31 December 2011
NSA and the Cold War "Space Race"
Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2011 12:18:22 -0500
From: IntelForum Mailing List
Subject: [Intelforum] New article on US Intelligence and the Cold War "Space
A new article has recently been published by me about recent declassification
disclosures about what the US Intelligence Community knew about Soviet space
activities during the Cold War Space Race.
It is entitled Excavating for America s Secret Knowledge of the Soviet Space
Program, and is the cover story and main feature. It appears in the
January 2012 issue of Griffith Observer, published in Los Angeles.
The article is heavily illustrated, including facsimiles of pages from
declassified reports. There are also Russian materials used as
illustrations as well, with a number of the images appearing in print for
the first time.
The main subheadings of the article include:
--In the Trenches of Twentieth-century Archaeology
--Zond 5: Stumbling Upon a Previously Undisclosed Secret
--New NSA Documents Reveal In-depth, Blanket Monitoring of Soviet Space Events
from the Pad, All the Way to the Moon
--Hidden US Knowledge about the USSR s Undeclared Moon Rocket
--Towards a More-accurate Recounting
As the reader can infer, there has been a batch of materials released by
the NSA. As with the CIA materials discussed in the text as well, it
took some time to extract these documents from their bureaucratic hiding
places. As in years and years.
One of the themes of the article is the rectification of mis-told Soviet
space history. (As more materials are released by such declassification
authorities like ISCAP, these will become more and more capably applied to
the currently accepted chronologies and it will change them.) As I
can vouch for (with additional documents that have been released in the interim,
since I originally wrote this article in December 2010), the US intelligence
documents that I now have in hand (as well as burgeoning number currently
with ISCAP, and that I anticipate to receive over the near term, say next
24 months or so) provide data as well as a narrative that Russian official
disclosures have not whether not at all (in some cases), or with few details
(in more cases), or selective releases (that have the ultimate effect of
misleading space historians, due to an incomplete record). At times,
the released US materials provide a narrative that directly contra-indicates
what Russian disclosures have officially stated took place (or was the intent
A case in point (as discussed in the Observer piece) is the fourth N-1 rocket
(the USSR s Saturn V-class rocket to take cosmonauts to the Moon, for a landing)
that lifted off from the Tyuratam space center in late November 1972.
We now know via NSA disclosures that it was not a mission intended to
selenocentric space at all, but rather away from the Moon altogether (the
NSA figured out it was very similar in profile to the Zond 4 mission, that
was launched to lunar distance, but directly opposite the Moon).
Additionally, we learn from SIGINT captures that the rocket may have had
its second stage ignite temporarily for approximately seven seconds, and
then shut down. Furthermore, we learn from NSA SIGINT acquisitions
that, despite an explosion in the lower part of the rocket during its ascent,
it continued to coast upwards to 37.7 nautical miles before falling back
to the ground an excellent indication that the rocket was not blown to
smithereens. These new facts are not reflected in the current Russian
space histories (published post 1990) about what is claimed to have happened
during the launch failure.
What this means is that the data acquired by the US Intelligence Community
was high fidelity, and that data garnered by the Americans may have been
better than what the Russians acquired themselves. Indeed, in a number
of the NSA reports that I have in hand, when official Soviet government releases
were in error about times or coordinates (for example, dealing with lunar
missions), the NSA reports correct them.
(There are other examples of the NSA s meticulous data-keeping in the
article. What it demonstrates is that the technical means to monitor
Tyuratam activity as well as beyond Earth orbit--was on-going 24/7.
This included ground-based monitoring, as well as space-based monitoring.)
More such corrective data is in hand presently from even more recent document
disclosures (and some of these cover manned Soviet missions), and will appear
in another article, currently under preparation.
So these are exciting times for those who engage in the (re-)writing of Cold
War Space History.
For more information about issue availability and ordering, please contact
the Griffith Observatory. The URL link to their organization is