[FPSPACE] Special Announcement of a New Publication
pjp961 at svol.net
Mon Jul 3 07:55:39 EDT 2017
The latest issue of the British Interplanetary Society periodical "Space
Chronicle" is scheduled to publish in mid-July, and contains an article I
wrote. This will be Volume 70, Supplement 2, 2017.
Its overall title is:
Lifting the Veil, Part 2: Further Declassification Disclosures Reveal What
US Intelligence Knew about the Soviet Space Program During the Space Race
It is the first part of a multi-part serialization on the theme of what the
US intelligence community knew contemporaneously about events during the
Space Race between the USSR and USA, from the 1950s up through the early
In my view, there are two parts to the Soviet/Russian space history
chronology. There is the Russian historical canon segment, and there is also
the American intelligence-community-perspective side of the Soviet space
story. You might call them "the US pieces of the Soviet Puzzle."
Much of what historians and historiographers have in hand comes from Russian
published sources, as well it should. But until recently, the historical
canon on what the Americans knew about the Soviet space program was quite
spotty at best. Too much of the information in hand was either heavily
redacted, or unavailable in declassified format.
This multi-part article is an extended overview of some of the
contemporaneous results to fill in the gaps (and highlight the resulting
document acquisitions) on the American side of the record, as to what the
USSR space activities were, and how they were executed.
Readers will notice that the newly disclosed American record about Soviet
space events covered in this article serialization much of the time
substantially diverges from the Russian historical canon, and many current
Russian disclosures. Elsewhere, the US historical canon amplifies (at
times, very extensively) upon what Russian-sourced histories currently
Why the divergence? There are no doubt a number of reasons. For me, I
personally think it is (in very large part) because of the fact that there
are many "memory holes" in the Russian space history telling, and some of
the time the Russians were not very good record-keepers of their own
statistics. Other adjunct factors include Russian secrecy rules still "on
the books," as well as bureaucratic intransigence towards the idea of
broad-spectrum declassification of old materials-while those accurate
records remain locked away in filing cabinets in basements of engineering
collectives that rarely have visitors.
Indeed, US records about Soviet space activities (as can be seen via the
declassified documentation) were very exacting and precise, a reflection of
the overall applied meticulousness, as well professional analysis and
interpretation. As readers will see in Part 1 (and in the other upcoming
serialized segments), the US IC analysts even corrected Soviet press
announcements as to timing benchmarks (when something arrived in orbit,
impacted or landed on the lunar surface, returned to Earth, etc.), cosmonaut
activities (disclosed and undisclosed), spacecraft mission highlights
(achievements claimed and unclaimed), and so on. The materials were
gathered with a spectrum of techniques-among them telemetry intercepts,
communications intercepts, radar returns, seismographic and infrasound
information, satellite remote sensing, as well as "good ol' five fingers and
eyeballs" acquisitions (human intelligence sources).
The reason for all this effort at meticulousness is that the US analysts had
to strive to be very sure. As sure as they could be. The USA's safety and
security were riding on their assessments. The amount of uncertainty had to
be reduced to as close to insignificance (near to zero) as they could
possibly make it. A great deal of the time, this was reasonably achieved;
and sometimes, no.
One can ask whether the US IC got things wrong. Yes, at times they did. But
never as often as those things that the US analysts got right. Indeed, in
regards to Soviet space and other high-tech endeavors, the ratio seems to
be-based on my personal reading of thousands of declassified documentation
examples-roughly near 90%+ correct and less than 10% incorrect.
And I think that this is a pretty good result, considering the penchant of
Soviet officials and media outlets to be secretive and misleading in trend
during the Cold War.
However, based on my own reading of declassified materials, the noted
mistakes were due much less to misinterpretation of intelligence-intercepted
information (that, on occasion, could cause error), but rather from the
effort to derive intent and purpose, as well as from attempting to figure
out Soviet policy trends (and goals) for upcoming time swaths of interest.
Bear in mind that some US prognostications were based on (at times) sparse
"dots on the graph" (keep in mind what intelligence documents are supposed
to do-estimate where things will be in "X" (weeks, months or years) time
frame from now-which top level decision makers in the US government need so
they can make the proper policy decisions). Other erroneous conclusions
came from attempting to analogize Soviet processes of
experimentation/engineering pathways of application with those trends found
in the US experiential base. But even here, when new, superceding
information was gathered by US IC analysts, the old misinterpretations were
thrown out fairly quickly, and the new, more accurate ones put in their
I hope that space historians can now begin--with the aid of these new
declassified materials--what I term the attempt to "reconcile" the two
historical canons. Where there are pieces missing in one narrative, these
can be found in the other. And where there remains missing segments in both
canons, this will be an opportunity to conduct further research.
In addition to the all-new disclosures from declassified documentation, the
overall piece includes graphics/illustrations never before published in an
open-sourced publication. Indeed, there are significant illustration
contributions from Russian sources as well, in particular materials from
personal scrapbooks. Among such materials in Part 1, for example, are the
video transmits from orbit of the first manned Voskhod mission.
I should also add here that this article serialization can be viewed as the
"current, yet interim" report on what declassification has revealed.
Currently, I have pending more than 200 Mandatory Declassification Review
(or MDR, these are not FOIA) cases, of which approximately 100 are currently
with the Inter-Agency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the
final arbiter (kind of like the Supreme Court of declassification for the US
Government, and they are located in Washington, DC) of what gets released.
So over time, more information on Soviet space activities will be
forthcoming. The total number of documents in these cases of mine undergoing
appellate declassification review processing is probably in the neighborhood
of close to 1,000 reports-give or take.
To preview the content of Part 1, here are the titles of the sections
therein. (There are also nine figures accompanying.)
1.0 A New Era of Soviet Space Historiography-Hard Won
2.0 Out of Secrecy Blackness, A Startling Mosaic of Unknown
History-Rectifying Mistold Soviet Records and Histories
2.1 Ignoring the Signals: NSA, Sputnik, and the (Neglected) Use of Soviet
Communications Journals as Early Forewarning
2.2 Intercepting Video Transmissions of Laika from Sputnik
2-Contra-indicating Soviet Histories
2.3 New Data on Lunar Programs: Luna 9 Dethroned, and Other Revelations
from US Intelligence Records
2.4 Vostok/Voskhod, Soyuz, Manned Precursors, and "Number 20"
2.4.1 Vostok Monitoring-On the Ground, In the Ocean, Plus COMINT Revealing
a Hitherto Unknown Psychological Crisis In Space in 1962
2.4.2 Voskhod and Cosmos 110 Disclosures Revise Mission Histories
2.4.3 Soyuz 1 Revelations: Biotelemetry Intercepts on State of Komarov's
Health; Hints Death Happened After Re-entry Interface; Ship Deployments
Indicate Option Open to Fulfill Mission for Several Weeks Afterward; NSA
Documentation Highlights COMINT
2.4.4 SIGINT Supremacy: What US IC Intercept Captures Told About Cosmoses
133 and 212
As I mentioned previously, keep in mind that additional serialized parts
will be published by the BIS, and when those are "on the cusp" of appearing
in print, I will provide updates. The subject matter will include military
themes, what the US IC knew about Soviet rocketry and space endeavors in the
1950s (this new material is an update of my "Before Sputnik" two-part paper
that appeared 2010 and 2011), what Soviet space materials actually reached
the daily notice of the US Presidents, as well as further new documentation
disclosures on the Soviet manned lunar projects. In addition, there will be
a few article side-bars that will contain disclosures on focused topics that
are linked to subjects in the main text.
I hope that readers will find this article serialization informative and
For those of you who wish to obtain print or electronic copies, please
contact the BIS on their home Web page http://www.bis-space.com/ , where
they have instructions about how to order their publications.
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