Computing in the Soviet Space Program












Yurii Tiapchenko 

Yurii Tiapchenko, deputy Chief Designer and head of the Division of Onboard Information Display Systems (1993-2002) at the Specialized Experimental Design Bureau of Spacecraft Technology. To the left: instrument board of the Vostok spacecraft

Information Display Systems for Russian Spacecraft: Generations I and II


40 Years of Manned Space Flights: The Stages of Development and Characteristics of Information Display Systems for Russian Spacecraft by Yurii Tiapchenko (published as "40 let pilotiruemoi kosmonavtiki. Etapy razvitiia i osobennosti sistem otobrazheniia informatsii (SOI) otechestvennykh PKA," Problemy psikhologii i ergonomiki, no. 3 [2001]: 45-51)

Translated from the Russian by Slava Gerovitch

The First Generation

Chronometer on Vostok

Control panel on Vostok

Instrument board on Vostok

Hand controller on Vostok

Crew compartment control panel on Soyuz-7K

The first generation of IDS included systems installed on the Vostok and Voskhod spacecraft, and also individual control panels and instrument boards installed on other space ships and stations. The first generation of IDS used a number of methods and techniques of information display borrowed from aviation. At the same time, completely new designs were also developed: a compact handle for spacecraft guidance, a combined display of the current location and the landing location; a combined display of temporal parameters. In the latter, a new program-temporal method was implemented for controlling signal parameters and for issuing control instructions. The design principles of the first generation of IDS were later used in the design of EVA control panels, lock-chamber control panels, and panels for other functions.

The Second Generation

Control panel of the 3KV no. 5 spacecraft

Control panel on the spacecraft 3KV no. 5 with artificial gravity

Fueling control panel on space station Mir

The structure of IDS Pluton on space station Mir

Control panel on the central station of the Almaz complex

The second generation of IDS implemented compression of the "command-information field" with the matrix method of control object selection and the multi-channel method of displaying information about the parameters of controlled devices. Russian piloted spacecraft are distinguished by the high degree of automation of control. Such systems typically operate with binary signal information and discrete control of onboard systems and flight regimes. For this reason, the development of IDS for Russian spacecraft has been closely connected with a search for methods and means for displaying large amounts of information and issuing a large number of commands. As a result, there appeared manual control devices with the matrix method of control object selection and with signal information representation in both the compressed and the decompressed forms.

For example, the control panel of the 3KV no. 5 spacecraft implemented an original design for a double channel of manual control. Push-button controls are located around the perimeter of the command-signal field. Either one of the cosmonauts (sitting on the right or on the left) or both can work with this panel. This design uses minimal hardware redundancy, while substantially increasing the reliability of the manual control loop.


Control panel on Soyuz-T

Control panel on the transport ship of the Almaz complex

The matrix method of control object selection is used in the onboard control complexes of such spacecraft as Zond (IDS Saturn), N1-L3 (IDS Uran, Orion, and Luch), Soyuz-T and Soyuz-TM (IDS Neptun), and the space stations Salyut, Almaz, and Mir. The matrix method is a particular example of a more general hierarchical method of control object selection.

One significant achievement at this stage was the spatial separation of the command field and the information field. This principle was implemented in IDS Mirzam-17K of the station Salyut, and in IDS Mirzam-1A, Pluton, and Merkurii of the station Mir.

Information fields in IDS Mirzam are represented as mnemonic schemes. A mnemonic scheme illustrates the structure of the fueling system of the unified propulsion system. Commands are entered via a keyboard according to the matrix selection scheme. The mnemonic scheme shows the locations of pressure gauges in fuel lines and fuel tanks of the unified propulsion system. Information fields in IDS Pluton and Merkurii are represented as a set of 3X3 signal panels.

See also other articles by Yurii Tiapchenko:

Information Display Systems for Russian Spacecraft: An Overview

Information Display Systems for Russian Spacecraft: Generations III, IV and V

Information Display Systems for the MIR Space Station and the Soyuz Transport Ship

Information Display Systems for Soyuz-TMA and the International Space Station

Interview with Yurii Tiapchenko

site last updated 27 February 2003 by Slava Gerovitch