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Space


Russia and Geophysics

The USSR/CIS has conducted an active program for geophysics research since the launch of the Elektron spacecraft in 1964 for the study of the Van Allen radiation belts. The two most recent missions with major contributions from (then) Czechoslovakia were Aktivnyy (Interkosmos 24) in 1989 and APEKS (Interkosmos 25) in 1991 (Reference 62). Perhaps the most ambitious geophysics mission is Interbol, now expected to be launched in 1995 after many years delay. Other geophysics missions have been proposed, but fiscal constraints may lead to their cancellation.

THE ELEKTRON PROGRAM

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

1971-1975

On January 30, 1964 , the Soviet Union made its first launch of two payloads with a single launch vehicle, subsequently identified by them as having been put up by their standard vehicle (A-l). Elektron 1, weighing 330 kilograms, was put into an eccentric orbit of 7,100 by 406 kilometers at an inclination of 61 degrees and a period of 169 minutes. Elektron 2, weighing 445 kilograms, was put into an even more extreme orbit of 68,200 by 460 kilometers, also at an inclination of 61 degrees, and with a period of 1,360 minutes. Both were fairly complex spacecraft. Elektron 1 was cylindrical with six solar panels which folded out away from the craft, and it carried multiple antennas at both ends. Elektron 2 was shaped like the cupola of a building, was mostly covered with solar cells, had antennas at both ends, and a magnetometer boom at its pointed tip.

The purpose of these flights was to map the radiation belts and to supply synoptic readings. Western observers suggested that in light of their probable power supplies which should be available from such large expanses of solar cells, and the announced experiments on board, these craft could easily, have the power and weight to carry additional unannounced experiments. For example, they could easily have carried nuclear explosion detection instruments, like those of the U.S. Vela series, although the latter fly in circular orbits at about 100,000 kilometers circular orbit above the Earth.

On July 10, 1964 , Elektron 3 and Elektron 4 were put up into similar orbits in another dual launch. Elektron 3's orbit was 7,040 by 405 kilometers, 60.86 degrees inclination, and a period of 168 minutes.

Elektron 4 was in an orbit of 66,235 by 459 kilometers, inclination of 60.86 degrees, and period of 1,314 minutes. These flights, about six months after the earlier series, and launched about 12 hours later din-in"- the day provided a second set of readings for comparison with the first flights. Weights were not announced, but presumably were a, close repeat of the earlier flights. There have been no more since that time.

References

1. 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.



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