Stages of the GCTC development

Air Force Cosmonaut Training Center (1960 - 1965)

The development of science and engineering in our country by the late 50s made it really possible to consider the question of human space flight. At the beginning of 1959 M.V. Keldysh, President of Academy of Science of the USSR, held a meeting, where the question of human space flight was discussed more specifically, even “who will fly?”.

In January and May 1959 the Resolutions «Human training for space flight» of the CPSU CC and Cabinet Council of the USSR were issued.

Relay on suggestion of S. P. Korolev: «For such kind of business pilots are trained better than anyone else, especially fighter pilots. A jet fighter pilot is a required universal person. He flies a single-seat, high-speed jet in the stratosphere. He is a pilot, an air navigator, a operator and a flight engineer at the same time...» - the choice was made in favor of Air Force pilots.

During the first cosmonaut candidate selection 3461 personal files of fighter pilots aged up to 35 were examined. Of them 347 were selected for initial personal interview. As a result of interviews and outpatient examination, 206 pilots were admitted for the further medical examination at the Central Air Force Research Aviation Hospital () from October, 1959 to April, 1960. Later on among 206 pilots which were admitted to the Central Hospital 72 pilots refused to undergo the following medical examination, 105 - were dismissed for health reasons. Twenty pilots of those 29, who had passed all stages of medical examination with good results, were selected and enlisted as the first cosmonaut-students.

S.P. Korolev considered the necessity of cosmonaut training center establishment to fulfill the human space flight successfully. Together with the Air Force commander in Chief, Air Chief Marshal Vershinin K.A., he petitioned the government for its formation.

At the end of 1959 the final decision to establish the Air Force special center of training men for space flights was made. On order of AF commander in Chief, Vershinin K.A., the special military unit 26266 was formed on the 11th of January, 1960. The main purpose of center was to train cosmonauts. Later on this military unit was reorganized into the Air Force Cosmonaut Training Center. The Centre included: administration, cosmonaut training department, educational training department, logistics support department, security platoon and club. Evgeni Anatolievich Karpov, Medical Service colonel, a notable aeromedicine specialist, was assigned to a position of the Chief of Cosmonaut Training Center (CTC) on the 24th of February, 1960.

The first group of cosmonaut candidates arrived at M.V. Frunze central airfield in Moscow in March 1960, and at 9 am on March 14, 1960 they began their training. Due to the absence of suitable accommodations the candidates were temporarily lodged in a small two-storied house of TsSKA sports facilities in the territory of M.V. Frunze airfield (located alongside of Leningrad prospect not far from the Institute of Aviation Medicine). After a while in early July, 1960 the corps were removed to Star City (at that time – Green City), where the future cosmonauts continued their training in specially built and all-equipped Cosmonaut Training Center (near to Shchelkovo, 25 km from Moscow).

The first group of six cosmonauts passed examinations on readiness for flight on Vostok spacecraft on January 17 and 18, 1961 (These cosmonauts were - Yu.A. Gagarin, G.S. Titov, G.G. Nelyubov, A.G. Nikolaev, P.R. Popovich, V.F. Bykovsky).

The first launch of a manned spacecraft took place on the 12th of April, 1961 at 09.07 (Moscow time) which announced to the whole world the beginning of a new space era for mankind. The Vostok-1 spacecraft was piloted by Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin (his backup was German Stepanovich Titov). In 1961-1963 cosmonauts were trained to fly Vostok space vehicles. The first one-day flight was performed  by G.S. Titov at 6.08.-7.08, 1961. Cosmonauts A.G. Nikolaev and P.R. Popovich performed the first group flight in August, 1962 (11.08.-15.08. 1962 and 12.08-15.08. 1962, respectively).

The question of a female cosmonaut spaceflight was raised in December, 1961. In January, 1962 among 58 women willing to participate in a spaceflight program, 23 candidates were selected for further medical examination. In March, 1962 a group of six female cosmonaut candidates was formed. In May, 1963, they completed training. On June 4, 1963 the State Commission assigned the commanders and their backups for flights aboard Vostok-5 and Vostok-6 spacecrafts. They were V.F. Bykovsky – the commander, B.V. Volynov – the backup and V.V. Tereshkova - the commander and her backups – I.B. Solovieva, V.L. Ponomareva.

The flights on Vostok spacecrafts gave an principal answer - a man can live and work in space. The correctness of design and technological solutions was confirmed, the first unique experience in cosmonaut training was received. Soon the stage of cosmonaut training for flights aboard multi-seat Voskhod spacecrafts started.

Two space flights were performed under this program. The first flight was carried out by the crew consisting of a commander – V.M. Komarov, a flight engineer – K.P. Feoktistov and a doctor – B.B. Egorov (backup crew – B.V. Volynov, G.P. Katys, V.G. Lazarev) aboard Voskhod spacecraft from October 12 to October 13, 1964. As a result of this flight the new development prospects of cosmonautics were opened. During the second flight of Voskhod-2 spacecraft, piloted by P.I. Belyaev and A.A. Leonov, on the18th of March, 1965 cosmonaut A.A. Leonov performed the first  spacewalk in the world. Recruiting of new cosmonaut candidates started in 1962 and the group of 15 candidates joined the cosmonaut corps in 1963.

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1st Cosmonaut Training Center (1965-1968)

Air Force Cosmonaut Training Center was renamed into the Cosmonaut Training Center thus obtaining interdepartmental status on October 7, 1965. The obligations assigned to it were expanded as well. Thus in 1966 the group of cosmonauts began training under Soyuz spacecraft program and in the ensuring years under Salyut orbital station program. The new stage of manned cosmonautics development began.

Flight development tests of unmanned Soyuz spacecraft (Cosmos-133) started on November 28, 1966 and the first flight of manned Soyuz-1 spacecraft was performed on April 23-24, 1967. Unfortunately, that mission ended tragically. The commander, Hero of the Soviet Union, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died while returning to the Earth.

From 1966 to 1968 a group of cosmonauts was trained to perform long-duration space flights (10 days) aboard Voskhod-type space vehicle. At the same time another group of cosmonauts was formed under Spiral aerospace system program. To fly that vehicle a cosmonaut was supposed to have a test pilot qualification. To obtain such skills cosmonauts had specific training and performed test flights on jets of the Eighth State Scientific Research Institute of Air Force. In connection with the decision to close down works under those programs, cosmonauts were involved in training under Soyuz and Soyuz-VI spacecrafts, Salyut and Almaz space station programs.

The tragic event occurred on the 27th of March, 1968, when MiG-15 training jet (side number – 18), did not return to the airfield after a training flight. It was piloted by the crew of Hero of the Soviet Union, cosmonaut #1, Colonel Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin and Colonel Seregin Vladimir Sergeyevich.

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1st Yu.A. Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (1968 – 1969)

On the 30th of April, 1968 in the highest honor and in order to memorialize the cosmonaut number 1, Cosmonaut Training Center was named after Yu.A. Gagarin.

In 1968-1969 the following manned space flights were performed: Soyuz-3 (commander – G.T. Beregovoy), Soyuz-4 and Soyuz-5, Soyuz-6, Soyuz-7 and Soyuz-8. In January, 1969 the first in the world manned space station was made by mating two space vehicles: Soyuz-4 (commander –V.A. Shatalov) and Soyuz-5 (commander – B.V. Volynov, flight engineer – A.S. Eliseev and cosmonaut-researcher – Ye.V. Khrunov). After docking cosmonauts A.S. Eliseev and Ye.V. Khrunov performed an EVA transfer from Soyuz-5 into Soyuz-4. In 1966-1971, simultaneously with cosmonaut training and implementation of space flights under Soyuz program the Center performed a great work of cosmonaut training on other space programs.

In 1968-69 a group of cosmonauts was formed for training on the following programs:

  • circumlunar mission and lunar landing (L-1 and A-3);
  • orbital vehicles (Soyuz);
  • orbital vehicles (Soyuz-VI);
  • orbital station (Almaz).

Depending on the state of work on relevant programs and accepted decisions, a number of them (L-1, L-3, Soyuz –VK, etc.) subsequently were closed. Further cosmonaut training and space missions were carried out on two main programs Soyuz/Salute and Almaz.

In 1969 for high achievements in space exploration, the Center was awarded by the Order of Lenin.

During that period the Chiefs of the Centre were: Medical Colonel E.A. Karpov (1960-1963), Air Force general-colonel, twice Hero of the Soviet Union M.P. Odintsov (1963), Air Force general-major, Hero of the Soviet Union, N.F. Kuznetsov (1963-1972).

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First Yu.A. Gagarin Research &Test Cosmonauts Training Center (1969 – 1995)

During the development of  spacecrafts and orbital complexes, the cosmonaut training system was improved,and the status of the Centre was changed as well. In 1969, the Cosmonaut Training Center was awarded the status of the 1st Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center by Yu.A. Gagarin. In 1970 and 1972 in the course of reorganization of the Centre, Space Museum was included into its structure.

Reformation concerned the cosmonaut corps as well. Thus, in 1974 the corps of cosmonaut-students  were entered the structure of one of the divisions, and in 1975 in accordance with guidance the cosmonaut corps were formed on the main divisions of the Center. The corps included the cosmonauts from the departments of the 1st division, and also the corps of cosmonaut-students. At that time, the cosmonaut corps involved:

  • groups for orbital vehicles and stations;
  • group for international space programs;
  • group of aerospace vehicles;
  • group of cosmonaut-students.

In 1982 the post of the cosmonaut corps commander was reinstated, which had previously been combined with the post of deputy chief of the Center on flight and space training. At the same time the following subgroups were established within the cosmonaut corps:

  •  group of manned orbital complexes of general purpose;
  •  group of reusable space systems of general and special purpose;
  •  group of international space programs;
  •  group of cosmonaut-researchers;
  •  group of control of crew activity in flight.

In 1971 Salute Space Station was manufactured and launched into orbit. The training for Salute space missions started in 1970. The first group of cosmonauts consisted of: V.A. Shatalov, A.S. Eliseev, N.N. Rukavishnikov, A.A. Leonov, V.N. Kubasov, P.I. Kolodin, G.T. Dobrovolsky, V.N. Volkov, V.I. Patsaev, A.V. Filipchenko and others.

From June 6 up to June 30, 1971 the crew of G.T. Dobrovolsky, V.N. Volkov and V.I. Patsaev successfully performed the flight aboard Salute-1/Soyuz-11 complex. While returning to the Earth the crew tragically died because of depressurizing of the descent capsule.

Almaz program (Salute-3) started in 1974. The first mission to the station was performed by P.R. Popovich (a commander) and Yu.P. Artukhin (a flight engineer).

The first steps towards international cooperation in manned space flights were made in the period of July 15 to July 21, 1975, when EPAS program started. The first international space complex was assembled by docking the Soviet Soyuz (commander – A.A. Leonov, flight engineer – V.N.Kubasov) and American Apollo vehicles.

Since 1978 the Center performed a vigorous activity in the field of manned international programs. In this period 25 missions of international crews were prepared and implemented. Among cosmonauts trained at the Centre, there were representatives of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba, Mongolia, Romania, France, India, Syria, Afghanistan, Japan, Britain, Austria, USA, Sweden and Spain. From 1974 to 1986 modernization of Salute Orbital Station and Soyuz spacecraft was performed. Tests of Soyuz-T spacecraft were performed by cosmonauts Yu.V. Malyshev and V.V. Aksenov, tests of Soyuz-TM spacecraft were performed by cosmonauts Yu.V. Romanenko and A.I. Laveikin. The space station of the third generation – Mir Orbital Station - was launched into orbit in February, 1986. Availability of six docking nodes on the station for transport vehicles docking, including American space shuttles, and special purpose modules made it possible to increase significantly the number of tasks and the volume of researches implemented aboard the station. The Soviet, Russian and international crews carried out a significant amount of space researches and experiments in the fields of astrophysics, medicine, earth remote sensing, materials sciences and technology.

That period was characterized by high scientific and organizational activity in general development of manned spaceflights, and development of cosmonaut training in particular. For example, in 1990 some representatives of mass media were selected as candidates for cosmonauts on a competitive basis. In 1990-1992 a group of journalists, including: A.V. Andrushkov, V.V. Baberdin, Yu.Yu. Krikun, P.P. Mukhortov, S.O. Omelchenko, V.Yu. Sharov passed basic space training.

At the same time, along with cosmonaut training for flights on orbital manned spacecrafts and stations, the Center together with other ministries and agencies, was engaged in selection and training of cosmonauts for flights aboard Buran- reusable orbital vehicle. In pursuance of the country leadership's decisions concerning Buran flight test support, several ministries adopted a joint decision to recruit test pilots of the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) and the USSR Ministry of Defense and to provide them with basic training. The following Aviation Industry test pilots I.P.Volk, A.S. Levchenko, A. V. Shchukin, R.A.A. Stankyavichyus, O.G Kononenko and military test pilots I.I. Bachyurin, V.M. Chirkin, A.S. Boroday, V.E. Mosolov, A.M. Sokovykh and N.Sh. Sattarov.

They passed basic space training from March 1979 to December 1980. In order to gain space flight experience I.P. Volk as a crewmember of Soyuz T-12 performed a flight aboard Salute-7 orbital station in 1984. In 1987 A.S. Levchenko performed a flight to Mir station as a crewmember of Soyuz TM-4.

One more group of test pilots of MAP’s Flight Research Institute and Air Force’s State Research & Test Institute passed basic space training in 1985-1987. This group included: V.M. Afanasiev, A.P. Artsebarsky, G.M. Manakov, V.V. Zabolotsky, U.N. Sultanov, M.O. Tolboev, S.N. Tresvyatsky, and Yu.P. Scheffer.

The first unmanned flight of Buran orbital vehicle was performed on the 15th of November, 1988. Later on working on Energy-Buran rocket and space transportation system was closed.

In 1982 the Center was awarded with Order of Peoples Friendship.

During this time frame the Centre was headed by:

  • N.F. Kuznetsov, AF major-general, Hero of the Soviet Union (1963-1972)
  • G.T. Beregovoy, AF lieutenant-general, twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1972-1987)
  • V.A. Shatalov, AF lieutenant-general, twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1987-1991)
  • P.I. Klimuk, AF lieutenant-general, twice Hero of the Soviet Union

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Russian State Research & Test CTC by Yu.A. Gagarin (1995 - 2009)

In 1995 the status of Cosmonaut Training Center was changed again.

In order to enhance the efficiency of scientific and technological potential of the Russian Federation in the field of manned cosmonautics and cosmonaut training and to ensure execution of the Federal Space Program and fulfillment of international obligations of Russia, Yu.A. Gagarin Russian State Research & Test CTC (hereafter – GCTC) was established on the basis of the 1st Yu.A. Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center and V. S. Seregin 70th special appointment test-and-training air regiment in accordance with the RF government regulation No.478 dated May 15, 1995. The Centre was in charge of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and Russian Space Agency. GCTC status was confirmed by the resolution No. 918 of the Russian Federation government dated August 3, 1996.

During that period GCTC continued to train cosmonauts under Mir orbital complex program. Each year about 12 crews of primary expeditions received basic space training. Besides, Mir/NASA, Mir/Shuttle programs were carried out in conjunction with NASA (USA). Space cooperation with European countries developed as well, foreign cosmonauts received training and performed space missions to Mir orbital station.

Cooperation of the countries, participating in the International Space Station (hereafter - ISS) program, initially called «Alpha», started in 1996. Within the framework of this program GCTC played a leading role in the training of international crews for deploying and maintaining the ISS. The first international crew, consisting of US astronaut B. Sheppard and Russian cosmonauts Yu. Gidzenko and S. Krikalev, was launched on the 31st of October, 2000 under ISS-1 primary crew program.

At the same time existing training facilities are being upgraded and new facilities, such as complex simulators, test stands, classrooms, are being created at the Center.

During the period under review the post of the Chief of GCTC was occupied by:

  • Klimuk P.I.,colonel-general, twice Hero of the Soviet Union P.I.
  • Tsibliev V.V., lieutenant-general, Hero of Russia

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State Organization «Yu.A. Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre» (2009 - present)

Based upon the decree No. 1435- of the government of Russian Federation dated October 1, 2008 State Organization «Yu.A. Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre» was established under the supervision of Federal Space Agency and on July 1, 2009 GCTC was closed down. Pilot-cosmonaut S.K. Krikalev, Hero of the Soviet Union, Hero of the Russian Federation was appointed to a post of the Chief of the Centre.

In connection with the international partners’ decision to increase the number of the ISS crewmembers from 3 to 6 persons, the amount of work for ensuring and providing training of Russian and foreign cosmonauts (astronauts) increased substantially. In the second half of 2009 at the Centre 16 crews were trained for space flights aboard Soyuz TMA transport vehicle and missions under the ISS program. Those crews included 17 Russian cosmonauts, 12 astronauts of NASA, two astronauts of ESA, and four astronauts of JAXA.

To improve the efficiency of cosmonaut selection and training system and to provide coordinated national space policy A.N. Perminov, Head of Roscosmos, issued the order No. 197 « Establishment of the joint cosmonaut corps of Federal Space Agency» on December 7, 2010. Thus the joint cosmonaut corps of Roscosmos was established on the basis of the State Organization «Yu.A. Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre» on January 1, 2011

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