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Space


Military NAVSATs

military space activities observation missions

Reconnaissance is a general term encompassing a variety of tech­ niques aimed at the collection of intelligence. Imaging techniques are usually referred to as photographic reconnaissance, but in addi­ tion to lens systems, include scanning radiometers and radar sys­ tems. Passive electronic intelligence gathering systems depend upon the reception of electromagnetic emanations from Earth- based radars and the interception of radio transmissions.

NAVIGATION

The development of three military navigation systems within the Cosmos program was described in the space applications part of this chapter. As noted there, each satellite is allocated an identity number. Military Cosmos navigation satellites in the third oper­ational system take identities 1 through 9. Initially, identity num­ bers from 1-6 were allocated to satellites as they were launched, with the satellite which had been replaced taking identity 7 or 8 for some time afterwards. (Cosmos 1464 was observed to have iden­ tity number 9 after replacement.) Today, identity numbers are ex­ clusive to the orbital planes in the correct numerical sequence. These satellites employ transmission frequencies which are unique to specific planes and are at 30 kHz intervals from the common 150.00 MHz frequency of the civil navigation satellites. Satellites in planes 1 and 4 transmit on 149.97 MHz. The satellite in plane 2 transmits on 149.91 MHz. Satellites in planes 3 and 6 transmit on 149.94 MHz and the satellite in plane 5 transmits on 150.03 MHz. Almanacs are updated on a weekly basis and, since February 1987, are referenced to the first ascending node of the day by Standard Moscow Time. 76

Six satellites in near-polar orbits with plane-spacing’s of 30° pro­ vide global coverage so that a ship's captain need never wait long to obtain a positional fix to an accuracy of better than 200 meters. The military satellites are replaced more frequently than those in the civil system suggesting that military satellites operate to more stringent criteria.

Cosmos 1275, in plane 6, disintegrated after 50 days in orbit. The cause of the breakup remains unexplained in the West and frag­ mentation due to collision with another object cannot be ruled out. 77 Cosmos 1333 experienced a partial failure early in June 1983. This is discussed in detail in chapter 4. Cosmos 1380, launched on June 18, 1983, would appear to have been an attempt to replace the 18 months-old Cosmos 1225, but it suffered a second- stage malfunction leaving it in a highly elliptical orbit with low perigee from which it decayed after nine days.

In the same way that U.S. GPS Navstar satellites employ a P- code for military use, in addition to the lower precision CA-code, one might expect the GLONASS satellites likewise to have a dual purpose. This is discussed further below.

navigation

The military constellation of six satellites in planes with ascend­ing nodes spaced at 30° in right ascension has operated throughout the period under consideration with routine replacements of aging satellites.

Table 55 lists the launches of Cosmos satellites in the military navigation system from 1984 through 1987.

All Soviet military navigation satellites transmit a 6,000-bit navi­ gation message at a rate of 50 baud on frequencies which are unique to specific planes and are at 30 kHz intervals from the common 150.00 MHz frequency of the civil navigation satellites. The frequencies are stated in parentheses in the sub-headings which follow. A near-complete description of the message has been published elsewhere. 27

Each plane takes a specific identity number from 1 through 6. Satellites which have been replaced and then subsequently re-acti­ vated to provide a back-up service and those which have just been launched and are in the pre-operational check-out phase may take

TABLE 55.—COSMOS SATELLITES IN THE MILITARY NAVIGATION SYSTEM: 1984-1987

Payload name Launch date Apogee Perigee lncl;ination period

Cosmos 1531 ................................ 1/11/84 1010 982 82.9 105.0 #2 [1386]

Cosmos 1535 ................................ 2/2/84 1017 956 83.0 104.8 #3 [1428]

Cosmos 1550 ................................ 5/11/84 1012 976 83.0 105.0 failure? [1535]; no transmissions monitored

Cosmos 1577 ................................ 6/27/84 1011 959 83.0 104.8 #5 [1464]

Cosmos 1598 ................................ 9/13/84 1016 970 82.9 104.0 #3[1535/1550?]

Cosmos 1605 ................................ 10/11/84 1019 952 82.9 104.8 #4 [1459]

Cosmos 1610 ................................ 11/15/84 1013 968 83.0 104.9 #2 [1531]

Cosmos 1627..................................2/1/85 1018 958 82.9 104.9 #1 [1448]

Cosmos 1634 ................................ 3/14/85 1011 960 82.9 104.8 #6 [1513]

Cosmos 1704 ................................ 11/28/85 1110 965 82.9 104.8 #3 [1598]

Cosmos 1709 ................................ 12/19/85 1013 963 83.0 104.9 #2 [1610]

Cosmos 1725 ................................ 1/16/86 1003 972 82.9 104.9 #5 [1577]

Cosmos 1745 ................................ 5/23/86 1011 966 83.0 104.9 #1 [1627]

Cosmos 1759 ................................ 6/18/86 1003 969 82.9 104.8 #6 [1634]

Cosmos 1802 ................................ 11/24/86 1025 963 82.9 105.0 #4 [1605]

Cosmos 1808 ................................ 12/17/86 1020 973 82.9 105.0 #3 [1598]

Cosmos 1821 ................................ 2/18/87 1016 963 82.9 105.0 #5 [1725]

Cosmos 1864 ................................. 6/6/87 1006 961 82.9 104.8 #5 [1821]

Cosmos 1891 ................................ 10/14/87 1027 954 82.9 105.0 #6 [1759]

Cosmos 1904 ................................ 12/23/87 1008 967 82.9 104.9 #2 [1709]

Notes:

  • All satellites launched by the C-l booster from Plesetsk.
  • Numbers preceded by # indicate the identity numbers referred to in the satellites' navigation messages.
  • Numbers in brackets are the Cosmos numbers of satellites replaced by those listed.
  • Table prepared for the Congressional Research Service by G. E. Perry.

identity numbers of 7, 8 or 9. It is convenient to consider the histo­ry of each plane individually.

PLANE 1 (149.970 MHZ)

Cosmos 1448, launched on March 30, 1983, failed at the end of December, 1984. In an attempt to provide temporary coverage until it was replaced by Cosmos 1627 at the beginning of February 1985, the Soviets reactivated Cosmos 1535 in plane 3 and Cosmos 1464 in plane 5. Cosmos 1627 was replaced by Cosmos 1745 in mid-1986 and was still operational after two years.

PLANE 2 (149.910 MHZ)

The 18-month old Cosmos 1836 was replaced by Cosmos 1531 at the beginning of 1984. This, in turn, was replaced toward the end of that year by Cosmos 1610. After 13 months, Cosmos 1610 was re­ placed by Cosmos 1709, which remained operational for two years before being replaced by Cosmos 1904 at the end of 1987.

PLANE 3 (149.940 MHZ)

This plane has been plagued by misfortune. Cosmos 1333, which had been operational for a year, was replaced by Cosmos 1428 in January 1983 and assumed the temporary identity number 7. The normal weekly update of its ephemeris did not take place during the second week of July and subsequent observations revealed that the transmitted almanacs for the operational satellites remained those for July 6, 1983. Moreover, the co-ordinate data in the first half-minutes were frozen at the values for 1324 and 1327 GMT on that date. 28

When Cosmos 1333 became unfit for use in its navigation role, it should have been removed from active service by command from ground control. It is still transmitting as of mid-1988 and one must conclude that it has not been switched off because it is technically impossible to do so. This must be a source of embarrassment since it is still routinely included in the navigation messages of the oper­ ational satellites in the constellation.

As time progressed it was observed that Cosmos 1333's on-board clock was drifting out of synchronism with Moscow Standard Time, at a rate of 13 seconds per day by 1986 when it was some eight hours "slow". As of April, 1986, Cosmos 1333 was still transmitting a complete message but, by the beginning of July of that year, all data had disappeared leaving only incorrect time and empty data blocks. This situation has continued ever since. 29

At the start of 1984, Cosmos 1428 had already been in service for one year and, in February, it was replaced by Cosmos 1535. Three months later, Cosmos 1550 was launched into the same plane but was never operational. It never appeared in the almanacs in the second half-minutes of the navigation messages of the operational satellites and no transmissions from it were identified by the Ket tering Group.

Cosmos 1598 became the operational satellite following its launch in the fall of 1984. It would seem that Cosmos 1704, launched 14 months later, should have replaced Cosmos 1598. However, with the exception of signals received on two occasions at Bude, Eng­ land, during the afternoon of November 29, 1985—the day follow­ing its launch—nothing more was heard from Cosmos 1704 and it never appeared in the almanacs in the second half-minutes of the navigation messages of the operational satellites. Cosmos 1958 re­ mained as the operational satellite in this plane until it was re­ placed by Cosmos 1808 in December, 1986.

Cosmos 1535 was reactivated with the temporary identity number 8 at the end of 1984 to provide additional coverage follow­ ing the failure of Cosmos 1448 in plane 1. It was also observed to be active, with that identity number, at the end of 1985, following the launch of Cosmos 1709 into plane 2 and it may have been reactivat­ ed to provide additional coverage during the transition period be­ tween Cosmos 1610 and Cosmos 1709.

PLANE 4 (149.970 MHZ)

This appears to have been the healthiest plane of all. Cosmos 1459, launched in May, 1983, was not replaced by Cosmos 1605 until October, 1984. More than two years later, Cosmos 1605 was replaced by Cosmos 1802, which was still active in mid-1988 after more than two and one half years of operation.

PLANE 5 (150.030 MHZ)

Cosmos 1464, also launched in May, 198S, was replaced after 13 months by Cosmos 1577. Nineteen months later Cosmos 1577 was replaced by Cosmos 1821. This was relatively short-lived, being re­ placed by Cosmos 1864 after less than four months. Cosmos 1864 was still operational in mid-1988, one year later.

Cosmos 1464 was reactivated with the temporary identity number 9 at the end of 1984 to provide additional coverage, togeth­ er with Cosmos 1535 in plane 3, following the failure of Cosmos 1448 in plane 1.

PLANE 6 (149.940 MHZ)

Cosmos 1513 had been in orbit for less than one month at the start of 1984 and was not replaced by Cosmos 1634 until March,

1985. Cosmos 1759 replaced Cosmos 1634 in June, 1986. Cosmos 1759 was replaced by Cosmos 1891 in October, 1987. Cosmos 1634 was reactivated with identity number 6 for short periods in July, 1986, a nd May, 1987, when Cosmos 1759 was turned off.

It will be seen that, in this particular plane, the operational life of a military navigation satellite is of the order of 15 months.

TABLE 57.—RIGHT ASCENSIONS OF ASCENDING NODES OF OPERATIONAL COSMOS MILITARY NAVIGATION SATELLITES AS OF JAN 10,1988

Plane 123456

Cosmos ............................................... 1745 1904 1808 1802 1864 1891

R.A ..................................................... 29.7 59.4 89.7 120.0 150.3 180.6

Notes:

  • Planes 1 through 6 are nominally separated by 30" in right ascension of the ascending node, R.A.
  • R.A., is given in degrees.
  • The R.A. of Cosmos 1333, with identity number 7, in plane 3 at this time was 93.6'.
  • Table prepared for the Congressional Research Service by 0. E. Perry.

Cosmos 1902, launched at the end of 1987, has the lower orbit characteristic of Cosmos 1502 in 1983, which matched that of Cosmos 1418 at the 50.7° from Kapustin Yar in 1982.

The largest of the sub-sets contains those satellites with near-cir­ cular orbits of 94.5 minute orbital period at 65.8° inclination. It is tempting to assume that these perform identical missions but that is not supported by evidence that only two of the six shed frag­ ments at intervals during their missions. As of mid-1988, Cosmos 1601 had produced 28 fragments at intervals and Cosmos 1662 had produced 27. The only other satellite to exhibit such behaviour was Cosmos 1776, at 74.0° inclination, which had produced 20. Analysis by Nicholas Johnson indicated that the majority of these fragments appeared during the latter part of 1986. 30

TABLE 58.—MINOR MILITARY COSMOS SATELLITE LAUNCHES FROM KAPUSTIN YAR: 1984-1987

Cosmos number and designator launch date Apogee Perigee lnclination, period

1688 85-89A ......................... 10/2/85 548 347 50.7 93.5

1815 87-07A .......................... 1/22/87 550 345 50.7 93.5

1578 84-68A ........................ . 6/28/84 1643 295 50.7 104.5

MINOR MILITARY COSMOS SATELLITE LAUNCHES FROM PLESETSK: 1984-1987

1902 87-103A ........................ 12/15/87 411 368 65.8 92.4

1534 84-07A .......................... 1/26/84 516 468 65.8 94.5

1601 84-104A ......................... 9/27/84 515 475 65.8 94.5

1615 84-127A ........................ 12/20/84 500 440 65.8 94.0

1631 85-18A .......................... 2/27/85 512 472 65.9 94.5

1662 85-50A .......................... 6/19/85 513 476 65.8 94.5

1788 86-83A ........................ ..10/27/86 517 468 65.8 94.5

1776 86-67A ....................... .. 9/3/86 516 474 74.0 94.5

1868 87-61A.................. .... ... 7/14/87 709 284 74.0 94.6

Notes:

  • All satellites were launched by the C-l.
  • Apogee and perigee heights in kilometers, inclination in degrees and orbital period in minutes.
  • Orbital data, which may differ from that given in the Master Log, has been computed from two line orbital element sets provided by NASA's
    Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • As of mid-1988, 28, 27 and 20 fragments respectively had been released from Cosmos 1601, Cosmos 1662 and Cosmos 1776.
  • Table prepared for the Congressional Research Service by G. E. Perry.

References:

A . SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1981-87, SPACE SCIENCE, SPACE APPLICATIONS, MILITARY SPACE PROGRAMS, ADMINISTRATION, RESOURCE BURDEN, AND MASTER LOG OF SPACEFLIGHTS, Part 2, April 1989, Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 1989, Committee print 1981-87- part-2

27 Wood, C. D. and G. E. Perry. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, 1980, p. 307-315. An abridged version of this paper was included as Annex 2 to Chap­ter 4 of the previous edition of this report [Soviet Space Programs: 1976-80 (with supplementary data through 1983), Pt.3] p. 1027-1034.

28. Daly, P. and G. E. Perry, Space Communication and Broadcasting, 1986, p. 51-61.

29. Daly, P., and G. E. Perry, Space Communication and Broadcasting, 1987, pp.379-384.

30. Johnson, N. L. The Soviet Year in Space 198S. Teledyne Brown Engineering, Colorado, Springs, CO., 1987. p. 49.

76 Daly, P. and G. E. Perry. Space Communication and Broadcasting, 1987. p. 879-384.

77 Johnson, N. L. Soviet Space Programs 1980-1985. op. cit., p. 76-77.

 
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