In the movie "Hidden Figures", NASA receives an IBM 7090 in 1961. What is the subsequent timeline of the primary computing means for flight planning and orbit calculation?

Specifically, what was the computer used by NASA in 1975 during the Apollo-Soyuz program?

There is a widespread boastful claim During the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project the processing of Soyuz orbit parameters was accomplished by a BESM-6 based system in 1 minute. The same computation for the Apollo was carried out by the American side in 30 minutes.

The "BESM-6 based system" was, as a matter of fact, a combination of a BESM-6 with a newest multiprocessor data acquisition and processing system AS-6, using the same element base as BESM-6, yielding about 10-15 MIPS.

How old was the "American side" hardware in 1975?

  • 5
    If you don't get an answer here, you might try space.stackexchange.com which has some answers that mention the IBM 7090. Mar 11, 2019 at 20:46
  • 7
    Unless there are some statements about the algorithms used and accuracy of the results of the two computations, the claim doesn't necessarily say anything about the hardware speed. (Back in the 1980s I once speeded up some software that was heavily used by my employers by a factor of between 100 and 1000 depending on what was being simulated, simply by using a better numerical method. The fact that the Soviets had better mathematicians than NASA wouldn't surprise me in the least)
    – alephzero
    Mar 11, 2019 at 20:53
  • @alephzero Conversely, knowing the computation speeds (roughly, low single minutes vs close to 30 minutes) and the hardware speeds (10-15 MIPS vs ???) will allow to estimate the relative efficiency of the algorithms.
    – Leo B.
    Mar 11, 2019 at 21:58
  • NASA received an IBM S/360 Model 91 in 1967 and two IBM S/360 Model 95 computers in 1968 (the only two ever built). NASA moved to the IBM 370 in the shuttle era. Some info: history.nasa.gov/computers/Ch8-2.html Mar 12, 2019 at 20:55
  • @KenShirriff Then it's even more of a mystery. The IBM 360/91 alone should have had a comparable performance.
    – Leo B.
    Mar 12, 2019 at 21:06


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