A third Russian system, Ekran-M, provides unique direct television broadcasting service to the central federation region (Zone 3). The original Ekran spacecraft debuted in 1976 and were upgraded to the Ekran-M model in the second half of the 1980's. All spacecraft in the series have been positioned near 99 degrees E and transmit directly to simple individual or communal receivers at 0.7 GHz with a powerful 200 W transponder. The new Ekran-M spacecraft weigh approximately two metric tons and carry two transponders. The solar arrays have been augmented to provide 1.8 kW of power.
Although the original Ekran spacecraft were exceptionally short-lived, the new Ekran-M are markedly surpassing the cited 3-year design life. No new Ekran-M spacecraft were launched during 1993-1994, but the 6-year-old Ekran 19 and the 2-year-old Ekran 20 were still on station at the start of 1995. Although a replacement for the Ekran-M system has been discussed for several years (see below), a new model Ekran, called Ekran-D, has been proposed to permit digital transmissions of a broader assortment of information (References 301-302).
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