The Moscow Industrial-Trading Sewing Association (Moskovskoe Proizvodstennoe-Topgovoe Shvejnoe Obedinenie - MPTShO) 'Vimpel' ('Pennant') was involved in the Soviet/Russian space program since the late 1960's, early 1970's. Vimpel produced the "Diamond" exercise package for the Soyuz-9 mission and the Salyut missions. This package included the TNK-1 and TNK-"Athlet" suits, both for use with the onboard treadmill. Also, Vimpel produced the colorful TK-2 (Earth bound) training suits, which were introduced for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 and were still used during the Mir program. All these equipment was decorated with the Vimpel "Diamond" patch - not showing the company name, but a rocket with 'CCCP'. The patch itself did not make it into the late 1990's: it was still seen during training for Soyuz TM-7 (1988), but disappeared shortly thereafter from the TK-2 suits.|
Left: The TK-2 suit. Center: The suit came in three colors. Right: The Vimpel "Diamond" logo.
At the time of the first 'commercial' international mission, Soyuz TM-11 (1990), the well known orange, green and blue Vimpel TK-2 training suits were being replaced by a new, shiny training suit. It was almost identical to the TK-2, but with a more 'modern' color scheme. We have no idea what the name for this suit is, but we will call it 'FK' for now, for the Federation of Kosmonautics patch that was on one such suit we saw. The shiny suit seemed to be not too popular with the cosmonauts. Part of the TM-11 and all three TM-12 crewmembers were wearing it, but apart from some individual use (Viktorenko, Usachev, Afanasyev, Treschev, Korzun) it was not seen thereafter.
Left: Part of the Soyuz TM-11 crew wearing the modern, shiny suits. Center: Two different versions of the modern suit worn during Soyuz TM-12 preparations. Right: This suit, described as produced for the 1992 Soyuz TM-14 mission, came with a Federation of Kosmonautics (FK) logo.
Four more examples of the 'FK'-suit: Viktorenko (Soyuz TM-20), Afanasyev (Soyuz TM-27 back-up; he used a green colored 'FK' suit on TM-11 and as TM-17 back-up) Treschev (Soyuz TM-27 back-up) and Korzun (ISS Expedition 5).
Another new suit, also resembling the old TK-2 suit but with a more ergonomic pocket lay-out (still available in green, orange and blue and maybe called TK-3 - we will refer to it as such as long as we do not have any other information) emerged at the same time. This suit was first worn by some Soyuz TM-13 crewmembers (1991) and was also the first that came with the MPTShO "Vimpel" company logo just above the left breast pocket. These pockets were not placed horizontally, like the TK-2 suits, but diagonally, so it could be reached easier in confined spaces. With the rise of commercialism in the late Soviet Union, around the Soyuz TM-11 mission in 1990, company logo's and names were more often seen in the space program. The TM-11 crew was seen with advertisement for the Moskovich Aleko (a car), Sony and other Japanese companies on their Sokol suits. Also, they were the first to wear the 'Zvezda' logo on their Sokols, refering to the manufacturer of these spacesuits. The use of the MPTShO "Vimpel" patch on the TK-3 suits was probably triggered by the same economical developments.
Left: Tokbar Aubarikov wearing the blue TK-3 with Vimpel patch during Soyuz TM-13 training. Center: Talgat Musabayev wearing the orange version during TM-13 training. Right: Christer Fuglesang wearing the green version during an orientation course in Russia.
At the time of Soyuz TM-19 (1994) another new training suit was seen: the TK-4. This suit was only available in blue and had an even more ergonomic pocket layout, with the breast and upper arm pocket zippers (in dark blue) placed almost vertically. This suit, also manufactured by Vimpel, had the MPTShO "Vimpel" patch attached to the upper left breast. Some cosmonauts left it there, others replaced it with a personal Molchanov- or mission patch. With the introduction of the Pegasus training and flight suits for the International Space Staton, use of the MPTShO "Vimpel" patch was discontinued somewhere in the late 1990's.
Left: Sergei Avdeev (Soyuz TM-22) wearing the TK-4 suit with typical dark blue zippers. The MPTShO "Vimpel" patch is on the right breast. Center: Soyuz TM-23 crewmembers Yuri Onufrienko and Yuri Usachov wearing a TK-3 (with MPTShO "Vimpel" on the left breast) and an 'FK'-suit respectively. Right: Soyuz TM-26 crewmember Pavel Vinogradov was still wearing a TK-2 suit (note the metal ring above the right breast pocket) in 1997. The Vimpel "Diamond" patch with rocket and CCCP was long gone by that time.
The patch was not only seen on the Earth-bound training suits. Like the "early" TNK-1 days, Vimpel was still the manufacturer of the treadmill-exercise harness during the Mir program. During the Shuttle-Mir program, in the late 1990's, the MPTShO "Vimpel" logo could also be seen on this harness. We do not know when the patch was first used in this place: it was not there yet during the Soyuz TM-14 mission (1992) or Shannon Lucid's mission (1996; Soyuz TM-22), but it was visible during Jerry Linenger's stay (1997; Soyuz TM-25).
Left: Sergei Krikalev on the treadmill in 1992 - the patch is not yet there. Center: Linenger on the treadmill in early 1997. Right: Closeup of the Vimpel patch.
The Vimpel patch is not commercially available and no souvenir versions were ever made. Sometimes, it is offered on eBay, where it is sold as part of a TK-4 training suit or offered seperately by a dealer from Poland.