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Space


Russia and Military Space Projects

As is well known, at the end of the Great Patriotic War, the United States was at the peak of its military power compared with much of the rest of the world. Although we rapidly dismantled much of this force and shut down military bases, we relied upon our nuclear capability, then close to a monopoly, to serve as an airborne strategic deterrent as a means for maintaining peace in the world, at least to the extent of avoiding general war. The Soviet Union , by contrast, faced great devastation at home, had a large army which was only in the process of moving from animal power transport and foraging the countryside for logistics purposes, to reequipping with motorized transport. It had a tactical air force, but was weak in strategic bombers. It had a defensive navy with heavy emphasis on coastal submarines, and no aircraft carriers to extend air power as did the United States.

The Soviet Union seems to have made the deliberate decision to move aggressively into the new technology of rocketry, even in advance of its development of nuclear weapons appropriate to long range delivery by rockets. While the United States had considered a number of ballistic rocket designs, it first put greater stress in the missile area on automatic pilotless aircraft. Its principal design for an ICBM would have been a very large rocket, before the thermonuclear breakthrough.(6) Once the more powerful warheads of reasonable size could be counted on, our designs for Atlas and then for Titan were scaled down to a more economical set of dimensions.

But the Soviet Union , despite its approximately parallel development of fusion weapons, seems already to have committed itself to a very large ICBM. This weapon, developed through the middle 1950's, would be considered in this country as oversized for ease of operations and economy and awkward because of reliance on cryogenic oxidizer and radio guidance during launch. It has now been replaced in the military arsenals by a number of much more effective weapons of simpler design, storable fuel, and inertial guidance. But the original ICBM to this day remains the very effective mainstay of the Soviet space launch vehicle stable. This vehicle by Soviet claim made its first flight on August 3, 1957 from Tyuratam toward the Kamchatka peninsula. The same launch site was then readied for the Sputniks to follow.

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,

6. Stine, G. Harry. How the Soviets did it in space. Analog, New York , August 1968, P. 66.

SOVIET MILITARY SPACE ACTIVITIES

By Charles S. Sheldon II*

1971-1975

I. INTRODUCTION

A. DEFINITIONAL UNDERPINNINGS OF MILITARY SPACE ACTIVITY

More than half of Soviet space launchings to date have been in direct support of military missions. Table 6-14 at the end of this chapter will summarize trends in this regard. Chapter One, Tables 1-2 and 1-3 gave the basic information on which the table in this section reached its findings. While these tables show the great importance of military applications in the Soviet space program, they also show that the program is not wholly military in its objectives. Other chapters discussing the organization, the goals, and the hardware of the Soviet program show the many elements of the program used for scientific and civil or economic applications, which make the diversity of the total program abundantly clear.

There has always been an element of speculation about Soviet purposes in space because of their skillful use of information policies to combine a large flood of information about many aspects of spaceflight, including the quick identification of flight names and orbital parameters, and at the same time they have a policy of tight security and secrecy over the real purposes of most payloads and minimal information about the technology of Earth orbital flight. Earlier chapters of this report have shown techniques for penetrating this obfuscation to provide fairly reliable indicators of real Soviet objectives, flight by flight. If this is not possible on the day of launch, particularly with new variations, this usually can be accomplished within a year or two by painstaking analysis of all the evidence which finally enters the public domain. It is partly a subjective judgment in the end, without Soviet cooperation, whether we have really explained all flights or whether there is a remnant where even our "guesstimates" and intuitive feelings may be misleading us. In general, experience seems to demonstrate that our more conservative views about mysterious flights in the end find better support than the more speculative guesses that a particular new event is about to lead immediately to quantum jumps in ambitions and achievements.

The Russians have maintained they must pursue policies of secrecy over some aspects of their flight program because they do not want to boast in advance of concrete accomplishment—which is just another way of saying they hate to tarnish their contrived image of superiority by admitting to failures which inevitably occur in all space programs pushing into new technology. They also admit that most of their launch vehicles have also been used as military missiles, and hence their characteristics must be protected against disclosure to their foreign rivals if their strategic deterrent against aggression by imperialists is to be preserved. This is hard to understand when Moscow parades have included the Shyster, Sandal, Skean, Sasin, Scarp, Scrag, and Savage, among others, while they have held back pictures of the complete D (and G) class vehicles, as well as details on some or all upper stages of A, C, D; and F class launch vehicles. The Russians have routinely made clear that all their launches are conducted by the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces, a military organization.

The Soviet claim is that all of their space flights are peaceful and scientific, while in earlier years it was common for them to attribute aggressive motives and see complete military domination in the United States program. The problem of penetrating political semantics for scholars in a truly neutral setting, looking at claims and counter claims, is not necessarily difficult, but is partly a matter of philosophy rather than absolutes. For some years, the United States has stated that its own space program is wholly peaceful—using space through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other civilian departments to help, us live better in peace, and using space through the Department of Defense (DoD) to guarantee the peace. This country remains at least as reticent as the Soviet Union in refusing to disclose real details about the central military missions in space, although we acknowledge we are withholding, while the Russians pretend they have no military space program to withhold. A similar Soviet claim that their space program is wholly scientific is valid to the extent that science and technology are treated as synonymous. This kind of melding or loose use or categories is present in American journalism and politics where all engineers, administrators, and technicians associated with the space program become "scientists" for labeling purposes. Obviously, space technology is based upon scientific principles, but then so are virtually all things mechanical and material in human affairs, without being called "scientific".

Perhaps the real tests of peacefulness or aggression lie not in labels or organizations but in intentions. Some specific acts in the space field are viewed as warlike: These include placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit—now banned by treaty among the major powers and direct interference with the flights of other nations. Beyond that, classifications become more nebulous. Protective development of technology which could be used in combat is not an act of war, but may be viewed either as defensive prudence, or as an escalation of the arms race. Traditionally, sailing men of war on the high seas and making peaceful port calls are also subject to multiple interpretations. It may be thought a way to instill confidence that tranquility will be maintained, or it may be "gunboat diplomacy", at least as a threat. Like wise, the bulk of space flights with military characteristics in both the programs of the United States and the Soviet Union are passive in character and neither violate any treaty nor pose any threat in themselves to other nations, yet are criticized by some other nations.

One can go on as do propagandists and even some professional military writers to wax wrathful over the threats of space reconnaissance, navigation, weather reporting, communications, and so forth, but this involves highly subjective judgments. Either it represents a one-sided assessment of the potential disadvantages without regard for the benefits which also exist; or it is a wishful desire for a. simpler age without technology and a peaceful world without threat of military force. Military opponents may be tacitly thinking in terms of space hegemony for their own nation and the exclusion of other powers from military space use.

When one tries to sort out individual space flights into categories which are predominantly civil or military, it quickly becomes apparent that it cannot be done by administering agency alone because a simple administrative change in titles of government departments could upset classifications. The inherent peaceful or warlike character of flights is not easily answered by the hardware and flight path, because this depends partly on states of mind and intended end objectives, not always apparent. For example, when is a weather report just an economic fact for a farmer, and when is it a guide to the commander of a strategic bomber force? When is an observation flight one to gather economic data to raise the world standard of living, and when is it a safeguard against surprise attack to keep the world peaceful, and when is it a means for upgrading target information for future conflict?

This section does not try to settle such philosophic issues of whether a weather report is peaceful or aggressive in the minds of the recipients. It cannot debate whether a military satellite relaying inventory data on socks and shoes in a supply depot is more peaceful or less than another message on trade data related to international markets passed among multinational corporation offices. Its pragmatism will be apparent in the sections which follow, and it does not offer judgments as to what is inherently good or bad.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union have been reasonably aware of trends in each other's military doctrine, hardware, and policies. They have developed whatever space systems they have from the same fount of worldwide technology, although advancing some parts of this knowledge and know-how at different rates depending upon their concentration of manpower and resources in particular areas. The United States began in the Department of Defense its Discoverer flights as early as 1959. The Soviet Union introduced the Kosmos label in its flights beginning in 1962. Both countries had to have started the technology of military space uses far earlier to be able to meet the lead time requirements of such flights. The U.S. earlier start in military applications is matched by its similar earlier start in civil applications.

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,

* Dr. Sheldon, is Chief, Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.



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