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Ground control network in Vostochny
Like most launch sites around the world, Vostochny had to be equipped with its own network of ground stations, which would track and control space missions originating at the space center. The ground station closest to the launch site became known as Vostochny Command and Measurement Point or VKIP.
A satellite of the ground station, VKIP at Site 9 (bottom) in Vostochny in November 2014. The main transport artery of the center leads to the launch facilities on the right. The road to the airport heads north (top left).
An aerial view of the ground control station in Vostochny. A makeshift town for workers at the KSISO site could accommodate up to 300 people, the official Interfax agency claimed.
Location and design
The Vostochny Command and Measurement Point, VKIP, serves as a part of the Complex for Measurement, Gathering and Processing of Information or KSISO. It includes all the facilities for radar and optical tracking of launches, processing of telemetry, predicting of flight trajectories and keeping accurate timing of missions.
According to original plans, Site 9 hosting the VKIP station, would be situated on a hill, several kilometers northeast of the airport area. However, by the time the construction started in Vostochny, VKIP had to be moved much farther south, likely because its original area would remain undeveloped in the first phase of construction in Vostochny from 2012 to 2015, while a ground station was deemed necessary for the very first launch. As a result, Site 9 was moved to a hill located southwest of the launch facilities and adjacent to the main road of the center. The layout of the VKIP station nearly matched the perimeter of the abandoned silo for a Soviet-era ICBM, which used to be deployed at that location.
In addition to the VKIP ground station, Site 9 also accommodated an indoor car park and a civil defense emergency shelter with a total area of 2,200 square meters.
The main ground control building was accompanied by between 11 and 18 concrete towers according to various sources for tracking and communications antennas and by a 85-meter-tall truss structure, which was nicknamed Eiffel Tower. It was reportedly designed for accurate calibration of ground control antennas.
According to Russian space officials, the single ground control station at Site 9 was designed to support all three launch facilities: the Soyuz pad; a dual Angara complex and the yet-to-be approved launch site for a super-heavy rocket.
The RKS corporation, which is traditionally responsible for flight control systems within the Russian space industry, completed the preliminary design of the KSISO complex in 2012, cleary behind other facilities in Vostochny. Satellite images showed tree clearing activities and initial construction at Site 9 only in the fall of 2013. Foundations for key facilities at Site 9 were excavated by February 2014. The following month, Spetsstroi, the main contractor on the Vostochny project, reported that the construction was going at full swing at most facilities of the KSISO complex. According to the Interfax news agency, 200 workers were involved in the construction of the KSISO facilities by the end of 2014, including the assembly of an 85-meter calibration tower.
In April 2015, the Spetstroi said that the construction of the KSISO facility was approaching completion under a contract which set a deadline for the project on June 30.
On June 18, 2015, Roskosmos announced that the ground station in Vostochny had began operations. However, the press-release specified that the first data from the International Space Station, ISS, had been received at the site a day earlier by a Mobile (hence temporary) Measurement Station, MIP, which had been deployed at the site by the RKS corporation. The test aimed to prepare for the launch of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket, the agency said.
The temporary facility consisted of two mobile containers with equipment capable of transmitting telemetry to Vostochny via data-relay satellites. At the time, RKS corporation was still waiting for the completion of the permanent site and its wiring to the spaceport's power grid.
Roskosmos also planned ground stations located downrange from Vostochny along the flight trajectories of various rockets. One such site was be located near the town of Tiksi in Bulunsk District, in the Yakut Republic.
In addition, a Mobile Measurement Point, MIP, was placed on the Admiral Makarov icebreaker, which would be deployed in Japanese Sea 200 kilometers east of Vladivostok and 2,000 kilometers dowrange from Vostochny.
Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Click to enlarge. Credit: Google Earth circa 2007
Vostochny's main ground control station was built at the site of an old ICBM silo. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
General layout of the Command and Measurement Point, KIP, in Vostochny, located southwest of the launch facilities. Credit: Roskosmos
An antenna tower under construction in Vostochny at the beginning of April 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: Spetsstroi
The calibration tower in Vostochny in April 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: Spetsstroi