The Soviet Space Program’s Remarkable Electromechanical Navigation Device

Front-facing view of a Globus navigational device from a Soyuz capsule.
Ken Shirriff

You must see this. Ken Shirriff got his hands on an example of a navigational device from a Soyuz spacecraft and opened it up to see how it worked. Known as a Globus (its proper name is Индикатор Навигационный Космический—roughly, space navigation indicator), it’s an incredibly complicated marvel of gears and cams, an electromechanical analog computer that showed the capsule’s position on a physical globe. The position was predicted—the Globus received no navigational data. Ken’s got lots of photos of the innards at his website. See also his Mastodon thread. He has hopes of getting the thing operational, so keep an eye out for that.

(Based on the presence of NASA tracking sites on the globe, Ken thinks this particular unit was meant for the Apollo-Soyuz program, but I kind of wonder whether that was a function of the 1967 Rescue Agreement between the U.S. and the USSR instead.)

The Mercury capsule had something similar for a while: the Earth Path Indicator. One example sold for nearly $100,000 in 2019.