Soyuz-2-1v launches Kanopus-ST
On December 5, 2015, the Russian military launched an experimental satellite reportedly to test capability for tracking enemy submarines. The Kanopus-ST satellite rode into orbit on the second Soyuz-2-1v rocket, following the successful inaugural launch of that booster at the end of 2013.
History of Kanopus-ST project
By the mid-1980s, experiments conducted from aircraft proved that microwave radiation can be used to study properties of water in the atmosphere and in the oceans. Such important parameters as level of salinity and temperature of the sea surface could be determined by bouncing ultra-high-frequency waves, or UHFs, from the surface of water with the help of instruments known as radiometers. (764) In theory, the penetrating properties of radio waves could also be used to bounce signals off underwater objects, such as submarines. Not surprisingly, the field attracted the attention of the military.
In 1990, a group of Soviet engineers led by Grigory Chernyavsky at the nation's Academy of Sciences began researching the use of microwaves for monitoring oceans from space. The team claimed the development of the first "probing microwave scanner," MTV3A, which was launched on Dec. 10, 2001, onboard the Meteor-3M-1 satellite. The instrument was designed to measure crucial weather parameters, such as water content in the clouds, temperature and humidity in the atmosphere, radiation levels and wind speeds.
A more advanced UHF radiometer designated MTV3A-OK was developed for the Ukrainian Sich-1M satellite, which was launched on Dec. 24, 2004. The instrument had a wider UHF range and, in addition, featured optical, ultraviolet and infrared sensors.
The third incarnation of the Russian UHF radiometer became a part of the multi-spectral payload complex designated BIK-GYa-1. The multi-spectral suit of instruments was designed to monitor cloud cover and its water content, atmospheric humidity and temperature at different altitudes, amounts of rainfall, ocean surface temperature, including ice and snow condition, wind speed at ocean surface and dynamics of oceanic currents. Overland, the same sensors would be able to check on the condition of foliage, soil temperature and humidity and detect forest fires. (765)
The payload was miniaturized to 160 kilograms to fit into a low-cost micro-satellite, such as the Vulkan (volcano) platform developed at the turn of the 21st century at the Moscow-based VNIIEM institute. The same company also built Meteor and Kanopus satellites.