Foreign Tracking Stations





>From the time of Vanguard on, the United States developed bilateral agreements with other nations to permit the establishment of tracking stations in all parts of the world, especially north and south through the Americas, essential to coverage of the satellites using Minitrack. Then a similar system was developed for Project Mercury in an equatorial belt around the Earth. This was expanded and supported Gemini and the Earth orbital operations of Apollo.

The Soviet Union either did not feel the same need for such complete coverage of its flights, being content to pick up recorded data as the flights went over their own territory, or perhaps they were reluctant to negotiate pacts with other countries which would expose the details of their data collection in the same open manner as the NASA program of the United States.

Hence, in a much more limited way they developed only a few largely unpublicized tracking stations in other countries, mostly places with a political climate favorable to the U.S.S.R. In December 1967, Tass referred to Soviet stations in the United Arab Republic (presumably Helwan), Mali, and "other" countries. (79) By April 1968, Guinea in West Africa was also named. (80) By October 1968, reference was made to a station in Cuba. (81) In February 1970, reference was made to a second station in the U.A.R., this one in Aswan. (82) In 1971, they added one in Fort Lamy, Chad. (83) From time to time there have been rumors and reports that the Russians put out feelers that they might like to establish tracking stations in such countries as Indonesia, Australia, and Chile. It is believed tracking is done at Khartoum in the Sudan, Afgoi in Somali, Kerguelen ( South Indian Ocean) and Mirnyy ( Antarctica).

The laser tracking program referred to in the previous section was named as the Great Arc project in a Czechoslovakian broadcast in 1977. (84) The report claimed that Czechoslovakian scientists and technicians had participated in the development and production of laser radars which operate in several socialist countries, in Egypt, Bolivia and India. Later that year a Cuban broadcast reported that a powerful laser tracking station, built by experts of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Cuba and other Interkosmos countries, was being erected at the satellite observation station near Santiago de Cuba. (85) Clear skies over the island virtually throughout the year was given as the reason for the choice of Cuba as the site for the installation. In 1980, Professor Alia Masevich visited the station during a visit to Cuba. (86)

1980 saw the addition of Latvia to the network of stations making regular observations of artificial satellites using a laser rangefinder. (87) An accuracy of 1 or 2 meters in the distance of satellites several thousand miles from the Earth was claimed. The purpose of the work was stated to be to monitor irregularities in the Earth's rotation, the shifting of the Poles, continental drift and geodetic data. While these are all laudable scientific objectives accurate geodetic data is essential for the perfection of delivery systems of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM's) to their targets.

The Polish contribution to geodesy under the aegis of the Interkosmos program was described in an article by Dr. Olgierd Wolczek. (88) Observations of the orbits of artificial satellites made by the Agricultural Academy in Olsztyn, the Adam Mickiewicz Astronomical Observatory in Poznan, and the Institute of Geophysics in Borowicz were used to study the effect upon the orbits of the Earth's gravitational field, luni-solar gravitational fields, solar radiation pressure and drag in the upper layers of the atmosphere.

To this end, a laser-measuring apparatus was installed at Borowicz in 1975 giving an accuracy of 1.2 meters.

Coincident with the introduction of the Automatic General Purpose Orbital Station (AUOS) type of Interkosmos satellites, a unified telemetric system was established with ground stations in various Interkosmos countries. One of the first to be established was that at Havana in Cuba. (89) This was closely followed, early in 1977 by the inauguration of the first stage of the radio-telemetric station built at Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. (90) The memory systems which were constructed at Plovdiv and Stara Zagora, were the Bulgarian contribution to the project. The station was later identified as the Yuriy Gagarin Observatory. (91)

The Czechoslovakian station is located at Panska Ves in Northern Bohemia and is described as the ionospheric observatory of the Geophysical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. (92)

This station was responsible for controlling the Magion satellite with which it made contact four times daily. (93) The station had its last contact with Magion on September 10, 1981, just before it decayed after nearly 3 years in orbit and making more than 16,000 orbits.

A Polish report in 1978 instanced plans to construct a satellite data reception station in Cracow designed to collect information from meteorological satellites. (94)

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Page last modified: 10-04-2016 19:05:45 ZULU