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Russia and National Security Support Missions

For more than 30 years (1962-1994) the USSR/CIS orbited on average five spacecraft per year believed to be associated with the support of national security systems. However, since 1991 these activities have markedly decreased with only one such mission in each of 1993 and 1994. Moreover, unique orbital operations associated with some of these spacecraft have essentially ceased.

Through the years a wide variety of passive and active spacecraft have been launched in this program by Kosmos-2, Kosmos-3M, Tsyklon-3, and Zenit-2 launch vehicles. In general, satellites are inserted into low, nearly circular orbits (350-550 km) or into moderately eccentric orbits between 200 km and 2,600 km. The primary inclinations used have been 50.7 degrees, 65.8 degrees, 74 degrees and 82.9 degrees. The first inclination has not been used since 1987 when the last space mission was flown from the Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome.

Specific techniques and orbital profiles have evolved, but minor military satellites have fallen into two basic categories: those which release multiple objects during their missions and those which do not. The former class of satellites have been linked to the calibration and testing of USSR/CIS radars, in particular ABM radars, while the latter group probably perform a variety of functions, including atmospheric density investigations (Reference 127).

The two missions launched in 1993-1994 for the Russian Military Space Forces were simple, 2-m-diameter spheres inserted into moderately elliptical orbits by Kosmos-3M boosters from Plesetsk. Kosmos 2265, launched in October, 1993, into an orbit of 291 km by 1573 km, was reportedly a Yug spacecraft with no exterior coverings or appendages, ideal for uniform optical and radar reflections. Kosmos 2292, launched in September, 1994, into an orbit of 400 km by 1,954 km, appears to have been a Vektor-class spacecraft. Although similar in size and shape to the Yug, Vektor satellites are covered with solar cells and carry four deployable antennas. Seven spacecraft launched since 1974 (beginning with Kosmos 660) belong to the Kosmos 2292 class, and all are still in orbit (Reference 128).

A total of 20 spacecraft with sub-satellite release capabilities, designated Romb, were orbited during 1980-1990 with demonstrated capacities of 8-37 sub-satellites. These spacecraft normally begin life in nearly circular orbits of approximately 500 km altitude. The ejection events may occur at anytime and may involve only a few or many objects, although almost always in even numbers. For example, Kosmos 2053 was launched on 27 December 1989 and by the end of 1992 had released a total of 37 objects during nine operations spanning 18 months. The smallest number released at one time was two and the largest number was eight. In contrast, Kosmos 1494 waited five months before ejecting its full complement of 25 subsatellites in a week's time. Many of the sub-satellites appear to be ejected in opposite pairs from the parent satellite.

In many cases the release of a batch of new sub-satellites with diameter of 30 cm is closely tied to the decay of an earlier set (Reference 129). While a link between the sub-satellites and testing ABM radars dates back to at least 1981 (Reference 130), an analysis by G. E. Perry of the Kettering Group strongly suggests that this is still a principal objective. His work showed a close correlation between ejection events and immediate passes over the Moscow area (Reference 131). During 1993-1994 only one ejection event involving a single sub-satellite from Kosmos 2106 (launched in 1990) was detected, occurring in early February 1993.

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Page last modified: 10-04-2016 19:07:54 ZULU