Computer Designer Viktor Przhiyalkovskiy

  • Slava Gerovitch
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


Viktor Vladimirovich Przhiyalkovskiy was born on March 2, 1930, in the town of Serpukhov in the Moscow region. In 1953 he graduated from the Moscow Power Institute as an engineer specializing in the design of gauging instruments and automatic devices. Between the years 1953 and 1956, he worked as an engineer and senior engineer at the Penza branch of the Special Design Bureau No. 245. He was the chief designer of the specialized Granit computer for statistical processing of ballistics data. From 1956 to 1959, Przhiyalkovskiy was the chief engineer at the Military Unit No. 06669 in Noginsk near Moscow, where he participated in the design of a transistor computer. In the period 1959–1971, he worked at the Special Design Bureau of the Ordzhonikidze Factory in Minsk (later the Minsk branch of the Scientific-Research Center for Electronic Computer Technology [NITsEVT]) as the chief engineer, deputy director, and chief designer of the Minsk-2, Minsk-23, Minsk-32, and ES-1020 computers. In 1971 he moved to the Moscow headquarters of NITsEVT and became the center’s chief engineer and deputy director for research, deputy general designer of the Unified Series of computers, and deputy chief designer of Argon onboard computers. In 1977 he was appointed director of NITsEVT, and he became the general designer of the Unified Series and chief designer of the Argon computers.
Figure 8.1

Viktor Przhiyalkovskiy, May 24, 2002 (photo by author).


Deputy Director Space Program Mobile Computer Chief Engineer Onboard Computer 
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  1. 1.
    Circumlunar and lunar landing missions required extensive computations for lunar landing and trajectory adjustments, which had to be carried out on board, rather than on Earth, since these crucial tasks were to be performed outside of the range of direct communication with the ground. This prompted both the United States and the Soviet Union to start working on onboard computers for spacecraft in the 1960s. See David A. Mindell, Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Argon-11S was completed in 1968 and formed the core of the guidance system of the 7K-L1 spacecraft. Under the L1 program of piloted circumlunar flight, five 7K-L1 spacecraft (publicly named Zond 4 through Zond 8) performed test flights in the unmanned mode between 1968 and 1970. The L1 program was cancelled in 1970. See Asif Siddiqi, Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945–1974, NASA SP-2000–4408 (Washington, DC: NASA, 2000), p. 558 and chapters. 12 and 15;Google Scholar
  3. see Vitaliy V. Chesnokov, “Argon-11c Computer,” accessed May 21, 2014, For an overview of the Argon computers, see “Istoriya poyavleniya bortovykh EVM ryada ‘Argon,’” accessed May 21, 2014, Scholar
  4. 6.
    The Argon-16 computer, completed in 1973, was installed on Soyuz T piloted spacecraft and its subsequent modifications and on the Mir space station. See “Argon-16 Computer,” accessed May 21, 2014, On the debates about the installation of Argon-16 on Mir, see German Noskin, Pervyye BTsVM kosmicheskogo primeneniya (St. Petersburg: Renome, 2011), pp. 184–202.Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    A new version of Soyuz—Soyuz T—was equipped with the Argon-16 computer complex for the control of rendezvous and reentry. In June 1980, during its very first piloted mission, Soyuz T-2, when the ship was approaching the Salyut 6 station, Argon-16 noted a discrepancy between the predicted and actual velocities, concluded that the automatic rendezvous system was malfunctioning, and shut it off. The Soyuz T-2 commander Yuriy Malyshev successfully performed manual approach and docking. See Chertok, Rockets and People: The Moon Race, vol.4, pp. 507–508. Valentina Ponomareva claims that the automatic docking system actually failed, and only the presence of an onboard computer allowed the crew to perform manual control;Google Scholar
  6. see Valentina Ponomareva, “Zachem na bortu kosmonavt,” in Kosmonavtika, edited by Yelena Ananyeva (Moscow: Avanta+, 2004), p. 365, and her interview in this collection. According to another version of events, traceable to Aleksey Yeliseyev, the computer was functioning correctly, but the crew turned it off because they did not trust its recommendations;Google Scholar
  7. see Rex Hall and David J. Shayler, Soyuz: A Universal Spacecraft (Chichester: Springer/ Praxis, 2003), p. 293;Google Scholar
  8. Dennis Newkirk, Almanac of Soviet Manned Space Flight (Houston, TX: Gulf, 1990), p. 213.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    The Soviet development of the Unified Series of computers was carried out at several institutions, while NITsEVT served as the lead designer organization. See N. C. Davis and S. E. Goodman, “The Soviet Bloc’s Unified System of Computers,” ACM Computing Surveys 10:2 (June 1978): 93–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Slava Gerovitch 2014

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  • Slava Gerovitch

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