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SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1976-80,

Abstract: OVERVIEW, SUPPORTING FACILITIES AND LAUNCH VEHICLES OF THE SOVIET SPACE PROGRAM OVERALL TRENDS IN FLIGHTS 1976-1980

Statistics on space activities are only approximate and are subject to revision, but enough data are available to afford a reasonably good overview of rates of relative progress among nations.

Although the U.S. launch pace declined still further from 1976, the Soviet record shows no similar drop, peaking at 99 in 1976 and now running at about seven times the current U.S. level. While the U.S. record of success and failure in flight is fairly well known, the Soviet Union continues to hide most of its failures, and these can only be estimated as probably proportional to the number of successes in the same ratio as applies to the U.S. space record.

Despite the Soviet and American secrecy in hiding the missions of military space flights which overall make up a majority of launches, in both cases it is possible from open sources to deduce these missions. The largest single component in the Soviet programs still those flights which have a recoverable payload from low Earth orbit, presumably flown for observation purposes where as, with the introduction of longer lived satellites with direct transmission of imagery from orbit, civilian communications satellites provide the largest single component for the United States. Examination of 25 program elements shows that both the U.S. and Soviet programs are broadly based, seeking multiple goals, with the primary difference being the Soviet inclusion of satellite inspector/destructor flights (ASATs). These flights were reintroduced in 1976 and have no U.S. counterparts.

In the absence of published data, only estimates can be made of the comparative weights of payload and the launch capacity of the rockets used have been normalized to nominal low Earth orbit equivalents. These show the Soviet Union cumulatively has launched about 90 percent more tonnage than the United States, and is currently running about nine fold the U.S. level. The inauguration of the operational phase of the Space Shuttle should go some way toward redressing the disparity.

Soviet Space Infrastructure Support Summery 1981-1987

SUPPORT SERVICES

LAND-BASED SUPPORT

Space operations require extensive support from Earth in addition to that associated with the construction of spacecraft and launch vehicles and the launches themselves, including down range guidance and command, tracking and communications links. After the payload is in orbit, then tracking is useful for keeping informed about it and all other objects in space, and for commands to be sent to the payload and receipt of any data it gathers or observes.

The Soviet Union appears to have embarked upon its space program with minimal land-based support, relying on the long-distance propagation of shortwave radio transmissions to receive information when their spacecraft were below the horizons of Soviet territory. Optical observations were used whenever conditions were favorable and observers in Soviet bloc countries were encouraged to send their reports to Moscow.

Doppler tracking and S-band radars were used for orbit determination from the outset.

A network of seven ground stations at Yevpatoria, Tbilisi, Dzhusaly, Kolpashevo, Ulan-Ude, Ussuriyisk, and Petropavlovsk, stretching from eastern Europe across the whole of Asia, was established to support piloted spaceflight operations.

As time passed, further stations were added to receive data from meteorological satellites and for communicating through Molniya, Raduga and Gorizont satellites, and these will be discussed in volume 2 of this report.

Laser tracking of satellites equipped with special corner-reflectors is used for geodetic purposes.

The deep space tracking station is located at Yevpatoria in the Crimea and is analogous to NASA's deep-space tracking facility at Goldstone, California.

The flight control centers are situated at Yevpatoria and just outside Moscow at Kaliningrad, the latter being opened in time to support the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

SEA-BASED SUPPORT

The network of ground stations proved insufficient for providing the necessary coverage as the durations and complexity of missions increased. Whereas the United States developed bilateral agreements with other nations to permit the establishment of support stations in all parts of the world, the Soviet Union, after relying on long-distance propagation of shortwave radio frequencies in the early days, chose to develop a sea-based support system. In December 1967, the science ships of the Soviet Academy of Sciences were listed as the Dolinsk, Bezhitsa, Ristna, Aksay, Morzhovets, Kegostrov, Nevel, Borovichi, and Kosmonavt Vladimir Komarov.(2) The latter operated as a dry cargo vessel for a short period before being converted to its space support role whereas the rest were all modified smaller merchant vessels.

Two newer and larger ships, the Akademik Sergey Korolev and the Kosmonavt Yuri Gagarin were introduced in the early seventies and four new vessels, former freighters of the Vytegrales class rebuilt as space associated research ships in Leningrad during 1977-78, were added to the fleet to replace the aging Dolinsk, Bezhitsa, Ristna and Aksay. The Kosmonavt Vladislav Volkov was the first to appear, followed in turn by the Kosmonavt Pavel Belyayev, the Kosmonavt Georgiy Dobrovolskiy and the Kosmonavt Viktor Patsayev.

LAUNCH SITES

As already noted, the Soviets have three launch sites: Tyuratam (sometimes called Baikonur), Plesetsk, and Kapustin Yur. A U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) publication reported that each of the three cosmodromes is protected from external attack by surrounding networks of air defense, including interceptor bases and surface-to-air missile complexes. (1)

SPACE-BASED SUPPORT

In 1981, the Soviet Union lodged details of a future Eastern Satellite Data Relay Network (ESDRN) with the International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB).24 This three-satellite system would employ frequencies in the 10.8-15.1 GHz band (2 cm wave-band) similar to those used by the U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) and would commence operation "no sooner than December 1985." This information was presented diagrammatically in an earlier edition of this report. (25)

References:

A. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1976-80, SUPPORTING FACILITIES AND LAUNCH VEHICLES, POLITICAL GOALS AND PURPOSES, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN SPACE, ADMINISTRATION, RESOURCE BURDEN, FUTURE OUTLOOK PREPARED AT THE REQUEST OF HON. BOB PACKWOOD, Chairman, COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION, UNITED STATES SENATE, Part 1, Dec. 1982.

1. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1981-87, PILOTED SPACE ACTIVITIES, LAUNCH VEHICLES, LAUNCH SITES, AND TRACKING SUPPORT PREPARED AT THE REQUEST OF Hon. ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, Chairman, COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION, UNITED STATES SENATE, Part 1, MAY 1988, printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 1988

1. U. S. Dept. of Defense, Soviet Military Power 1983, Washington, U. S. Gov’t. Print. Off., March 1983, p. 66.

2. Moscow Radio, 2200 GMT, November 26, 1967.

17. U.S. Dept. of Defense. Soviet Military Power 1985. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., April 1986, p. 59.

18. Jane's Fighting Ships 1987-88. London, Jane's, 1987, p. 628.

19. Ibid.

20. Soviet Military Power 1986, op. cit., p. 139.

21. The Soviet Space Challenge, op. cit., p. 8.

22. Ibid.

23. Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 14,1982, p. 18.

24. Special Section no. SPA-AA/343/1484 annexed to IFEB Circular no. 1484, September 1, 1981.

25. Soviet Space Programs: 1976-80, Ft. 3. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1985, p. 780.



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