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Russia Anti-Satellite Programs
Protivosputnikovye Sistemy

In 1963-1964 the Soviet Troops of Defense (PVO) established two new commands: PRO and PKO. PRO, meaning antimissile defense, was charged with detecting, intercepting, and destroying enemy ballistic rockets, while the PKO, meaning anti-space defense, was responsible for "destroying the enemy's cosmic means of fighting" (Reference 106). In 1992 the USSR Space Units which include PRO and PKO were essentially transferred to the CIS United Armed Forces. However, on 7 May 1992 the armed forces of the Russian Federation were established with specific air and space defense missions.

To implement a space control regime and to fulfill its space defense obligation, the PKO began developing ASAT capabilities. Today, the Russian Federation is commonly believed to have acquired four basic ASAT systems with varying degrees of effectiveness. However, the operational status of these systems was a topic of considerable debate. Along with the efforts in the sphere of ABM defense, in the early 1960s the USSR launched a project to create a space defense system «IS» (satellite destroyer) which in August 1970 for the first time ever hit a spacecraft target leaving the USA behind for 15 years. On July 1, 1979, the system went on combat duty. In August 1993 the «IS» system went off duty.

In March 1961, in response to the US military preparations in space in the USSR, a decision was made to create an anti-space defense system (PKO). In 1962 TsNII "Kometa" together with TsKBM VN Chelomey and in cooperation with a number of NPOs began the development of this system (general designer AA Raspletin, chief designer of control systems - AI Savin).

By the end of the sixties a unique automated PKO complex was created. It consisted of a ground-based command-and-control and measuring point in the Moscow region, a special launch pad at the Baikonur test site, a carrier rocket and an interceptor spacecraft with a radar and thermal homing head and a fragmentation warhead, as well as target satellites for the PKO IC complex .

In August 1970, according to the target designations of the TsKKP, the PKO IS-M complex with a thermal GOS was first struck in the world by a protected space vehicle-mi-shen. In the future, its improvement was carried out.

Commanders of the anti-missile and anti-space defense forces: in the center, Colonel-General Yu.V. Votintsev (commander in 1967-1986), on the right - Colonel-General V.M. Kraskovsky (in 1986-1991), on the left - Colonel-General V. Smirnov (in 1991-1997).In the period 1973 - 1978 gg. Work was carried out to improve the combat characteristics of the PKO IP complex. After modernization on November 14, 1978 it was adopted, and from July 1, 1979, put on alert duty.


By Dr. Charles S. Sheldon II [1917-1981], was Chief of the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service


On November 1, 1963 , Polet 1 was placed in Earth orbit. Khrushchev himself pointed to the designation of it as being the first, of a series, saying that a whole new era was opening for craft able to maneuver after attaining orbit. The flight entered an initial orbit with an apogee of 592 kilometers and a perigee of 339 kilometers. It was announced to have made many maneuvers of a lateral nature and of altitude, so that the final orbit was 1.437 by 343 kilometers, and the inclination was 58° 55'. Little more was said of the specifics of the flights, although there were many comments on the importance of being able to maneuver.

On April 12, 1964 , Polet 2 was also placed in Earth orbit. Again, the Russians stressed its ability to maneuver repeatedly, but they did not publish the details on these maneuvers. The final orbit was 'described as 500 by 310 kilometers, at an inclination of 58.06 degrees.

As discussed earlier in this report, we can describe the launch vehicle used as an A-m combination. Strangely, the program was never again identified, and one may speculate that it served its purpose, that. The technology was incorporated into some other classes of vehicles as a subsystem.

Precursor Technology Demonstration

[We now know that the “m” stage was in fact the Polet payload as a proof of principal ASAT stage flight test demonstration flown on the basic “A” booster that would later appear in the coming years as a revised larger F-1-m Tsyklon-2 payload third last stage of the Soviet ASAT program. The ASAT last stage was a separate enlarged payload different from the RORSAT payload and was really a derivation of the Tsyklon-2 with third stage being the payload last stage. Both ASAT and RORSAT required a longer Tsyklon second stage than that utilized by the standard SS-9/R-36 ICBM from which the Tsyklon/R-36K was derived.]


The record shows that particularly in the early years there was a Soviet hostility to all military flights operated by or attributed to the United States , whether these were for purposes of communication, weather reporting, navigation, early warning, or observation. At times, the Soviet authorities accused the United States also of plotting to put weapons in orbit, an activity subsequently banned by treaty.

One can imagine that Soviet military planners would see as a necessary ingredient in any stable of military space systems an ability to identify what the United States was really up to in space, and to have the option of destroying that payload if need be. Such actions could be motivated either by defensive considerations such as to neutralize bombs, or as aggressive by blinding the eyes which might be used by the United States to give it warning of changes in Soviet order of battle, or navigation for U.S. submarines, or post damage assessment if the two nations had come to a partial use of their weapons in a nuclear exchange.

The United States at one time put funding support into a protect called Saint which was to have the capability of inspecting satellites whose missions were unknown. The project was later terminated before any flights were made. The kinds of questions raised included political: How would another nation react to having a U.S. payload go into a co-orbit with one of theirs? Would we really be able to judge the full function of the unknown satellite by a study of its configuration, its antenna lengths, its behavior? Could we determine whether it had a weapon on board either from its inertial mass if nudged or its reaction to a neutron pulse sent its way? If we were to consider direct interference with the unknown payload by painting its lenses, or breaking its antennas, or attaching extra propulsion to send it elsewhere, what would be the reactions of its owners? What if it were booby trapped in some fashion? The questions are multiple, and one then weighs the possible advantages of an inspector system which co-orbits against other options such as better sensors on Earth, or vertical probe inspectors which might or might not be able to make a surreptitious inspection in a remote part of the world without having to co-orbit with the satellite.

In any case, the United States withdrew from construction of hardware, while in the Soviet program, actual flight tests of an inspection system had been conducted.

Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov curtailed the anti-satellite program in 1983. The program was curtailed, but the FFP complex under Yuri Andropov did not die. Somewhere in early August 1983, Marshal Dmitry Ustinov phoned Anatoly Savin (relations between them were the kindest) and said: soon the head of state Yuri Andropov will publicly announce that we will unilaterally end the test of the anti-satellite complex in space. Anatoly Savin expressed doubt that this would force the Americans to abandon SDI (by then, US President Ronald Reagan firmly believed in it), and we will lose pace in improving the defense system.

The Soviet Naryad-V anti-satellite complex began in the first half of the 1980s using the experience of creating an anti-satellite IP system and as one of the responses to the American SDI program. The head developer is NPO Salyut, the chief designer is D.A. Polukhin, Lead Designer - E.G. Sizov. The complex provided the launch into orbit with the Rokot launch vehicle (based on the UR-100NU / 15A35 ICBM) of the satellite (s)-interceptor (s) (attack aircraft) 14F10 (sometimes in the media - 14F11) with an acceleration rocket and maneuvering, which later became publicly known as the "Breeze-K".The development of the launch vehicle and the booster-shunting unit was carried out by NPO Mashinostroeniya. The development of the satellite interceptor was carried out by the Design Bureau of Engineering (Kolomna). The prototype satellite-interceptor system "Outfit" was demonstrated by M.S. Gorbachev during his visit to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in May 1987. The program was allegedly discontinued in the early 1990s.

In 2010, the Space Troops Commander Oleg Ostapenko, who later headed the Russian space agency, said that Russia again took up the development of "inspection" satellites.

On 25 December 2013 a Rockot booster lifted off from the Plesetsk launch site carrying a trio of Rodnik communications satellites, to replenish the constellation which had been operational since 2005. The previous six launches had carried a three Rodnik satellites, but this launch carried four - Kosmos-2488, -2489, -2490 and -2491. For several weeks 2014 the object cataloged as 2014-28E [and 39765 by NORAD] manuevered towards other Russian space objects, culminating in November 2014 when it rendezvoused with the upper stage that had placed it in orbit.

The United States has conducted a number of such missions: XSS-10 (2003), DART (2005), XSS-11 (2005-2006), MiTEx (2006-2009), GSSAP (2014), ANGELS (2014), while China conducted the similar SJ-12 mission in 2010. In 2014, the US Air Force launched two satellites of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) system to "geosynchronous orbits" to track technogenic orbital objects and determine their characteristics. In February 2014, U.S. Air Force officials publicly revealed this previously classified program and admitted that the GSSAP satellites will perform approach maneuvers to approach each other for better viewing of spacecraft in geosynchronous orbits up to 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

This satellite known as Cosmos 2499, but often informally called Object E, was launched in 2014 - together with three communications satellites on the Rokot launch vehicle. The maneuvering of the Object E satellite was covered in a secret space threat briefing for Congressional Defense Committees.

Cosmos-2504, which was launched along with three communication satellites [Gonets-M series], the Rokot launch vehicle from the Russian Plesetsk cosmodrome [March 31, 2015]. According to a spokesman for the US Air Force, the Russian military satellite Cosmos-2504, launched in March 2015, made at least 11 maneuvers in space rendezvous with the upper stage, which put it into orbit.

Russia launched a "small space apparatus" from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in June 2017 to be used for "examining the condition of a Russian satellite," the Russian Ministry of Defense announced in August 2017. "In the longer term, a research experiment will be carried out to use the space apparatus for examining the outward appearance of that satellite," the ministry said, noting that it will be "a space platform capable of carrying different payloads."

The ministry clarified in October 2017 that the satellite had been coupled to a larger satellite, Kosmos-2519; it then conducted tests of "controlling the maneuvering defense satellite, ground, and orbital communication systems," and "methods involving ballistic estimates and new software were employed," before the smaller satellite returned to Kosmos-2519. The space forces proved their ability to ensure the satellite's automatic undocking from the platform, the remote control of its flight, and the activation of the satellite payload, including surveillance hardware, data transfer to Earth and data processing," the statement, published in Izvestiya, said.

Russia and China had been trying to convince the US and other UN member states to agree to a binding treaty that would head off the imminent space arms race. In 2014, the US rejected the draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT).

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Page last modified: 12-08-2020 15:40:04 ZULU