Soviet/Russian Spaceflight Bibliography (English)

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21 minutes ago, MaxwellsDemon said:

I'm debating whether to add a book on Buran.  It's arguably not part of the mainstream Soviet/Russian space effort, all things considered, and yet so much effort was expended on it.

Being crazy of this program I'm supporting the idea to integrate it.

Energiya-Buran (2007) by B. Hendrickx and B. Vis was excellent, hundreds of pages to devour.

The Kremlin's Nuclear Sword by S. J. Zaloga was really nice too. If it''s mainly about military technologies, there is some nice information about their civilian application.

Also, it's not only about Soviet/Russian space history, but Space Systems Failures (2005) by D. M. harland and R. Lorenz is good too. However, it's much more a "global" book about the different incidents and accidents, so do not expect a deep analysis of them.

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2 hours ago, XB-70A said:

Energiya-Buran (2007) by B. Hendrickx and B. Vis was excellent, hundreds of pages to devour.

That's the one I'm thinking of.  To be honest, it's more because of the authors than the subject matter; I liked Hendrickx's articles on Kamanin's diaries and Vis did a nice job in concert with Rex Hall and David Shayler on the one on cosmonaut training.

OK, I'm convinced.   Going on the ol' Amazon wish list.  :D   (When I was little, I wanted to live in a library.  Now I look around and realize that I do.  Great feeling!)

Edited by MaxwellsDemon

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Expanding the list to include some quick reactions/capsule reviews (all opinions are my own):       ... to be finished as I work my way through.  

Baker, David.  Soyuz Owners' Workshop Manual: 1967 Onwards (All Models).  Yeoville, Somerset, UK:  Haynes Publishing, 2014.  176 pp.

* Consistent with the other Haynes non-automotive books, the Owner’s Workshop Manual contains a succinct history of the Soyuz and detailed (semi-technical) descriptions of its systems and operation, accompanied by good illustrations and diagrams.  Also contains some detail on Vostok/Voskhod.  Of high interest to the Kerbal rocket designer.  :rep:

Borisenko, Ivan, and Alexander Romanov.  (Helen Goun, trans.) Where All Roads into Space Begin:  An Account of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982.  117 pp.

* Superficial, long on style and short on specifics, this book was clearly written under strict censorship, but still manages to be a pleasant and entertaining read; something of a ‘travelogue’ visit to Baikonur.  Not particularly easy to find.

Chertok, Boris Ye. (Siddiqi, Asif. ed.) Rockets and People. (4 vols.) Washington, D.C.: NASA, 2005-2011.

·         Vol. I, Rockets and People.  SP-2005-4110.  402 pp.

·         Vol. II, Rockets and People:  Creating a Rocket Industry.  SP-2006-4110.  669 pp.

·         Vol. III, Rockets and People:  Hot Days of the Cold War.  SP-2009-4110.  796 pp.

·         Vol. IV, Rockets and People:  The Moon Race.  SP-2011-4110.  663 pp.

* Chertok’s memoirs are justifiably lauded; he (and his English translators) provide a genial, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic look at the sweep of the Soviet space program from the post-World War 2 period through the early 1970s.  While only one man’s point of view (something that must be kept in mind), it’s the point of view of a man who was one of the ‘insiders’ from the 1940s right through the end of the century.  A lot of reading but well worth the time.

Clark, Phillip.  The Soviet Manned Space Programme: An Illustrated History of the Men, the Missions, and the Spacecraft.  London: Salamander, 1988.  192 pp.

* While dated, the sheer breadth of information in Clark’s book makes it still worthwhile.  Clark used a close analysis of launch dates and times and orbital parameters to obtain a large amount of information on elements of missions the Soviet Union kept otherwise quiet about.

Daniloff, Nicholas.  The Kremlin and the Cosmos.  New York:  Knopf, 1972.  258 pp.

*  Although written long before “detective” work and information releases cleared up the picture of the Soviet space program in the West, this book still holds up surprisingly well; the author made a number of shrewd deductions, sprinkled with some errors (for instance, he assumed that the “State Commission” was a permanent governing body for the program, rather than the name for ad-hoc committees convened for particular projects).

Gerovitch, Slava.  Voices of the Soviet Space Program: Cosmonauts, Soldiers, and Engineers Who Took the USSR into Space.  New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.  305 pp.

* A collection of interviews with men (and a few women) connected with the Soviet space program, yielding interesting insights and sidelights in the participants’ own words.  Of particular interest is an interview with Valentina Ponomaryova, one of the unflown woman cosmonauts who entered the program alongside Valentina Tereshkova.  The primary weakness of the book is an inexplicably high price tag; hopefully it will be reduced.

Glushko, Valentin (ed.)  Soviet Cosmonautics:  Questions and Answers.  Moscow:  Novosti Press, 1988.  141 pp.

*  A bit of a frustrating read.  While there are some interesting facts and insights to be had, the book reads like an “official-story” press release for foreign correspondents—which is pretty much what it is.  The interior illustrations are also of poor-quality black and white, and don’t add anything new.  Of minimal interest outside a study of the Soviet space program’s approach to public relations.

Godwin, Robert (ed.)  Rocket and Space Corporation Energia:  The Legacy of S.P. Korolev.  Burlington, Ont.:  Apogee Books, 2001.  128 pp.

* Evidently a sort of detailed “sales brochure” touting the history and achievements of RKK Energia in its various incarnations (OKB-1, TsKBEM, NPO Energia, etc.), this contains a wide variety of images and diagrams that don’t seem to be available elsewhere.  Fascinating.

Gorkov, Vladislav, and Yu. Avdeev.  An A-Z of Cosmonautics.  Moscow:  Mir Publishers, 1989.  192 pp.

* A juvenile title (though not quite so juvenile as the "A to Z" title might suggest).  While intended for younger audiences, has some interesting illustrations and photos.

Hall, Rex, and David J. Shayler.  The Rocket Men: Vostok and Voskhod, the First Soviet Manned Spaceflights.  Chichester, UK:  Praxis, 2001.  350 pp.

* Basically, Part 1 of the story of the Soviet manned space program.  Contains occasional minor errors, but mostly in unimportant respects-- this is maybe the best book to start with before tackling Asif Siddiqi's much more formidable work.

Hall, Rex, and David J. Shayler.  Soyuz: A Universal Spacecraft.  Chichester, UK:  Praxis, 2003.  460 pp.

* Pretty much part 2, continuing from The Rocket Men, although it does focus a little more closely on the Soyuz spacecraft itself.  Has most of the same strengths and weaknesses of Rocket Men; also recommended.

Hall, Rex, David J. Shayler and Bert Vis.  Russia’s Cosmonauts:  Inside the Yuri Gagarin Training Centre.  Springer-Praxis, 2005.  386 pp.

* A polished and interesting look at the history and layout of the cosmonaut training center at "Starry Town" and a close look at many of the cosmonauts who trained there.

Harford, James J.  Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon.  New York: Wiley, 1997.  432 pp.

* One of the best books in this list:  a look at the life of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev through the context of the early Soviet space program, and a look at the early Soviet space program through the context of the life of Korolev, emphasizing how central the Chief Designer really was, both formally and personally.  A must-read.  :rep:

Harland, David M.  The Story of Space Station Mir.  Chichester, UK:  Springer, 2005.  424 pp.

* The definitive English-language book on Mir.  When read along with Ivanovich’s book on Salyut and Siddiqi’s book(s) on the earlier Soviet space program, constitutes part of a thorough history of the program.  :rep:

Hart, Douglas M.  The Encyclopedia of Soviet Spacecraft.  New York, Exeter, 1987.  191 pp.

* Dated and containing inaccuracies, but well-illustrated and still of interest.

Harvey, Brian.  Race into Space:  The Soviet Space Programme.  Chichester, UK:  Ellis Horwood, 1988.  381 pp.

* A very good summary history of the Soviet space program, handicapped only by the fact that it was written before some notable hidden facts and revelations came out.  Still quite readable. and the author had a very good sense of the truth, compared to what was learned later.

Harvey, Brian.  Russia in Space:  The Failed Frontier?  Chichester, UK:  Praxis, 2001.  330 pp.

* Essentially the story of post-Soviet Russian space efforts, through all of the difficulties.  Concludes on a hopeful note that the Russian space program may rise again.

Harvey, Brian and Olga Zakutnyaya.  Russian Space Probes:  Scientific Discoveries and Future Missions.  Springer-Praxis, 2011.  514 pp.

* Any remaining doubts as to whether the Soviet (and Russian) space programs had genuine scientific goals are effectively dispelled by this thorough review of space science conducted largely through unmanned probes and satellites.  Throws an interesting light on the pure-science instruments that were often included on otherwise-military satellites-- the program was much more complex than was generally appreciated in the West.  More about the science than about mission operations.

Hendrickx, Bart, and Bert Vis.  Energiya-Buran:  The Soviet Space Shuttle.  Chichester, UK:  Praxis, 2007.  526 pp.

* Much more than the title suggests, this is really the story of spaceplane projects in the Soviet Union, culminating in the spectacular but very brief career of Buran.  Hendrickx and Vis clear up many misunderstandings about the Soviet shuttle, some commonplace (was it a copy of the American shuttle?  Well, yes... but mostly no, and the reasons for both are very interesting) and some I hadn't realized at all (Buran did not have air-breathing jet engines installed... but there were places to install them!  I thought that detail had been removed from the final design, but the capability to put them in was still there... and, tellingly, there was a throttle on the control panel for them if/when they were installed).  They also highlight the men chosen to fly the shuttle and what happened to them (some became included into the main Soviet space program, some returned to the Air Force, etc.).  A lot of good stuff here, based on Russian sources, and you won't find a better book in English on the topic.  :rep:

Humble, Ronald D.  The Soviet Space Programme.  London:  Routledge Press, 1988.  158 pp.

* Written in the early Gorbachev era, this book concerns itself principally with the military aspects of the Soviet space program.  Read with the advantage of hindsight, it becomes apparent how limited the information available in open sources was in the West, and suffers from some errors of fact (the ‘Progress’ craft is consistently misnamed ‘Prognoz,’ and there is evidently confusion between the Tsyklon and Zenit launchers, for instance).  Contains a considerable amount of discussion of ICBMs and SDI (“Star Wars”), which were the hot topics when the book was written.

Huntress, Wesley T., Jr. and Mikhail Ya. Marov.  Soviet Robots in the Solar System:  Mission Technologies and Discoveries.  Chichester, UK:  Springer, 2011.  453 pp.

* Something of a companion volume to Harvey and Zakutnyaya's Russian Space Probes; while that one concentrated on the science, this one focuses on the spacecraft and operations.  A bit dry and technical at times, but a fine in-depth look at Soviet lunar and interplanetary probes from the first Luna probes to the ill-fated Mars '96 mission.

Ivanovich, Grujica S.  Salyut, the First Space Station:  Triumph and Tragedy.  Chichester, UK:  Springer, 2008,  426 pp.

* A thorough, fascinating and sometimes heart-breaking account of the world’s first operational space station, along with detail on its development and a close focus on the Soyuz 11 mission, a brilliant success until its tragic conclusion.  Along with Siddiqi’s Challenge to Apollo and Harland’s book on Mir, constitutes the middle part of a nearly definitive history of Soviet space efforts.  :rep:

Johnson, Nicholas L. Handbook of Soviet Manned Space Flight. Revised edition.  San Diego, Calif: Univelt, 1988.  461 pp.

* Though dated 1988, the majority of the book was actually written at the beginning of the decade.  Dated, semi-technical, and peculiarly organized-- though that makes the book sound worse than it really is:  the author deserves definite credit for ferreting out facts about the Soviet program that were otherwise hidden at the time.  Interesting, but superseded by later books.

Johnson, Nicholas L.  Soviet Military Strategy in Space.  London:  Jane’s Information Group, 1987.  320 pp.

* Dated and dry; of interest primarily in the context of what was known and understood in the West in the 1980s.  Concentrates more on theory than on operations.

Johnson, Nicholas L. The Soviet Reach for the Moon: The L-1 and L-3 Manned Lunar Programs and the Story of the N-1 "Moon Rocket". [Washington, D.C.]: Cosmos Books, 1995.  52 pp.

* Difficult to find, but very interesting:  the best (and best-illustrated) of the descriptions of the Soviet manned lunar programs to be written soon after the Soviet/Russian government at last confirmed their existence.  The story has been told more completely since that time, but the photos and illustrations are great.

Lebedev, L. A.  Sons of the Blue Planet.  English translation.  NASA TT F-728.  Washington, D.C.:  NASA, 1973.  327 pp.

* Uneven... the political propaganda is laid on rather thickly, as one might expect from a book where the original publisher was the "Political Literature Press"!  Still, in and among the paeans to Lenin, there are some interesting nuggets, such as Pavel Popovich entertaining scientists with song and dance during his time in the isolation tank.  Gagarin is still strongly hinted to have landed inside his capsule, although the language is (almost certainly intentionally) a bit obscure, at least in the English translation (which says that he landed "together with" his capsule, which could be read either way).  There are some inconsistencies, as when in one chapter it says (twice) that Soyuz 7 and 8 docked, and in the next chapter, it says they merely "approached" each other.

Lebedev, Valentin Vitalevich.  (Luba Diangar, trans.)  Diary of a Cosmonaut:  211 Days in Space.  Texas:  Phytoresource Research, 1988.  352 pp.

* Commentaries by flown astronauts are relatively common on the American side, but few and far between on the Russian/Soviet side (in English, at least); the fact that this is a transcription of a diary written at the time of the events mentioned give the book a “you are there” quality usually lacking in other books.  Somewhat difficult to find but worth the search.   (Also published in paperback by Bantam Books in 1990-- this edition is perhaps easier to find.)

McDonald, Sue.  Mir Mission Chronicle:  November 1994 - August 1996.  TP-98-207890.  [Washington, DC]: [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], 1998.  76 pp.   [This is a continuation of Mir Hardware Heritage, RP-1357]

* Continues the information of Portree’s Mir Hardware Heritage in the same format through the completion of the station with Spektr and Priroda, up through fall 1996.

Matson, Wayne R. (ed.) Cosmonautics, A Colorful History. [Washington, D.C.]: Cosmos Books, 1994.  212 pp.

* Uneven.  Very well-illustrated with many fascinating photographs, handicapped by very poor captioning.  The text was evidently primarily written by insiders in the Soviet/Russian space program, but who provided which contributions is unfortunately not identified.  Still-- fascinating to page through.

Millard, Doug.  Cosmonauts:  Birth of the Space Age.  Scala Arts, 2015.  256 pp.

* A companion catalog and text for the London Science Museum's recent exhibition of Soviet and Russian space history.

Miller, Jay (ed.)  Soviet Space.  Fort Worth, Tex:  Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1991.  110 pp.

* An exhibition catalog of Soviet space artifacts and models that toured a limited set of venues in the closing days of the Soviet Union.

Morgan, Clay.  Shuttle-Mir: The United States and Russia Share History's Highest Stage.  SP-2001-4225.  [Washington, DC]: [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], 2001.  208 pp.

* Seems to be more of a collection of articles than a running narrative.  Still, they're interesting.  The original edition (printed in color) evidently had a companion CD-ROM that is missing from the reprint.

Newkirk, Dennis.  Almanac of Soviet Manned Space Flight.  Houston:  Gulf Publishing, 1990.  320 pp.

* A good mission-by-mission account of the Soviet manned program up through close to the end of the Soviet Union, including easily-understood icons of the spacecraft involved in each mission.  Some inaccuracies, and superseded in many respects by Furniss and Shayler's Manned Spaceflight Log (see below).

Oberg, James E. Red Star in Orbit. New York: Random House, 1981.  272 pp.

* Though dated, this is still one of the most enjoyable and smooth-reading of English-language books about the Soviet space program.  Oberg, a former NASA engineer and mission controller, combines a close analysis of facts and a detective’s ferreting out of Soviet “secrets” with a relatable language style and an underlying genuine appreciation of Soviet space achievements.  :rep:

Perminov, V.G.  The Difficult Road to Mars:  A Brief History of Mars Exploration in the Soviet Union.   [Washington, DC]: [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], 1999.  78 pp.  ,

* A brief description of the Soviets' (mostly) ill-fated Mars programs, concentrating particularly on the period 1968-1975, when the author was an engineer in the program.

Pivnyuk, Vladimir A. et. al.  Space Station Handbook:  The Cosmonaut Training Handbook.  [Washington, D.C.]:  Matson Press, 1992.   60 pp.

* An odd book; something of a cross between a description of real cosmonaut training and what one might expect if one went on a "space-camp" type experience to Starry Town (something that the publisher was evidently trying to set up).  Has some big foldout diagrams of Mir and its modules; most of the information on Mir is repeated in Cosmonautics, A Colorful History, but the information on training is additional.  Interesting but not vital.

Portree, David S. F.  Mir Hardware Heritage. RP-1357.  [Washington, DC]: [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], 1995.  205 pp.

*  A dry-reading but thorough summary of the development of the major components of Mir, including the DOS/Almaz-derived base block, the TKS/”Star”-derived expansion modules, Soyuz, and Progress.  Includes a mission-by-mission summary, highlighting the “build” events and helpfully including configuration diagrams with every mission.  Not beach reading, but essential for English-speakers’ understanding of the development of Mir.  Takes the story up through 1994; for a continuation, see McDonald, Mission Chronicle.

Rhea, John (ed.)  Roads to Space: An Oral History of the Soviet Space Program.  McGraw-Hill, 1995.  513 pp.

* This is an English-language anthology of Dorogi v Kosmos.  Some portions of the original have been (intentionally) omitted and it was observed by Asif Siddiqi (of Challenge to Apollo) that the translation is something less than ideal.  Still, a useful volume containing brief memoirs by a wide variety of individuals connected with the Soviet space program.

Riabchikov, Evgeny.  Russians in Space:  The Men, the Flights, and the Scientists Behind Them.  English ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 1971.  300 pp.

* Although clearly written in a time of Soviet censorship, Russians in Space is nevertheless a good read, with a good amount of detail.  Some details are odd and amusing, such as cosmonaut training commander Nikolai Kaminin being described as “handsome” (notable since Kamanin himself edited the book!).  Smoothly translated into English.

Siddiqi, Asif A.  Challenge to Apollo:  The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974.  NASA SP-4408, 2000.  Republished in two parts as Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge (512 pp.) and The Soviet Space Race with Apollo.  (576 pp.)  Gainesville, Fla: University Press of Florida, 2003. ,

* Thorough, exhaustive, and densely-packed with facts and information, Challenge to Apollo sets the benchmark for Soviet space history from its beginnings through the early 1970s.  Should probably not be the reader’s initial introduction to the topic, though, and is printed in an unfortunately small and peculiar typeface that does not aid comprehension.  :rep:

Zak, Anatoly.  Russia in Space: The Past Explained, the Future Explored.  Burlington, Ont.:  Apogee Books, 2014.  316 pp.  (See )

* Profusely illustrated and detailed, Russia in Space concentrates largely on the trials and tribulations of the post-Soviet space program, with a blow-by-blow description of recent spacecraft and launch vehicle designs (which get unfortunately convoluted and confusing, but that is not at all the author's fault-- he is accurately describing the confusion within the program itself).  Also contains some fascinating speculations on future efforts.  Be sure to check out the accompanying website as well.


Closely related/relevant:

Baker, David. Rocket Owners’ Workshop Manual, 1942 Onwards (All Models). Yeoville, Somerset, UK:  Haynes Publishing, 2015.  192 pp.

* The focus is mainly on American launch systems, but does contain a nice section on the R-7 'Semyorka' and its derivatives, along with a too-brief description of Proton.  (A great source of inspiration for Kerbal rocket designers, but more detail on non-American designs would be welcomed.)

Ezell, Edward Clinton, and Linda Neuman Ezell.  The Partnership:  A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.  SP-4209.  [Washington, DC]: [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], 1979.  560 pp.

* While clearly part of the story of the Soviet space program, The Partnership is written from a nearly-exclusively NASA point of view, limiting the value of the book because the Soviet angle is mostly lacking.  However, within its limitations, is thorough and interesting, as with most NASA history publications.

Furniss, Tim. The History of Space Vehicles. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2001.  256 pp.

* A satisfying coffee-table book, well-illustrated and smoothly-written.  A good introduction to the topic, and a good source of inspiration for Kerbal rocket designers.

Furniss, Tim and David J. Shayler.  Praxis Manned Spaceflight Log 1961-2006.  Chichester, UK:  Praxis, 2007.  829 pp.

* Mission-by-mission summary from the flight of Yuri Gagarin to that of Anousheh Ansari, including all manned space missions.  The focus is on orbital missions, but there is a section on suborbital flight that also includes the high-altitude X-15 flights and SpaceShipOne.

Launius, Roger D., and Andrew K. Johnston. Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration. Piermont, N.H.: Bunker Hill, 2009.  240 pp.

* Decent overview of the "places" of space exploration, including launch sites, lunar landing sites, etc.

Sharman, Helen and Christopher Priest.  Seize the Moment.  London:  Gollancz, 1993.  192 pp.

* Something of an autobiography of the UK's first cosmonaut, Sharman and Priest tell the story of her trip to Mir in the closing days of the Soviet Union in alternating chapters describing the mission and her preparation for it.  A valuable first-person description of cosmonaut training and life.


Edited by MaxwellsDemon
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So... to recap... if one is starting out from "zero" and wants to gain a thorough understanding of Soviet and Russian space flight history (without learning Russian), my recommendations would be (in this order):

1.  Oberg's Red Star in Orbit.

2.  Harford's Korolev.

3.  Either Hall and Shayler's books (Rocket Men and Soyuz) or Harvey's Race Into Space.

4.  Siddiqi's Challenge to Apollo  (Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge, The Soviet Space Race With Apollo)

5.  Ivanovich's Salyut.

6.  Harland's Mir.

7.  Harvey's Russia in Space:  The Failed Frontier?


And then after that, as you will.   :)     Poyekhali!

Edited by MaxwellsDemon

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Incidentally, I've seen references to an English translation of Valeri Ryumin's diary from his Salyut 6 missions, apparently published in Russian in 1987, "A Year Away from Earth" (English title).  It seems to have been part of the JPRS translations, and produced/reported on February 12, 1990, but I can't seem to find that particular issue on line.  If anyone's run across it, I'd be happy to know about it.

Full reference (from Portree, Mir Hardware Heritage, p. 151:  

Valeri Ryumin, A Year Away from Earth: A Cosmonaut's Diary, Molodaya Gvardiya, 1987, pp. 1-207.  Translated in JPRS report, Science & Technology, USSR:  Space, February 12, 1990 (JPRS-USP-90-002-L). 

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On 3/9/2018 at 3:53 PM, MaxwellsDemon said:

That's the one I'm thinking of.  To be honest, it's more because of the authors than the subject matter; I liked Hendrickx's articles on Kamanin's diaries and Vis did a nice job in concert with Rex Hall and David Shayler on the one on cosmonaut training.

OK, I'm convinced.   Going on the ol' Amazon wish list.  :D   (When I was little, I wanted to live in a library.  Now I look around and realize that I do.  Great feeling!)

Energiya-Buran is "out for delivery," according to tracking.   I love those three words!  

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Here's one to skip:  Eberhard Rodel's The Soviet Space Program:  First Steps, 1941-1953.  Looks slick, but is choppy and severely lacking on sources and annotations.  Also, strange in places:  one two-page spread describing the German invasion of 1941 actually summarizes a movie about the event, rather than the actual invasion.

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