famous Russian scientist and inventor of aerodynamics and rocket dynamics, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)!

The Clubstation RK3K is located in the MCC building. From here he can talk to the cosmonauts via ham radio and the cosmonauts can contact the packet radio BBS for downloading information and latest news.

This is the new three band (2m/20cm/23cm) groundplane antenna, which will be soon installed on the MIR station. Some sort of cover will protect the antenna plastic material against heating from direct sunlight. It will also protect the optical navigation instruments against light reflections.

Leonid Labutin (UA3CR) and Peter Gülzow (DB2OS) are discussing some ideas with Sergej Samburov (RV3DR) about ham radio activities onboard the MIR and the International Space Station Alpha . And indeed, another AMSAT Phase-3D sticker was placed at the wall of the RK3K clubstation.

The "Blue Room"

Before we started our tour through the Mission Control Centre , we got a detailed overview and general information presented in the "blue room" by the Chief of the Information and Public Relation Department of the MCC. The "blue room" is normaly used for foreign diplomats, business and ceremonial meetings.

You will be the next!!

My friend Alexei Matviez, who did the Russian - German/English translation for me

Let's start with our Training!


All photos and text are Copyright ©1995,96 by Peter Gülzow