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Space


Minor Military Satellite Programs

MINOR MILITARY MISSIONS WITH THE C-l LAUNCH VEHICLE

FROM PLESETSK

The three inclinations of 65.8°, 74°, and 83" continued in use for those Kosmos missions which fail to fall in readily identifiable categories and are lumped together by Western analysts as "minor military" missions.

In each of the 3 years there was a single launch of a "nontarget" at 65.8° (Kosmos 1310,

1427 and 1450). An additional launch at this inclination in 1983 placed Kosmos 1502 in a lower orbit with a period of 92.3 min. more characteristic of the Kapustin Yar payloads.

The 94.6 min period appeared once more at 74° in 1982 and 1983 with Kosmos 1335 and Kosmos 1453. Kosmos 1335 came shortly after the decay of the previous flight of this type, Kosmos 1186, but was still in orbit when Kosmos 1453 was launched.

Kosmos 1311 and its replacement, Kosmos 1501, launched in 1981 and 1983, also had the 94.5 min. period but at 83" inclination. Johnson drew attention to the point that Kosmos 1310 and 1311 and Kosmos 1501 and 1502 were pairs of consecutive launches with the same period at the different inclinations of 65?80 and 83°,75 but this may be purely coincidental.

It was reported that Kosmos 1311's purpose was to calibrate ABM development programs at Sary Shagan but no evidence was offered to support this speculation. (76)

The highly elliptical flights with periods greater than 100 minutes at 83° were resumed in 1981. Kosmos 1238 and 1263 operated as a pair with their orbital planes 180° out of phase and might, therefore, be considered to have been traveling in approximately the same plane in opposite directions although, for that to be absolutely true, the orbits would need to be perfectly polar at 90° inclination. These were followed in 1983 by Kosmos 1508. Also, in 1982, Kosmos 1463 entered the 103.5 min. elliptical orbit at 83° previously used by Kosmos 1179 in 1980. The possibility exists that scientific results from either or both of these flights may someday be published exists but, until then, they are placed in this category for convenience.

FROM KAPUSTIN YAR

There were five flights at 50.7° in the period under consideration. In 1982, Kosmos 1351, 1397 and 1418 were launched at intervals of approximately 100 days with periods of 93.5, 93.4, and 92.4 min. Johnson sees some significance in the progressive decrease in orbital period and also shows that, on October 31, their orbital planes were separated by 150°.77 However, some caution should be exercised before reading too deeply into such observations for one might just as well point out that two of the satellites were 60° apart at that time. Both of the 1983 missions of Kosmos 1465 and 1494 had 93.5 min. orbital periods.  

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.

MINOR MISSIONS

The term "minor military" was coined by the late Dr. Charles Sheldon to embrace those Cosmos satellites for which a more obvi­ ous role is not immediately apparent. Although no sustained con­ stellations can be detected within the members of this class, this may be due, in some instances, to changing rates of precession of right ascension of ascending nodes as the lower orbits decay.

From 1964 through 1966 all B-l minor military flights originated from Kapustin Yar at inclinations between 48.4° and 49°. Following the introduction of the B-l at Plesetsk in March 1967, only one or two flights per year came out of Kapustin Yar, the last being in 1972. The majority of flights had periods close to 92 minutes but some had higher periods around 100 minutes and, later, 109 min­ utes All perigee heights were below 300 km.

The first B-l flight from Plesetsk was Cosmos 148 with an incli­ nation of 71° and a period of 91.3 minutes. Many more such flights followed together with another series in a higher orbit with periods close to 95.5 minutes. For the even higher period around 102 min­utes an 81.9° inclination was employed. The final B-l flight in the minor military category was Cosmos 919 in June 1977.

The first flight out of Plesetsk to match the 109 minute period of the highest flights from Kapustin Yar required the intermediate C-l launch vehicle at an inclination of 83°. This was Cosmos 660 in June 1974. Cosmos 1179 in 1980 had a period of 103.5 minutes more nearly like the old 102 minute B-l flights. Flights at 65.8 and 74° with 95 minute periods also appeared. C-l flights at 50.7° inclina­tion with 93.4 minute periods were made from Kapustin Yar start­ ing in 1978.

Classification by orbital inclination reveals that four different in­ clinations are currently employed; 50.7° from Kapustin Yar, and 65.8°, 74.Oo and 82.9° from Plesetsk. Classification by orbital period and eccentricity reveals other groupings as shown in table 4.

TABLE 4. C-l LAUNCHED MINOR MILITARY MISSIONS 1981-1983

Payload name Launch date Site Apogee Perigee Incl. Period !

Cosmos 1418 ............................... 10/21/82 KY 414 371 50.7 92.4

Cosmos 1351 ............................... 4/21/82 KY 546 349 50.7 93.5

Cosmos 1397 ............................... 7/29/82 KY 541 345 50.7 93.4

Cosmos 1465 ............................... 5/26/83 KY 543 349 50.7 93.5

Cosmos 1494................................ 8/31/83 KY 551 345 50.7 93.5

Cosmos 1502 ............................... 10/5/83 PL 411 367 65.8 92.3

Cosmos 1310 ................................9/23/81 PL 517 476 65.8 94.6

Cosmos 1427 ............................... 12/29/82 PL 496 448 65.8 94.0

Cosmos 1450............................ ....4/06/83 PL 511 471 65.9 94.4

Cosmos 1335 ................................ 1/29/82 PL 514 479 74.1 94.6

Cosmos 1453 ................................ 4/19/83 PL 515 470 74.0 94.5

Cosmos 1311 ................................ 9/28/81 PL 516 465 83.0 94.4

Cosmos 1501 ................................ 9/30/83 PL 513 467 82.9 94.4

Cosmos 1463 ................................ 5/19/83 PL 1550 300 82.9 103.5

Cosmos 1238 ................................ 1/16/81 PL 1957 403 83.0 109.0

Cosmos 1263 ................................ 4/9/81 PL 1968 396 83.0 109.0

Cosmos 1508 ................................. 11/11/83 PL 1964 398 82.9 109.0

 Notes:

1. KY -- Kapustin Yar, PL =- Plesetsk.

2 Apogee and perigee heights are given in kilometers, orbital inclination in degrees and orbital period in minutes.

3. Cosmos 1310, 1335, 1351, 1397, 1418, 1463, 1465 and 1501 haw decayed.

Cosmos satellites with 65.8° inclinations and periods less than 95 minutes appear, at first sight, to be ASAT test-related, but evi­ dence does not support this. Some, which shed fragments at irregu­ lar and somewhat lengthy intervals, are thought to simulate MIRV attacks and provide practice for ground units whose duty it is to detect and/or engage such objects. Others may be used for radar calibration. It was reported that Cosmos 1311, in 1981, was used to calibrate ABM development programs at Sary Shagan, but no evi­dence was offered to support this claim. 78

A book about the Soviet Army suggests that satellites are used to verify compliance with instructions to de-activate certain radars and radio transmitters to prevent "American spy-satellites" from obtaining intelligence over the Soviet Union. 79 It goes on to sug­ gest that dedicated radars and radio transmissions are activated at these times to provide disinformation. This example is cited, not be­cause of any implicit belief in its veracity, but to offer another possibility for a "minor military" mission.

References:

A. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS: 1976-80 (WITH SUPPLEMENTARY DATA THROUGH 1983), UNMANNED SPACE ACTIVITIES, PREPARED AT THE REQUEST OF Hon. JOHN C. DANFORTH, Chairman, COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION, UNITED STATES SENATE, Part 3, MAY 1985, Printed for the use of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 99th Congress, 1 st. session, COMMITTEE PRINT, S. Prt. 98-235, U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE WASHINGTON: 1985

74. Soviet Union, Moscow, No. 2, 1984, p. 6-7.

75. Johnson, N.L. The Soviet Year in Space: 1983. Teledyne Brown Engineering, 1984, p. 36.

76. Defense Daily, Oct. 29, 1981, p. 284.

77. Johnson, N.L. The Soviet Year in Space: 1982. Teledyne Brown Engineering, 1983, p. 24.

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

78. Defense Daily, Oct. 29, 1981. p. 284.

79. Suvarov, V. Inside the Soviet Army. Macmillan, New York, 1982. p. 106-107.

 

 
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