Sphere / Ether
"Sphere" is a large-scale program that was the result of the development of the AIR initiative, presented in May by the Russian Space Systems holding (RKS). Initially, the AIR project involved the launch into space of 288 satellites with an orbit of 870 km in height. On the basis of this platform, it was proposed to provide personal telephony services and Internet access. The initiative involves the formation of a universal satellite communications system. On the basis of this platform, personal telephony and Internet access services can be provided. In addition, the system will be able to provide information transfer from the Internet of things devices, various sensors, vehicles and unmanned vehicles.
Until 2018, the Sphere program was not mentioned. Earlier it was only mentioned about the project “Ether”, developed by “Russian space systems”. That development was much more massive and comprehensive, it was supposed to create an All-Russian communications system, which required the use of satellites, both low-orbit and stationary, as well as cellular networks and atmospheric satellites - electric UAVs capable of flying in the atmosphere at high altitude for months.
Two years later, a new concept appeared, continuing the theme of "Ether." Roscosmos specialists have proposed the creation of a Russian global satellite communications system under the working title Global Multi-Purpose Infocommunication Satellite System (GISS). It was in this form at the end of last year that the government commission headed by Dmitry Medvedev approved it.
The final appearance of the satellite group Efir, which is able to provide all of Russia with communications and the Internet, was determined by May 2018. The project ETHER provided for the launch into space of 288 satellites with an orbit of 870 km high. The proposed infrastructure is proposed to be deployed by 2025. The devices will be interconnected by inter-satellite lines to ensure the possibility of transmitting information to any point on the globe, as well as to an air or space object. In other words, the system will provide coverage of the entire planet. Due to this, the possibility of exporting information and communication services in the territory of the partner countries can be realized.
According to the presentation, this system “could simultaneously provide 10 thousand units of mobile transport facilities, 10 thousand points of collective access to the Internet, 10 million personal communication subscribers and provide about 1 billion transactions a day via secure channels with minimal signal delays - from 5 to 15 milliseconds.
Ten thousand access points - this, of course, does not at all "provide the whole country with the Internet", but is also quite a result. If it is used exclusively for state purposes, the declared capacity may suffice. The question is rather in the financial possibilities of the state to launch and maintain such a structure. At that time, $ 5 billion required for the system (299 billion rubles) was previously announced. The amount is serious, and within the budget of the current Federal space program it cannot simply be found.
However, it is reported that the AIR initiative was criticized because the group is “small and not all tasks are covered .” As a result, the project has grown into the Sphere program, which involves the creation of a group of about 600 small spacecraft: they will be able to solve various tasks, including providing communications and optical observation of the Earth in real time.
All 600 spacecraft of the prospective Russian global satellite system Sphere can be launched with the Angara-5 heavy rocket, TASS was informed by the Acting First Deputy General Director of the Roscosmos State Corporation Nikolay Sevastyanov 13 June 2018. “The satellites are planned to be launched in clusters on a heavy Angara-5 rocket, which has already been developed,” the official said.
According to him, “Sphere” is “a logical development of the ideology of multi-satellite systems already implemented in the GLONASS system for solving global navigation problems” and will allow “to provide consumers with mobile communications and surveillance services anywhere in the Earth, which will contribute to further informatization of society”.
President Vladimir Putin in June 2018 reported that Russia in the next few years plans to launch 600 communications satellites and remote sensing of the Earth under the Sphere program. Putin spoke about the large potential of the Sphere system, discussing the space theme during a straight line. “ We have our own program, a very good program. Suppose a new program "Sphere", which involves the launch of more than 600 satellites for the next few years, which will deal with positioning, Earth probing, and communications. This is another area where we can make a breakthrough, because the quality of communication will be such that it can, in fact, replace cable communication - both in quality and coverage of the entire territory will be no worse, but should be cheaper and more accessible. In general, this can lead to an absolute revolution in the field of communications, ”the head of state said.
Later "Roscosmos" stated that the new program is a modified version of "Ether". In May 2018, Roscosmos announced the Russian project of the satellite Internet Aether, which is designed to compete with OneWeb and Starlink systems. Such a program, which involves deploying a constellation of 288 satellites with an orbit of 870 kilometers by 2025, will require an investment of 300 billion rubles. “We finalized the project (satellite communication system “Efir” and presented it to the state corporation“ Roskosmos ”and the country's leadership with additional services and functions. “Sphere” is a more global program and system,” executive director of the state corporation for business development and commercialization Anton Zhiganov explained. Andrei Tyulin , General Director of the Russian Space Systems holding (RCS, part of Roscosmos), told TASS that the program, which had grown out of the project of the satellite communication system Aether, would become part of Sphere.
“Now we have calculated the feasibility of this project, I think the demonstrator should turn out in the next three years - these will be both devices and technologies. We are already going completely with the development of ground infrastructure by telecommunication companies. For us, this will be the first such experience, when we involve not just an associated grouping, but want to integrate with network companies, with ground infrastructure and with the space train, ”he stressed. According to Tyulin, the demonstrator, which includes a fragment of a satellite constellation of six spacecraft with the necessary ground infrastructure, can be launched in three years, by 2021.
Dates have moved, it is assumed that the launch of the first part of the satellites will occur in 2022 Still, more than 600 spacecraft should be in orbit until 2028. So far there is not even exact data from which satellites it is supposed to create a grouping. But given the timing, and until 2022 there are only three years left, it is reasonable to assume that it will be necessary to rely on already existing devices. According to some assumptions, the Gonets series spacecraft can be used as a basis; now they are used to create and maintain the Russian multifunctional personal satellite communications system (MSPSS).
The Angara family of Russian rockets has been under development for the past 20 years. Carriers of the light and middle classes were launched only once (in 2014). The launch of the heavy "Angara" is estimated at $ 100 million, which is 1.7 times more expensive than the Russian "Proton" and the American Falcon 9.
There are similar projects outside of Russia. The two most famous ones are Starlink from SpaceX under the direction of billionaire Elon Mask and OneWeb - a British project, which is sponsored by Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems and other major companies. If we compare it with the Russian one, the main difference is that foreign orbital groups are primarily characterized by the presence of at least some business model.
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