[FPSPACE] US tracking of early Soviet lunar and planetary probes, use of open sources in secret documents
pjp961 at svol.net
Thu Nov 15 17:24:36 EST 2007
Thank you Sven for these further elucidations. These postings are
definitely helpful, and aid in further understanding.
It may be 100% correct that, up through 1965, that the "net" had problems
with monitoring interplanetary missions. However, the way US intelligence
works, they never stop re-examining things. So it is highly possible that
the re-examination of data that they had from earlier missions (when matched
to later ones) helped them come up with the conclusions in this October 1967
report that appear to be "wrong."
I still stand by what I said previously. The data is Top Secret Trine--not
merely Secret, and to boot, it is Top Secret Code Word (an added
wrinkle--another topic that is indeed discussed at some length in the Space
Chronicle text). It no doubt involved a number of "hands in the pie" before
the text was published. The data of the graphs was acknowledged to be, via
their classification level of Top Secret Code Word, via signals intercepts.
I do agree with your notion Sven, that much of the time, "Secret" stampings
are of publicly-sourced data. But what is also supposed to happen in such
classified level reports is that the reason why it is stamped "Secret" is
because of the evaluations done on the open-sourced data. Not merely
listing open-sourced data. The evaluations so done on them garner the
"Secret" stamping. And much of the time, "Secret" documents have an
evaluator/writer/author/contributor that has access to materials that are
not open-source from which they engage a "pool of knowledge" from to assess
the open-source data.
So one has to be careful to not say that "Secret" documents are merely
equivalent to articles in Spaceflight looked over by bored government
boffins/apparatchiks, and slapped with a rubber red stamping at the tops and
bottoms of pages. That's overly simplistic, and I feel misleading those
that are not familiar with classification protocols, and the significance of
And I think we can comfortably say that the 1966 manned space graph in the
text includes a bit more than mere "open source" data listed in it.
However, it still does bother me that the articles from the "Studies in
Intelligence" that you mention were only ranked at the Secret level. So I
am personally not surprised that Top Secret Code Word materials are not in
agreement with a Secret level classified report.
But this should also show the fpspace readership the difficulties involved
in attempting to figure out which data is the most veracious.
And I will additionally say that we do not have sufficient declassified
information on the data-acquiring "net" to say whether the 1966 article by
Burke is completely straightforwardly the whole story on what the US could,
and could not, do in acquiring signals from Soviet space missions outward
bound from Earth orbit. Due to its date, I think we can confidently infer
that it is not the whole story.
I think I should add that there are some articles, under MDR protocols by
me, that are currently being evaluated by NSA personnel, from some
NSA-published journals that concern their abilities to capture and interpret
Soviet space missions--including those leaving Earth orbit for a planetary
venue. But they are not yet in hand. And they are more current than
Burke's 1966 work.
But all data is welcomed, as it needs to be accumulated. And weighed.
From: fpspace-bounces at friends-partners.org
[mailto:fpspace-bounces at friends-partners.org] On Behalf Of Sven Grahn
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 4:48 PM
To: FPSPACE FPSPACE
Subject: [FPSPACE] US tracking of early Soviet lunar and planetary
probes,use of open sources in secret documents
Here are some further reflections in connection with the just-started
discourse between myself, Peter Pesavento and CharlesVic.
I have just re-read two articles in "Studies in intelligence" by James Burke
(program manager for Ranger 1-5), an old friend of mine from the
International Space University. The articles are called "Seven years to Luna
9" and "The Missing Link". These were published in 1966 and 1977
respectively. They were classified "secret" and declassified in the
mid-to-late 1990's (I can't read the scribbling on the photocopies well
Let us start with the first article "Seven years to Luna-9". Here are some
pertinent quotes (my explanations within straight brackets[ ]):
- "We were not able to confirm or contradict these latter statements [about
the en-route progress of Venera-1 i early 1961] because our collection
systems, being primarily oriented towrad the Soviet ballistic-missile
threat, included no sensors capable of following a weak spacecraft signal
out into deep space". He then describes how Jodrell Bank tracked the
spacerfat for several days.
- "The site selected was Asmara, Ethiopia [for the colection station for
deep-space flights]....the station would have one high-precision 85-foot
antenna, with appropriate receivers and data-processing equipment to be
ready late in 1965. Later it was decided to add a 150-foot antenna of lower
srface quality but simpler construction, which would become opeational late
in 1964". So, the U.S. had no dedicated facility for collecting intelligence
on the progress of Soviet lunar and interplanetary probes until the end of
1964. The use of Jodrell Bank seems to have been limited and only on
part-time basis. Burke emphasizes the difficulty in finding signals.
However, they were helped when the were able to monitor uplink transmissions
from the Crimea from a a site, the name of which has been redacted.
- "On 4 January 1963 came the first of the long-awaited lunar missions using
the heavy four-stage vehicle. The launch platform achieved earth orbit, but
again ejection failed". Well, great, burke Confirms my conviction that this
flight did not get out of orbit and what Russian sources say now, but he
contradicts the source shown in "Lifting the Veil". Which CIA source to
- "The 4 January celestial conditions were repeated on 3 February 1963, and
right on schedule another lunar probe was launched. This one failed even to
achieve earth orbit". Wow, Burke again confirms latter-day Russians data,
but contradicts the source shown in "Lifting the Veil".
- "In addition to the Jodrell Bank reporting [about the progress of the
flight of Luna 4], NSA had improvised a collection capability that enabled
us to record several hours of telemetry data while the probe was en route
and during fly-by. Our station was a Naval Research Laboratory experimental
site in Maryland with a 150-foot antenna of the same kind planned for
- "By tracking the vehicle [Zond-2] right after ejection from parking orbit
[very close to earth], speeding the results to the United States, and apidly
calculating the trajectory with the aid of large computers, we were
beginning to be able with only a slight time lag to tell the deep-space
sites whwre to look for the probe".
- The Asmara station was operational in early 1965.
- "We did not intercept any of these transmissions [from Zond-3] because we
did not have a good fix on the trajectoy so as to tell our deep space
antennas where to look".
So, even in 1965, when the Asmara station was up and running, space probes
slipped hrough the US collection net.
The main content of "The Missing Link" is that the U.S. completely missed
the 5 cm telemetry link used by Soviet deep space probes at least up until
1977 (they started looking ten years earlier). I am sure they finally found
the link. It was a pulse-position modulation system used to transmit images.
The bandwidth of such a signal is inversely proportional to the pulse-width.
It could be several megahertz wide. PPM systems are very energy-efficient.
Anyway, this confusion in various CIA sources as to the fate on the Jan-Feb
1963 Luna launches (and other) and Jim Burke's descriptions of the
inadequacies of U.S. collections systems shows that CIA estimates should be
taken with a few "grains of salt". BTW, the U.S. lost Asmara in 1975 because
of internal conflicts in Ethiopia.
Concerning the use of open-source data in classified reports a Swedish
intelligence officer explained to me 30+ years ago why intelligence officers
normally never read or listen to open-source reports and if they do, these
open-sources must have a big read "secret" stamp on them. His explanation
was that an intelligence officer is scared to let his tongue slip if he
tries to sort out in his head if a piece of data in his head comes from a
classified or open source. better to classify everything, even the
open-soure stuff. Then it is simple, just regard everything as secret and
work from that. This may explain the seemingly open-source table of Soviet
manned space missions shown in "Lifting the Veil".
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