Creation of new military optical reconnaissance satellites in Russia
On the American web resource "The Space Review" another interesting article was published by the prominent analyst in the field of Soviet and Russian space programs Bart Hendrickx "Upgrading Russia's fleet of optical reconnaissance satellites" ("Updating the Russian constellation of optical reconnaissance satellites"), testifying to the serious lag of Russia in space reconnaissance systems and of Russian work on the creation of new optical reconnaissance satellites in order to overcome this lag.
Russia currently has only two operational optical reconnaissance satellites in orbit, which may have expired. They are to be replaced by more efficient satellites with a primary mirror of about the same size as those expected to be used aboard US reconnaissance satellites, but it is unclear when these Russian satellites will be ready to launch. The experimental satellite, launched in 2018, is likely a precursor to a constellation of much smaller spy satellites that will complement the imagery provided by larger satellites.
Soviet photo reconnaissance satellites
Most of the reconnaissance satellites that flew during the Soviet era returned the film to Earth in capsules. Satellites of this type continued to be used after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last of which was launched in 2015. They were called Zenit (nine types, more than 600 launches from 1961 to 1994), Yantar (five types, almost 180 launches from 1974 to 2015) and Orlets (two types, 10 launches from 1989 to 2006). All these satellites were designed and built by the Central Specialized Design Bureau (TsSKB) and its subsidiary Progress plant in Kuibyshev (renamed Samara in 1991). It was founded in 1958 as a branch of Sergey Korolev's OKB-1, and in 1974 it became independent.
The disadvantages of satellites with a film return system were the limited amount of film they could carry (and therefore their limited lifespan) and, more importantly, their inability to transmit images in a timely manner. In 1976, the United States launched its first digital reconnaissance satellite, KH-11 / KENNEN, into orbit, using electro-optical technology to transmit images to Earth in real time. 16 satellites of this type have been launched, four of which are currently in orbit. They are supposed to carry a telescope with a main mirror 2.4 meters in diameter, they are compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, but looking at the Earth, not the Universe, and have a theoretical resolution of 0.15 meters. Satellites send images to Earth via data relay satellites,
The Soviet Union launched its first optoelectronic reconnaissance satellite only in December 1982. The spacecraft used the Yantar film satellites platform and a traditional optical camera that could not match the resolution of the KENNEN reflex telescope. It also had an infrared camera for night observation. The first-generation satellites (Yantar-4KS1, or Terylene) with a design resolution of 1 meter from an altitude of 200 kilometers were launched nine times between 1982 and 1989. The improved satellite of the second generation (Yantar-4KS1M, or Neman) had a resolution of less than a meter, 15 launches were carried out in the period from 1986 to 2000. The flight duration gradually increased from six months to over a year, but even this was much shorter than the multi-year missions.
It was only in 1983 that the Soviet government authorized the development of a satellite that was close to KENNEN in its characteristics. For this, the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Plant (LOMO) was ordered to build an optical system 17В317 with a telescope with a mirror diameter of 1.5 meters. He had to fly on two different types of satellites. One, called "Sapphire", was to be built by TsSKB-Progress and launched into low orbits for "near" target reconnaissance tasks, and the other, called "Araks" (also known as "Arkon"), was to be produced by NPO. ... Lavochkin and fly in much higher orbits for the tasks of reconnaissance of large areas. In the end, "Sapphire" was never launched, and two satellites "Araks", which are NPO them. Lavochkin was launched in 1997 and 2002,
After the failure of the second satellite "Araks" in 2003, Russia was left without any digital reconnaissance satellites in orbit and had to be content with periodic launches of satellites returning the film, which had been in orbit for no more than three months. Around the turn of the century, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced a tender for a new digital reconnaissance satellite. JSC NPO Lavochkina proposed a reduced version of Araks, but on March 15, 2001, a contract was signed with TsSKB-Progress (in 2014 it was renamed into the Rocket and Space Center Progress or RCC Progress). The contract provided for the construction of three satellites called "Persona", also known under the military designation 14F137.
After several years of delays, on July 26, 2008, the first Persona satellite was launched as Kosmos-2441, but Russian press reports at the time said it was lost just two months later due to memory cards in its the on-board computer were damaged by charged particles. The next satellite, Kosmos-2486, equipped with secure electronic components, was launched into orbit on June 7, 2013. Assumptions in the Russian press that problems with this satellite were soon confirmed were confirmed by court documents published in 2017 - orbital tests of the satellite were interrupted from August 2013 to February 2014 due to unspecified problems on board and were not completed. until October 2014. The third satellite "Persona" ("Cosmos-2506") was launched on June 23, 2015, into orbit, synchronized with the orbit of the second satellite to ensure maximum coverage of areas of interest on Earth. According to the same court documents, it also encountered technical problems during initial tests in orbit and was not declared operational until November 2016.
Despite the unsuccessful start of the Kosmos-2486 and Kosmos-2506 flights, both satellites appear to have been operating normally since then.
The Persona satellite platform appears to be based on the Yantar-4KS1M platform and is believed to contain improvements that have significantly increased its service life. In one article published by RCC Progress in 2016, and allegedly describing the Person, the design life is named at five years. Although "Persona" is not mentioned by name, the article refers to a satellite orbiting the Earth in a 730 km orbit at 98.3 ° to the equator, which is the exact parameters of the "Persona" orbit. The ground resolution of the optical system is 0.5 meters. The optical system was developed by LOMO and has been identified by several sources as 17B321, although court documents published in 2012 refer to it as 14M339M.
The Russians have never published drawings or imagery of Persona, but a fuzzy ground photograph of the first Persona satellite, taken by a British amateur observer in 2008, gives at least a vague idea of its appearance. It looks like a scaled-down version of the Hubble Space Telescope with solar panels mounted parallel to the satellite's hull. This configuration of solar panels is also visible in the patent describing the deployment mechanism for Persona's solar panels.
Resource-PM may become a civilian branch of Persona, which should begin replacing the currently operating Resource-P Earth remote sensing satellites in 2023. The announced orbit of these satellites is practically identical to the orbit of the Persona. The satellite's platform is likely very similar, although the solar panels are installed differently. Like Persona, Resurs-PM will use a LOMO telescope with a 1.5-meter main mirror, but the optical assembly will be different, using a two-mirror telescope of the Ritchie-Chretien type.
Despite the unsuccessful start of the Kosmos-2486 and Kosmos-2506 missions, both satellites appear to have been operating normally since then. However, if their design life is indeed five years, both have already exceeded it. While they may well last a few more years, Russia cannot afford to risk losing the high-resolution imaging capabilities offered by these satellites and is actively working to upgrade its fleet of spy satellites.
In August 2016, the Russian newspaper Kommersant announced the development of a replacement for Persona called Hrazdan, which is the name of a river in Armenia that flows through the capital of the country, Yerevan (two previously used Russian digital intelligence satellites, Neman and Araks , were also named after rivers in the former Soviet republics.) Citing "two informed industry sources" as well as publicly available procurement documents, the newspaper reported that the first three Hrazdan satellites should be launched in 2019, 2022 and 2024. and that the third device will be the first on which the optical system produced by PJSC Krasnogorsk Plant named after S.A. Zverev "(KMZ) with a mirror diameter of more than two meters. More details about the project in the Russian press did not appear after the publication of Kommersant.
It follows from publicly available procurement documents that the project was officially launched on June 19, 2014 with the signing of a contract between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Progress RCC. The second contract for the project was awarded by the same two parties on September 26, 2016. Perhaps the original contract was only for the completion of the preliminary design of the satellite, while the second was for the actual construction of the satellites. This could explain why, immediately after the signing of the 2014 contract, the design of some systems was assigned to more than one subcontractor, apparently on a competitive basis.
While the satellites themselves are designated by the military code name 14F156, the code name for the entire project ("space system" in Russian terminology) is 14K046. As can be seen from the online document "Progress RCC", the design of the satellite is carried out in the Office No. 1032 RCC "Progress" under the leadership of the chief designer Oleg Fedorenko.
The optical load of "Hrazdan" (the so-called "electro-optical complex", or EOC) is named "Sevan", in honor of the Armenian lake, from which the Hrazdan River originates. In July 2014, the Progress RCC signed contracts for the preliminary design of Sevan with two telescope manufacturers, KMZ and LOMO. However, there are no traces of LOMO in the later Sevan documents, which indicates that KMZ was chosen as the sole supplier. Unlike LOMO, KMZ is part of the powerful Shvabe holding, which unites several dozen organizations that make up the core of the Russian optical industry. Perhaps this helped him to get a prestigious contract for Sevan, while LOMO had to be content with a contract for the Resurs-PM telescope, which in a sense is a repetition of the work he had done earlier for Persona.
Apparently, KMZ began developing the technology for the optical loading of Hrazdan even before the project officially started. In December 2013, he won a tender organized by Roscosmos under the name Mirror-KT (KT - Space Telescope). The purpose of the tender was described as “the development of technology for the production of light primary mirrors for modern large space telescopes with very high resolution for Earth remote sensing”.
All this means that the size of the Sevan's main mirror is equal to the size of the mirror that was supposedly installed on the American KH-11 / KENNEN satellites back in 1976.
The challenge was to develop a mirror with a diameter of up to 2.5 meters, as well as a composite structure to accommodate the mirror. They must be able to stay in orbit for at least seven years. According to the documentation, Zerkalo-KT was prematurely completed in February 2015, but it is clear from other sources that KMZ continued to work on the system in subsequent years. A possible explanation for this is that Zerkalo-KT started out as a civilian project funded by Roscosmos, and that the space agency stopped cash flow in early 2015 when the mirror was incorporated into the Defense Ministry's Hrazdan project. A drawing of the mirror developed in the framework of Mirror-KT was published in an article at the end of 2014.
As can be understood from the online procurement documents, KMZ received final permission to develop Sevan on September 30, 2016, four days after the Russian Defense Ministry and Progress RCC signed a second contract for Hrazdan. KMZ was supposed to act as a subcontractor for the Progress RCC as a payload supplier, but instead it received a contract directly from the Ministry of Defense, which apparently wants to transfer the Sevan development under its direct control.
While KMZ is responsible for integrating the optical load, the mirrors themselves are manufactured by the Lytkarino Optical Glass Plant (LZOS). LZOS already teamed up with KMZ for the Zerkalo-KT project in 2014, possibly even before the approval of the Hrazdan program. At least two publications by LZOS confirm his involvement in Hrazdan. In some issues of the corporate magazine of the Spektr company, the mirrors of Sevan are clearly mentioned, although the project itself is not named. One publication mentions a “special optics kit” consisting of a 2.4 meter primary mirror, a 0.54 meter secondary aspherical mirror and an aspherical off-axis tertiary mirror. Most likely, this means that the Hrazdan telescope is a three-mirror Korsh anastigmat.
In other issues of the Spectrum, a container is mentioned that is required to transport a 2.35-meter mirror, which must exactly match the diameter of the main mirror (2.4 meters is a rounded number). This is confirmed by procurement documents, which may be associated with Sevan and contain drawings of all three mirrors inside their containers. Based on this, the diameter of the tertiary mirror can be estimated at about 0.40 meters.
All this means that the size of the main mirror of "Sevan" is equal to the size of the one that was supposedly installed on the American KH-11 / KENNEN satellites back in 1976. It also has nearly the same diameter as the two primary mirrors that NASA donated to NASA in 2012 for use aboard astronomical satellites (one of which will fly on the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, previously known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope). It was spare equipment left over from the NRO spy satellite project. The transmitted mirrors were reported to be part of a three-mirror assembly, but the tertiary mirror was not included in the transmission.
Such a diameter of the Sevan's main mirror does not necessarily mean that it will have the same terrain resolution as that of American spy satellites. Other factors that matter are the quality of the mirror and image sensors. The material from which the main mirror is made (as well as, presumably, others) is SO-115M, also known as sitall or astrositall. This is a crystalline glass-ceramic material, developed back in Soviet times and used for the manufacture of many Russian space mirrors, including 1.5-meter mirrors on the Araks and Persona. LZOS publications confirm that materials such as silicon carbide (used at ESA's Herschel and Gaia observatories) and beryllium (used by the James Webb Space Telescope) have better performance.
The CCD image sensors to be used in Sevan were identified as Kem-PKh (for panchromatic images) and Kes-MS (for multispectral images). Kem is the name of a river in the Republic of Karelia in northwestern Russia. The sensors are manufactured by NPP Elar, which also produces CCD matrices for other Russian Earth remote sensing satellites, including Persona, Resurs-P and Resurs-PM. In articles published by NPP Elar, the pixel size is 9x9 µm² for Kem-PKh and the pixel size is 18x18 µm² for Kem-MS. The same sizes of CCD pixels are characteristic of the high-resolution panchromatic imaging system of the Resurs-PM satellite and the multispectral medium-resolution imaging system, which indicates the generality of the design.
The main power plant of "Hrazdan" uses a liquid engine developed by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise "Design Bureau of Chemical Engineering named after A. M. Isaev "(KB Khimmash), which is a part of JSC" State Space Research and Production Center named after M.V. Khrunichev ". According to the available data, it was a modified version of the propulsion system flown on the Resurs-P satellites. An electric propulsion system will also be installed on the satellites. The manufacturer cannot be determined with certainty, but it is known that a company called NIIMash [JSC Scientific Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering, Nizhnyaya Salda, Sverdlovsk Region] was tasked with building xenon tanks for the system. According to one of NIIMash documents, the system will be used for accurate orbit correction and will improve the ground resolution of the onboard optical complex. Most likely, this means that the perigee of the "Hrazdan" will at least periodically descend to heights where an electric propulsion system is required to counteract atmospheric resistance. This is reminiscent of tests carried out in 2017–2019 by Japan with an experimental imaging satellite called Tsubame, or an ultra-small test satellite, which used ion engines powered by xenon engines to combat aerodynamic drag when descending to an altitude of 167 kilometers. Presumably, the Hrazdan satellites will fly in elliptical orbits similar to those of American digital reconnaissance satellites.
Also on board will be torque control gyroscopes that will allow satellites to navigate without consuming fuel. They are provided by the Research Institute of Command Instruments (NIIKP) in St. Petersburg. Called SGK-250, they have the same characteristics as the gyroscopes on the Resurs-P and Persona satellites, and will also be installed on Resurs-PM.
Another subcontractor of the Hrazdan project is the Scientific Research Institute of Precision Mechanics (SRI TM), which is developing the so-called Information Elimination System (SLI). The company's website defines it as a standalone operating system that can erase information (including so-called "encoded information") in the event that certain parameters "exceed acceptable limits" and appears to contain a set of specialized sensors for continuous monitoring various onboard systems.
Although Hrazdan's optical payload is likely to be heavier than Persona's, the satellites should remain within the launch load range of Soyuz-2-1b, the most powerful rocket in the Soyuz family of launch vehicles, which has also been used to launch satellites. "A person". The satellite's heavier mass can be offset by using an elliptical rather than a circular orbit. The launches will be carried out from the Plesetsk military cosmodrome.
The procurement documentation says that two Hrazdan satellites are currently under construction. Documentation published in September 2017 indicated possible launch dates in late 2020 and late 2021, but those dates have likely shifted since then. In addition to potential technical problems, Hrazdan, like many other Russian space projects, could well face delays due to both budgetary problems and Western sanctions, which made it difficult to supply foreign electronic components to the Russian space industry. Work is now underway on a much smaller type of spy satellite, which is supposed to guarantee constant access to high-resolution imagery for the Russian military, even if the Persona satellites go down in orbit before Hrazdan is ready for launch.
EMKA and Run-Up
On March 29, 2018, Russia launched a small military satellite from Plesetsk using the Soyuz-2-1v spacecraft, a lightweight version of the Soyuz launch vehicle without four additional boosters. Billed as Kosmos-2525, it was launched into an orbit measuring approximately 320 by 350 kilometers with an inclination of 96.64 °. Online tenders for the transportation of the satellite to Plesetsk identified it as EMKA and linked it to the All-Russian Research Institute of Electromechanics (VNIIEM) [now JSC “Scientific and Production Corporation“ Space Monitoring Systems, Information Control and Electromechanical Complexes ”named after A.G. Iosifyan ”], a manufacturer of Earth remote sensing and meteorological satellites. The documents trace the history of the project to the contract,
In the 2016 VNIIEM annual report, EMKA stands for "experimental small spacecraft", adding that it will serve as the basis for the "Earth remote sensing space complex", clearly used here as a cover term for military photographic intelligence. EMKA is probably the same satellite that was mentioned in several articles of VNIIEM in 2014-2015 as "Zvezda". One of these publications characterized it as the 150kg experimental predecessor to the larger 250kg satellite (MKA-B), which can capture high-resolution imaging for both civilian and military purposes. MKA stands for Small Spacecraft and B stands for High Resolution. The article compares the "Star" and MKA-B with the first in a series of American commercial Earth imaging satellites SkySat-1 with a maximum resolution of 0.9 meters in panchromatic mode. There is also a drawing of the MCA-B showing that it has the same resolution and is very similar in appearance to the SkySat.
"Zvezda" is also mentioned on the website of the company SKTB "Plastic" [Special Design and Technological Bureau "Plastic" LLC, Syzran, Samara region], which contains drawings of the camera body that it built for the satellite. The shape and size of the hull exactly matched the dimensions of the high-resolution camera described in two articles published in 2015, which stated that it was a payload for another small satellite with high-resolution optical system called ISS-55, proposed at the time by ISS. named after Reshetnev [JSC "Information Satellite Systems" named after academician M.F. Reshetnev "], best known as a manufacturer of communication and navigation satellites. The camera, created by the Belarusian optical company OJSC Peleng, has a maximum resolution of 0.9 meters in panchromatic mode, which is identical to that of SkySat-1.
From all this, we can conclude with a fairly high degree of confidence that the first launches of SkySat satellites in 2013 and 2014 inspired VNIIEM and ISS named after V.I. Reshetnev for the creation of small high-resolution Earth remote sensing satellites (Zvezda and ISS-55) with an identical optical payload of OJSC Peleng. Initially, they could have been offered to Roskosmos as civilian Earth remote sensing satellites, but they also attracted the attention of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which at the end of 2015 chose the Zvezda satellite for further development, renaming it EMKA. This also explains why there are no more descriptions of "Star" in the open literature after 2015.
Kosmos-2525 is still operational, continuing to perform regular engine starts to maintain its orbit. One of its tasks was to observe ground-based optical calibration targets developed at the Moscow Polytechnic University.
These goals function like an eye diagram. The smallest group of stripes that can be distinguished indicates the resolution limit for the optical instrument used. Calibration targets like these can be seen in several locations in the United States (for example, at Edwards Air Force Base), but the novelty of these targets is that they are not painted on the pavement, but are made on foldable polymer sheets that can be used in a variety of places.
The operational successor to the Kosmos-2525 satellite is probably being developed within the framework of a project designated in the procurement documentation as Run-up, under a contract between VNIIEM and the Russian Ministry of Defense on November 1, 2016. The available documents only show that Runaway is a small satellite and also suggest that it shares some design features with the EMC, indicating that it is the same satellite that was named MCA-V in the previously mentioned VNIIEM publication. Most likely, the Runaway is a constellation of small satellites for acquiring images, which, if necessary, can close the gap between Persona and Hrazdan and, ultimately, complement the images provided by large spy satellites. Likewise, the U.S. National Space Intelligence Agency complements the images,
Data Relay Satellites
A key component of any real-time satellite imagery system is a data relay satellite network that can transmit images from reconnaissance satellites for extended periods of time when they are not in the field of view of ground stations. The Persona satellites worked together with two military data relay satellites Harpoon (14F136). Built by ISS them. Reshetnev, they were launched in September 2011 and December 2015 after many years of delays (the project was started in 1993). The second satellite, as far as is known, was also used for experiments with laser communication with the third satellite, Persona, using the onboard laser terminal LT-150. A total of two Harpoon satellites were manufactured and their estimated service life is unknown.
ISS them. Reshetneva is currently working on new military communications satellites called Hercules and Giant, which will carry large antennas the company is developing. The largest of these has a diameter of 48 meters, although it is not known exactly if it is intended for any of these satellites. Hercules was characterized by one source as a data relay satellite and was probably the successor to Harpoon. Project Hercules began in 2014, but there are no signs that it is getting close to launching its first satellite. These satellites are to be launched into orbit by the Angara-A5 rocket, whose test flights from Plesetsk are scheduled to resume later this year after a six-year hiatus. Russia also has three Luch-5 data relay satellites in geostationary orbit, but they were ordered by Roskosmos, and it is unclear whether they are used to transmit information from the Ministry of Defense satellites. ISS them. Reshetnev was recently awarded a contract to create an improved version of these satellites called Luch-5VM, which is expected to be launched no earlier than 2024. The technical characteristics of Luch-5VM do not specifically mention the possibility of relaying for military satellites.
Russia relies on two aging Persona satellites for high-resolution imaging for the Defense Ministry. Both appear to be functioning normally after overcoming major challenges during the initial orbital tests. However, there is no guarantee that they will continue to operate until the new generation Hrazdan satellites are ready. This may be the reason why the decision was made to develop a much smaller and simpler type of spy satellite (Run) that could help bridge the gap before Hrazdan and ultimately complement the images provided by the larger satellites. The probable experimental predecessor of these satellites (EMKA / Cosmos-2525) reached the launch pad just 2.5 years after the start of development, which suggests that operational satellites may also be ready for launch relatively soon. However, as before, the resolution offered by the smaller satellites will not match that of Hrazdan. The Russian Defense Ministry also operates two four-ton observation satellites, Bars-M (launched as Kosmos-2503 and Kosmos-2515), but they are used for low-resolution cartographic imaging.
To complicate matters further, Russia currently lacks radar imaging satellites (civilian or military) that can see through cloud cover and conduct observations at night. NGO them. Lavochkina is working on a series of special military satellites for obtaining radar images called "Araks-R", but it is not known when they will fly. A new generation of specialized military satellites for relaying data required to support the reconnaissance satellite program may also be out of service after some time. In short, it's safe to say that Russia's current capabilities in space exploration are far inferior to those of the United States and China.