The question Why are there advertisements in the Russian ISS flight control room? shows the image below. There is a large red boundary that looks like the boundary of the overlap of several circles drawn on the surface of the Earth then distorted by the map projection. I'm guessing that each circle is the limit of the range of something, that is most likely a ground link for telecommunications. I can not read Russian but I do see TDRSS mentioned at the bottom.

That the boundary appears so prominently suggests that it has some specific meaning, and makes me wonder what happens differently when the ISS is inside it compared to when it is outside of it.

Question: What exactly is this boundary, and what happens when the ISS is inside it?

cropped and sharpened:

Russian ISS Flight Control Room (cropped and sharpened)


Russian ISS Flight Control Room

Source: Russian ISS Flight Control Room (click for full size)

View of the Flight Control Room at Russia’s Federal Space Agency Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia, located on the outskirts of Moscow.

Date: 21 April 2004

Source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/crew-9/html/jsc2004e19918.html

Author: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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    $\begingroup$ That's when they turn off the cameras to stop the world from seeing the UFO space station in orbit $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Dec 7, 2019 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting to see the Russian view of a question I asked, though it seems the one labelled PPKR is perhaps missing here? Also interesting that the US screen has them as separate entries rather than a single one. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2019 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Seems the image I based my question on was 6 years newer, guess they had 6 years to install a new station! $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2019 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesThorpe There could be, but I wouldn't know what to ask exactly. Here are some roughly comparable images i.stack.imgur.com/wLx9d.jpg and i.stack.imgur.com/JiezJ.png $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 9, 2019 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'll let it sit, something might emerge :) I found out the answer to one sub-question while looking already though - why are they individually shaped that way - looks to just be lattitude/projection related, I've found images where the "circle" around the ISS isn't a circle and is similarly stretched at high latitudes. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2019 at 9:35

2 Answers 2


The legend at the bottom describes red cloud as "Зоны НИП", which is "NIP" (pronounced "neep") zones/areas.

Quick googling reveals that here НИП is decoded as either "научно-измерительный пункт" (Scientific Measurement Point/Station) or "Наземный Измерительный Пункт" (Earth[-based] Measurement Point/Station). Both unreferenced.

So, basically, this is area of ground tracking stations reach/coverage

Found one use of "Earth[-based] Measurement Point/Station" version in this bit more official webpage. English version of the same page refers to it as "ground site coverage".

  • $\begingroup$ КИК - Командно Измерительный Комплекс. kik-sssr.ru $\endgroup$
    – A. Rumlin
    Dec 7, 2019 at 15:51

I would translate "НИП" ("наземный измерительный пункт") as "ground telemetry station".


what happens when the ISS is inside it

When the ISS is within the area covered by НИП, direct communication is possible between the Russian flight control and the Russian segment of the OSS (at other times communications are relayed via Luch satellites). This means in particular that they try to schedule critical manoeuvres, such as approach and docking, while the ISS is in that area to allow ground control to intervene in case of problems.

Note: Linked sources are in Russian

  • $\begingroup$ Can you confirm that Russian comm goes via TDRSS now? I'm 95% sure it didn't in the past. Rather via an (often non-functional) Russian comsat system called Luch or similar. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2019 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ That's exactly what my first link says; it's talking about Luch being planned for 2012. The article at the link is from 2010 so I assume it's no longer the case today. I'll remove that part to avoid confusion. $\endgroup$
    – mustaccio
    Dec 6, 2019 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! My experience was that they had no comm except over ground stations. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2019 at 20:35

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