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Space


Satellites with Highly-Elliptical Orbits

SOVIET APPLICATION OF SPACE TO THE ECONOMY

By Lani Hummel Raleigh*

1971-1975

I. Early Recognition of Potential Uses of Applications Satellites

Although Soviet writers early recognized the potential application of satellites to a wide variety of practical uses, including communications relay, direct broadcast, weather observation, navigation and traffic control, study of Earth resources, and development of permanent manned stations in orbit which would perform many tasks, the Russians were initially slow to exploit space. Where as the first civil applications satellites appeared in the U.S. program in 1958, the year of the first successful American flight, equivalent Soviet flights were delayed until 1966. Thus, despite seemingly advanced space exploitation technology, the Soviets have not moved as rapidly from first flights to operational systems as have the Americans.

II. COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITES

With its vast underdeveloped areas, the Soviet Union benefits greatly from communications satellites. Regions which are remote and difficult to reach are interconnected by satellite without the expense of laying cable through difficult terrain to operate under harsh weather conditions. Through the use of satellites, reliable telephone and television service can be brought inexpensively to all parts of the Soviet Union . In view of such geographic and economic advantages, it is not surprising that the first satellite domestic distribution system in the world was the Soviet Orbita system.

A. EARLY EXPERIMENTS

Although space communications in the form of command controls had been tested in many previous Soviet flights, and voice and television circuits were tested as early as 1960 in the Korabl Sputnik series, Kosmos 41 which was launched August 22, 1964 , was the first clear precursor of the present Soviet operational communications satellite system.

Kosmos 41 was placed in a parking orbit by a Tyazheliy Sputnik orbital launch platform. A probe rocket was fired to push the payload into an eccentric orbit ranging from a low perigee of 394 kilometers in the southern hemisphere to an apogee of 39,855 kilometers in the northern hemisphere, inclined at 64 degrees to the Equator. It was so synchronized with the rotation of the Earth so that it repeated the same ground trace each day in its 12-hour orbital period which twice brought it to its high apogee, once over Soviet territory, and once over North America, where it was still visible to Soviet ground stations over the polar region.

At the time, Kosmos 41 was given no special description or publicity. It could not be judged from published sources whether this flight was designed only to test the mechanics of achieving a 12-hour semi-synchronous orbit, and to gather geophysical data, including information on the durability of solar cells in exposure to the space environment at those altitudes; or whether the mission was intended as the first of the Molniya 1 flights, and the communications part of the payload suffered a catastrophic failure. However, as soon as the orbital elements were published, Western observers were able to identify its most likely mission as being associated with plans for a communications satellite. This was confirmed in 1969. (1)

References:

(A) SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS, 1971-75, OVERVIEW, FACILITIES AND HARDWARE MANNED AND UNMANNED FLIGHT PROGRAMS, BIOASTRONAUTICS CIVIL AND MILITARY APPLICATIONS PROJECTIONS OF FUTURE PLANS, STAFF REPORT , THE COMMITTEE ON AERONAUTICAL AND SPACE .SCIENCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, BY THE SCIENCE POLICY RESEARCH DIVISION CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, VOLUME – I, AUGUST 30, 1976, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1976,

1. Pravda, Moscow , Sept. 24, 1969 , p. 3.

• Ms. Raleigh Is a physical sciences analyst In the Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.



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