Machinebuilding NPO Is Moving Into the High-Tech Market

No 3(10), 1995 (Signed to press 18 Dec 95) pp 31-37
by Gerbert Aleksandrovich Yefremov, General Designer and General Director of Machinebuilding NPO, instructor in Moscow Aviation Institute and Moscow State Technical School imeni N. E. Bauman, Hero of Socialist Labor, Lenin and State prize laureate

Gerbert Aleksandrovich Yefremov worked in Machinebuilding NPO after completing Leningrad Mechanical Institute. He is an immediate participant of work in all basic directions of enterprise activity: missile complexes, antiship cruise missile complexes and spacecraft. He was awarded the titles Hero of Socialist Labor and Lenin and State Prize laureate for services in creating new equipment. He is the author of a large number of scientific works, including around 90 inventions. Yefremov presently is General Designer and General Director of Machinebuilding NPO and simultaneously instructs at MAI [Moscow Aviation Institute] and MGTU [Moscow State Technical School] imeni N. E. Bauman.

In September 1994 it was 50 years since the country's first OKB [Experimental Design Bureau] for creating drones was organized in Moscow on the basis of Aircraft Plant No 51 (the former Polikarpov Plant). Young, talented scientist V. N. Chelomey was appointed chief designer of the plant. During 1944-1953 the plant was the only organization in the country for developing cruise missiles, and several missile weapon complexes were created and tested here, many of them becoming operational with the Army and Navy.

Subsequently the fate of the OKB collective turned out to be difficult. In February 1953 a government decision was made on its transfer to Plant No 155, where at that time A. I. Mikoyan was chief designer. A year later, by order of the Minister of the Aircraft Industry, a Special Design Group (SKG) was established under the direction of Chelomey; it was located on the grounds of Plant No 500 in Tushino.

The top priority task of the Special Design Group was to complete work on creating the 10KhN cruise missile, which was the basis of the P-5 missile weapon complex. The missile is accommodated with wings folded in a sealed cylindrical container, from which it is launched without additional units. Such a design ensures a safe, reliable launch and sharply increases missile stability in flight. To implement this project the Special Design Group was reorganized as Union Experimental Design Bureau No 52 (OKB- 52), with production on the basis of the small Reutov Machinery Plant. The entire makeup of the former Special Design Group was rebased here after minor plant renovation in 1956. Chelomey was appointed chief designer and chief of the OKB.

The following were organized on the new grounds: a design department of 10 teams, 7 production shops, TsIL [central instrument laboratory], TsZL [central plant laboratory], special laboratory team, technical department, administrative services, aid station and dining hall. Work began in 1956 on creating homing cruise missiles for selective engagement of naval targets over the radar horizon. Then new-generation cruise missiles were developed that were launched from beneath the water (with underwater opening of wings) and that had a new fundamental characteristic enabling the platform submarine to launch missiles without ascending to the surface. The main projects of antiship missile complexes with surface and submerged launch already were realized by 1965. In 1959 and 1963 the enterprise was awarded the two highest orders for this work, which had the nature of national programs.

In succeeding years new supersonic antiship cruise missile complexes were created capable of engaging enemy ships and shore targets far beyond the radar horizon. The enterprise created several types of antiship cruise missiles differing in various design features (homing heads, underwater launch and so on). Our powerful cruisers and large submarines armed with these missiles moved into first place in the world in quality of missile weapons and made up our country's naval shield. Even today they perform their duty of ensuring Russia's security.

A distinguishing feature of many types of antiship cruise missiles is standardization, permitting their use from different platforms: naval, ground, air. Development of antiship cruise missiles continues. Now the Bastion mobile shore antiship missile complex, an antiship complex with the Yakhont supersonic missile, and the Alfa advanced general-purpose precision missile weapon complex are being created.

Along with work to create cruise missiles, work in OKB-52 unfolded along two new directions in 1959:

  • military and scientific spacecraft;
  • spacecraft booster rockets and tactical ballistic missiles.

    Construction of a major design, experimental and production center began in Reutov in 1960 for successful performance of this work. A number of design organizations were joined with OKB-52, and production affiliates were organized at plants in the cities of Dubna and Saratov. In 1966 OKB-52 was renamed the Central Design Bureau of Machinebuilding (TsKBM), and in 1983 the Machinebuilding NPO. The MP-1 spacecraft, launched into space on 27 December 1961, was developed here. It became the world's first craft with aerodynamic stabilization elements. Then Polet-1, the world's first satellite maneuvering in orbit, was developed (launched in 1963). After it came Polet-2 and a series of spacecraft codenamed Kosmos, which were assigned to perform a number of defense missions.

    Work to create scientific spacecraft went on simultaneously. Four PROTON scientific stations were created for studying high and superhigh energy space particles. One of them, PROTON-4 (launched 16 November 1968), weighed around 17 tonnes and the scientific equipment weighed 12.5 tonnes.

    Development of the Almaz missile-space complex was a fundamentally new direction of activity of the Central Design Bureau of Machinebuilding. Within its scope, powerful orbiting manned stations of the Salyut-2, -3 and - 5 series were inserted into orbit. One expedition worked on Salyut-3 and two on Salyut-5.

    Automatic space stations equipped with unique onboard synthetic aperture radars and optical surveillance systems, with radar and optical images transmitted by radio channel to a ground data reception point, were developed on the basis of manned space stations.

    The Almaz automatic space station made a flight named Kosmos-1870 during 1987-1989 and the Almaz-1 space station made a flight during 1991-1992. Development is under way on the Almaz-1B modernized space station, which will become the basis of an operational all-weather space system for comprehensive remote Earth sensing.

    A two-stage and then a three-stage UR-500 booster rocket, named PROTON in the press, was developed for the Almaz missile-space complex under Chelomey's direction. This booster, on which the majority of spacecraft were inserted, remains the principal one even at the present time.

    The Central Design Bureau of Machinebuilding developed several types of ballistic missiles and some became operational. Development began in 1961 on the 8K84 ampulized ICBM, the first of the family of "100's." The experience of creating cruise missile complexes came in handy here: many engineering solutions worked out on these complexes found application in creating the ICBM. A ballistic missile was accommodated in a transport-launch container directly at the manufacturing plant for the first time.

    All operations of assembling the stages, mating the main lines and testing now were done under shop conditions, which increased reliability substantially. Troops were relieved of a large amount of preparatory work, time for placing the complex in combat readiness was shortened, and ideal conditions were provided for its alert status. In literally 2-3 years several hundred silo launchers with ICBM's were placed on alert duty, which ensured strategic parity with the United States. The enterprise was awarded a third order in 1976 for work on the ICBM. Experience gained by the collective of the Central Design Bureau of Machinebuilding in subsequent years permitted developing, testing and transferring to operation in short time periods new, powerful, accurate strategic missile complexes, which serve reliably even at the present time.

    For all 50 years of its activity the Machinebuilding NPO was the leading organization in the area of high technologies with an advanced scientific base and elite cadres of scientists, designers and production workers. The reduction in the state defense order placed the enterprise in a difficult position. Over the last few years the number of workers, previously around 10,000, was cut in half.

    In 1995 the defense order provides for financing enterprise needs by 20-25 percent, but even these funds come with great delays. In the first half year only 8-10 percent of funds planned for the year were remitted. It must be assumed that no more than half will come before the year's end. Therefore directions are being intensively developed at the enterprise which are not connected with the defense order.

    For around 40 years the Machinebuilding NPO has been an enterprise with diversified subject matter. Up until 1989 this was subject matter exclusively in the field of missile building and space systems. Since 1989 diversification also has affected the conversion direction of Machinebuilding NPO activity, and projects with a civilian purpose presently are being realized in the Association in 11 basic directions. They include the following:

    Realization of a number of projects of these directions is of federal importance with respect to resolving regional problems connected with improving the ecologic situation, using alternative energy sources, and introducing information technologies. For example, Machinebuilding NPO is creating life support systems for dwellings and cities based on the S&T backlog obtained in developing spacecraft life support systems. They include in particular a water purification system for individual and collective use, a hot water supply unit based on solar collectors, security and fire extinguishing systems, and individual protective equipment.

    An important achievement of the Machinebuilding NPO collective is the development of a number of systems using nontraditional energy sources based on photoelectric converters. A diesel-electric plant also has been developed that uses nontraditional fuel in the form of various vegetable oils, which, being connected into the technological cycle of an oil processing plant, can supply it with cheap electrical energy.

    A project for creating small modular catalytic units for synthesis of high-octane unleaded gasoline is being realized at Machinebuilding NPO to solve ecologic problems connected with the discharge of a large amount of refinery production wastes and also in connection with the sharp increase in cost of traditional energy sources and to improve refining efficiency.

    With high technologies being temporarily unclaimed in Russia due to the insolvency of the main consumers, it has become a necessity to enter the world market both of arms and military equipment as well as of space developments and civilian products. This task has not yet been fully accomplished, but the ways have been determined and work has unfolded. The Machinebuilding NPO mark is highly acknowledged abroad and there are partners in the United States, Germany, Italy, India, Lebanon and a number of other countries.

    The enterprise is resting great hopes on entering the world economy above all as a supplier of information. Considering that around 70 percent of the observable Earth surface is covered with clouds on each revolution of a spacecraft, around-the-clock and all-weather radar equipment has been installed on the Almaz station along with optical equipment. Remote Earth sensing is accomplished in the radar band on wavelengths of 3, 10 and 70 cm (resolution 5 m) and in the optical band (resolution 2.5 m). We plan to collect information as a commodity. A joint venture has been established for this with private American firms. Presentation of the work was done in Washington. During 1987-1992 our Kosmos-1870 and Almaz-1 space stations obtained a large number of high-resolution photographs of the Earth's surface.

    The Almaz-1 space station took part in rescuing the vessel Mikhail Somov, taken prisoner by Antarctic ices under polar night conditions. For one and a half months only the Almaz radar could present daily information to Gidromet [Hydrometeorology and Environmental Control Service] on the ice situation; other surveillance equipment was powerless to provide this information. The station promptly supplied information on Earth areas in which ecologic and natural disasters had occurred, recording death-dealing oil spots spread off the coast of exotic bays or taking a look from above into the crater of Pinatubo Volcano (Philippines), which awoke suddenly.

    But it is not enough to receive information from outer space. It must be made accessible to the specialists who need it. Appropriate data processing is needed. A Scientific Engineering Center was established in Machinebuilding NPO for this.

    Within the scope of developing conversion programs and diversifying its activity, Machinebuilding NPO is paying very fixed attention to space telecommunications projects. In 1992 materials were presented to the Ministry of Communications on a communications satellite with a multiple-beam antenna aboard, with the capacity of the satellite's onboard relay proposed to be used for providing telephone services to remote and inaccessible areas of Russia.

    The enterprise is taking part in a tender of the Intersputnik International Space Communications Organization for creating the Intersputnik-8 advanced communications satellite. Machinebuilding NPO is working to create a satellite communications system based on a geostationary satellite in support of the Russian Federation and CIS member states.

    In conclusion I would like to mention one other aspect of Machinebuilding NPO activity--training highly qualified cadres. In 1960 General Designer Chelomey established a chair in MVTU [Moscow Higher Technical School] imeni N. E. Bauman in the specialty of development of spacecraft and winged craft. Graduates of this chair received work chiefly in the Central Design Bureau of Machinebuilding. In 1987 the Aerospace Faculty (AKF) of Moscow State Technical School imeni Bauman was formed on the basis of this chair.

    The faculty trains specialists capable of solving the most complex S&T problems of aerospace engineering and who have mastered modern planning-research and production technologies.

    Along with powerful basic, general engineering, and specialized training, it provides for development of professional skills in practical activity and experience of creative work in the specialty.

    The faculty presently trains in five directions:

    Thirty-seven chairs of 9 faculties of Moscow State Technical School with a total of 120 instructors train students of the Aerospace Faculty. There are 350 students studying in the faculty, among them 40 graduates of Reutov schools and PTU-90. The form of faculty training is daytime. The term of training is 5 years, 10 months. The SM-2 chair of the Special Machinebuilding (SM) Faculty conducts profiling training for the first two directions. The FN-2 chair of the Basic Sciences (FN) Faculty trains in the third direction. The IU-1 chair of the Information Science and Control Systems (IU) Faculty trains in the fourth direction.

    The fifth direction was introduced only this year. Two chairs of the Information Science and Control Systems Faculty conduct profiling training.

    Student classes are held both in the Moscow State Technical School main building as well as at the Machinebuilding NPO training-laboratory facility. Curricula and training programs for preparing Aerospace Faculty students essentially coincide with those of corresponding specialties of the Special Machinebuilding, Basic Sciences, and Information Science and Control Systems faculties. There is only one distinction--continuous scientific- production practice. This is additional training performed through efforts of highly qualified enterprise specialists using unique equipment (testbeds, units, computer systems), actual developments and methodologies of the firm.

    Practice in junior courses takes place in the form of familiarization lecture/discussions, production tours and the showing of videos and movies. In senior courses the main form of practice is students' independent creative work under the direction of enterprise specialists. Students perform research and planning work on actual subject matter and on the basis of methods materials of the firm. Faculty students have published many articles based on research results and have obtained dozens of authorship certificates on inventions. Students give reports at annual faculty S&T conferences.

    Thus, Machinebuilding NPO is performing intensive work to retain a worthy place under conditions of the new economic realities. We realize that under the conditions at hand the state is in no condition to provide support to high-tech enterprises in the form of financing (state order) at a worthy level. State support realistically can consist of following a flexible tax policy that stimulates the development of high technologies; state involvement in projects with commercial financing, which will give them weight in the eyes of investors; and development and realization of federal programs, which will permit concentrating efforts of national manufacturers on the most promising directions. Assessing today's state of the enterprise, it can be said that maximum reduction of production has been left behind and an upswing, albeit a slow one, has begun. The number of workers has been increasing in recent months.

    The realistic optimism of the concept of evolution of Machinebuilding NPO is based on accumulated potential, in which the most important things are unique cadres of scientists and engineers, the recognized world level of developments, and successfully developing international cooperation with leading world firms.