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Russian Space Surveillance System (RSSS)

Space surveillance involves detecting, tracking, cataloging, and identifying man-made objects orbiting the Earth; e.g., active and inactive spacecraft, spent rocket bodies, mission-related debris, and fragments. The Russian space surveillance system uses an the early-warning radar network and is operated by the space-surveillance division of the 3rd Army. The network also includes the Krona system at Zelenchukskaya in the North Caucasus and Nakhodka on the Far East.

The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) is responsible for the safety of Russian space activities. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for Russian military operations in space and space surveillance in support of these operations. Other organizations (Russian Academy of Sciences, Foreign Ministry etc.) are taking part in the development of SSA policy, data collection and sharing, and establishing international cooperation.

The Russian Space Surveillance System (SSS) employs a variety of ground-based radars and electro-optical sensors in and outside of the Russian Federation and maintains a satellite database similar to that of the United States. Russia is the only country other than the US that operates a significant SSS, although France has a limited network and ESA has proposed a network similar to the French system. However, several countries and ESA have performed experiments designed to periodically sample the debris environment.

The Russian Space Surveillance System has evolved over the years similar to the US AFSPC SSN network. Beginning as a large network of phased array radars and radars forming a missile warning system, some of the sensors were gradually transitioned to perform space surveillance roles. Coverage of geosynchronous region seems to have been limited in the past. International scientific optical observation network (ISON) covers the geosynchronous regime, but it’s not part of the RSSS.

P.E. Elyasberg (1914-1988), N.P. Buslenko (1922-1975) and M.D. Kislik (1922-1995) stood at the sources of the SSS creation. The idea of creation of the Russian SSS, its development, and the first steps of its practical introduction is connected exactly with these names.

On 05 November 1962, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Council of Ministers of Soviet Union issued a resolution to found the Russian Space Surveillance Agency. On 12 December 1962, Research Institute 45 founded the Space Surveillance Board with 7 departments. Colonel Evgeniy Mikhailovich Oshanin was appointed as a chief.

The Soviet Union operated extensive military and civil networks of radar, LIDAR, and photographic space surveillance sensors linked together by satellite and terrestrial communications systems. LIDAR is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging; it refers to a radar-like sensor system which transmits pulses of light, typically produced by a laser, and looks for reflections from objects. Ranges to objects can be inferred from the time delay of pulses reflected from it. Soviet missile early warning radars and satellites could detect foreign satellite launches. Soviet radio/radar tracking ground stations can presumably detect and track satellites in low-Earth orbit and track satellites in higher orbits.

In addition, the radars used by the Soviet ABM system and radio telescopes can be used to detect, track, and characterize satellites. The Soviet Union went through an evolution from local to continental radars for air defense, and then ballistic missile detection, and finally to space-based systems. In the 1960s, the Soviets developed the Dnestr and Dnepr systems. The late 1970s and 1980s saw the deployment of the more powerful Daryal radars into operation, one of which was the Krasnoyarsk system that became a focus of controversy when the United States accused the Soviet Union of violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by aiming this radar east across Siberia instead of across national borders as the treaty required.

The USSR also used ships for satellite tracking and communications and operates some tracking stations in foreign territory. The range at which a ground-based radar can track low-altitude satellites is limited by the requirement for an unobscured line of sight to the satellite. For example, a satellite at an altitude of 185 kilometers (100 nautical miles) would be below the horizon if farther away than 1,590 kilometers slant range.

Soviet deep-space detection capabilities necessarily rely upon passive sensors, primarily telescopic cameras similar to the Baker-Nunn cameras formerly used by the United States and upon radio telescopes and ground-based military signal intelligence collection systems.

This is because the energy of a radar return, or "echo," from a satellite decreases as the fourth power of range to the target. Radar returns from satellites in high orbit are generally so weak that they cannot be detected by a radar rapidly scanning the sky; they can only be detected if the approximate position of the satellite is already known so that the radar can scan slowly for signals from that general direction, accumulating signal energy for a prolonged period of time. Hence ground-based radar can measure small changes of a high-altitude satellite's orbit but could not easily find a satellite which had maneuvered energetically since its last observation.

Similar considerations limit, the effective search range of LIDAR systems. The energy of a radar echo also depends on the radar wavelength used. For example, at wavelengths much longer than a satellite's diameter, the echo energy decreases rapidly with increasing wavelength—as the inverse fourth power, according to Rayleigh's law. However, the echo also becomes more mnidirectional (as a consequence of Babinet's principle and—in the special case of spherical satellites—the Mie effect) and less dependent upon details of satellite shape and composition other than the electric susceptibility of the satellite, in accordance with Rayleigh's law.

Passive optical sensors, whether photographic or electro-optical, could detect sunlight reflected by a high-orbit satellite; the power of the reflected sunlight received by a distant optical sensor decreases only as the square of the range to the target, so passive optical sensors are more useful than radar for detecting high orbit satellites. Similar considerations made passive radio systems—i.e., radio telescopes or military electronic support measure systems— useful for detection and tracking at long range, provided the target is emitting a radio signal of some kind.

In the 1980s it seemed possible that the USSR may develop electro-optical tracking sensors in the future; such sensors could provide surveillance information more quickly than can camera systems, which require development of photographic film or plates. Neither photographic nor electro- optical telescopes can detect or track satellites from the ground in daytime or through overcast, as radar can.

By the early 1990s a specialized hazard analysis simulation was run at the Russian Space Surveillance Center. It simulated the motion of objects in space and determined close encounters between these objects. First, ephemerides were predicted for all space objects over the time interval of concern. Second, using the predicted ephemerides, pairs of satellites that would likely collide were grouped together. Throughout the process, the pairs initially chosen were refined until all pairs of satellites were found which come within a certain miss distance of each other. In addition to the miss distance, other characteristics of the encounter including angle of incidence, relative velocity, type of approaching object, and probability of collision come out of the simulation.

In the early 1990s Russian space surveillance assets included high-potential meter-band radar's, which worked as an integral part of the missile attack warning system and were deployed near Pechora (Northern Russia), Olenegorsk (Kola Peninsula), Skrunda (Latvia), Mukatchevo (West Ukraine), Sevastopol (Crimea ), Kutkashen (Azerbaijan), Balkhash (Kazakhstan), Irkutsk (East Siberia). Optical (opto-electronic) telescopes integrated in the RAS network of observatories included Zvenigorod (Moscow Region), Simeiz (Crimea), Zelenchu kskaya(North Caucasus), Irkutsk (Siberia), Ekaterinburg (Ural), and Dushanbe (Tadjikista n).

To obtain data on space objects (SO) there were also employed (regularly or episodically): high-potential radar's operating in the long-wave segment of the dm­ band, and operated by the BMD system (Chekhov, Moscow Region) and an experimental cm-band radar (Ust-Kamchatsk, Kamchatka Peninsula).

These systems enabled compiling and updating of the Space Objects Catalogue containing over 5,000 objects larger than 10 cm in size (at low orbits) and larger than 1 m (at geostationary orbits). Detection of more small objects in space represented a serious scientific and technological problem.

Construction of new radio systems and space monitoring in Moscow, Kaliningrad region, the Altai and Primorsky regions will begin in 2015. In the coming years it is planned to deploy 10 of these complexes, told Tass representative of the press service and information on the Defense Ministry troops Aerospace (ASD) Alexei Zolotukhin defense.

"In 2015, one of the priorities of EKR Troops will improve means of space monitoring system (SKKP) to improve the processing capabilities of information on the state of the situation in the near-Earth space to ensure the safety of space activities of the country," - said Zolotukhin.

"In the coming years, a number of Russian regions plan to deploy more than 10 laser-optical and radio systems of the new generation, can significantly improve the information capabilities of the Russian SKKP, expand the range of controlled orbits and 2-3 times lower the minimum detectable size of space objects", Zolotukhin said.

Russian SKKP intended to inform the decision of problems countering threats from space and in space, the smooth deployment and operation of domestic groups of spacecraft, as well as to assess other risks, in particular related to man-made space debris.

Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report. Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on 21 June 2016.

At a Vienna meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in mid-June, Russia proposed to create a similar UN-run database “collecting, systemizing, sharing and analyzing information on objects and events in outer space.” Such an international database would be available to any country that has capabilities in the areas of human spaceflight, launches or satellites. Russia’s written proposal presented at the meeting encouraged governments to share their own data banks on “scheduled and performed space launches” as well as “functioning space objects and in-orbit operations.”

Russia’s proposal to create the UN-run database reportedly encountered US resistance, with a diplomatic source explaining to Izvestia: “The Americans want to keep their monopoly on regulating outer space traffic… Plus, the US military is not keen on disclosing information on a number of defense-related objects.” Meanwhile, Russia’s own space objects database will go online “at any rate,” as the country already has enough telescopes, radars and observation stations to detect any human-made body orbiting Earth, the report claimed.

“Our network spots approximately 40 percent more [space] objects than you can find in open American databases,” Igor Molotov, senior research fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper. “We have several times more telescopes … than NORAD,” he said, adding that Russian observation stations are able of covering larger areas of space because of better weather conditions.

The databases would apparently help make orbit operations more secure and hazard-free, but would also contribute to shedding more light on the militarization of outer space, which Moscow has opposed for many years. Russia and China have long been advocates of weapons-free space, contributing to a number of important international regulations in the UN and beyond.

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