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Russia and Unknown Missions


By Charles S. Sheldon II [1917-1981], was Chief of the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service



An early chapter of this study discussed the reasons why the Russians apparently selected the overall cover label of Kosmos to account for 786 of their flights through 1975. Since the bulk of these flights are not explained by the Russians, one assumes that most of the military space activity (but not all of it) is contained within this label. The process of identifying Kosmos flights is one of fitting them into categories by launch site, launch vehicle, and kind of orbit. Then one eliminates the flights acknowledged in detail by the Russians and the flight failures signaled by debris launched at times of known windows for flights to the Moon or planets. The remainder then must be examined in the context of the kinds of military missions which have been discussed in general terms in sections of this chapter and test the hypotheses for consistency of fit.

Table 1-3 of section One gave the kind of detailed breakdown into categories of launch vehicles and orbital inclinations from each launch site required for the building work which must be done next.

Tables 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4 of section Two accounted for the Kosmos flights which have been described as to scientific experiments carried.

Although one can recognize the possibility of being spoofed, in general accepting the Soviet reports is reasonably safe. Genuine scientific payloads usually operate in telemetry modes which can be intercepted by Western stations, and the signals received can often be interpreted as to general purpose. The detailed published findings would be hard to invent and to keep consistent with the known times and locations of the flights when there may be U.S. or other nations' payloads gathering synoptic data at the same time.

The pattern which will be followed here is to take each known type of launch vehicle and to categorize its Kosmos flights by mission until all are accounted for, or until a small unknown remainder is left.


Although about 38 of the smallest of the Kosmos flights have now been followed by published scientific findings, a large number of such flights have been quite repetitive in nature as if they fulfilled an operational purpose, and no findings or other results have been published even with the passage of considerable time. These have to be viewed as probably military until the Russians produce evidence to the contrary. They would have no reason to be making purely scientific flights and withholding the evidence of this for such protracted periods.

1. Kapustin Yar

The B-l class vehicle came into use in 1962 at Kapustin Yar, and all the early ones were given descriptions of their scientific missions and the results were published. The flight of Kosmos 31 was the first to be in the non-described category. It was one of 11, all of which had an apogee in the range of 478 to 616 kilometers, and a perigee in the range of 207 to 294 kilometers. Their inclination was at 49 degrees or close to that. A second series of 11 unexplained Kapustin Yar flights had generally higher apogees (1,154 to 2,186 kilometers) and generally lower perigees (219 to 225 kilometers). One launch was distinguished by its carrying two payloads. Many missions have been postulated for these smallest and simplest of Soviet space payloads. Most are spin stabilized. Presumably they physically resemble their publicized scientific counterparts in similar orbits, which use a short cylinder with hemispheric ends, and usually have solar cells to keep them functioning for some months or years. Based upon " U.S. parallels, they would seem to be possible carriers of some kind of environmental sensors, or serving as radar calibration devices, or testing out components to be used in later, more complex missions. Nobody in the private sector of the West has caught decipherable telemetry and no analog data as might be used to gather weather data. So in a sense, these least significant payloads, in the roughly 400 kilogram class, are among the least known to the analyst working with open source materials. Based upon their dual nature, the pair put up as Kosmos 42 and 43 may have been a developmental flight for other multiple launch flights which followed with the larger C-l vehicle.

 2. Plesetsk

These Kapustin Yar flights all at 49 degrees or more recently 48.4 degrees are now a rarity, but they have their counterparts launched from Plesetsk. The Plesetsk flights without published findings fall into three distinct subsets: those 51 at 71 degrees inclinations in low, eccentric orbit similar to the orbits flown earlier from Kapustin Yar, phased in at the new site in 1967 and phased out at the old site in 1968 and flown at the rate of 5 to 8 a year; a new subset of 10 with intermediate altitude apogees at the rate of one or two a year, beginning in 1968, also at 71 degrees; and a third subset with a high apogee at the rate of one or two a year beginning at the new site in 1968, phased out at the old site in 1972, but at 82 degrees. These Plesetsk flights like their earlier Kapustin Yar equivalents have to be classified as "minor military missions" in the absence of other explanations which will withstand the tests of consistency and logic.

It also seems fair to suggest that these are missions which are related within each of the selected subsets, because successor flights seem to be replacements on a regular cycle for those which went before. Those replaced most frequently are those in the lowest orbit because these are lost through simple decay in a period of a few months. For example, on October 1, 1975 , those remaining in orbit from the entire table of 93 payloads were: the last four low eccentric flights from Plesetsk; the last three intermediate eccentric flights from Plesetsk; and the last high eccentric flight from Plesetsk, for a total of eight. The average life spans to decay of each category of flight of those which have decayed has run: Kapustin Yar low orbits: 152.5 days; Kapustin Yar high orbits: 414.4 days; Plesetsk low orbits: 139.7 days; Plesetsk intermediate orbits 383.6 days; and Plesetsk high orbits: 219.5 days.

3. Other B-l Flights at Both Sites

The second table on B-l flights merely restates in similar form to the first table the same kind of orbital data on scientific flights for comparison purposes. It should be remembered a number of these were indistinguishable from military flights until scientific findings were published about them well after the flights were over.


Because the C-l vehicle is inherently more versatile than the B-l, having both a greater lift capacity and a restart capability for circularizing orbits, it is not strange that a greater variety of patterns of use have appeared, and pads have been built for launches at all three major sites. These conditions make a little more difficult the task of sorting out categories and missions, but what is possible is aided by the repetitive patterns which appear. See Table 6-3.

 1. Tyuratam Development Flights

Tyuratam was used for development flights starting in 1964 and none has occurred there since 1968. At first they appeared as triplets and quintuplets, and finally 'as singletons. The first three launches of three payloads each were all in eccentric orbits with increasing apogees. The next three launches of five payloads each were put into circular orbits at increasingly high orbits. The final three launches each with only one payload were in fairly low circular orbits. Each of these sets of flights can be seen as potential developments for one or more operational systems which later appeared at Plesetsk. All the Tyuratam flights were at an inclination of 56 degrees.

2. Plesetsk Elint or Ferret Missions

 Most of the follow-on Plesetsk flights have been at 74 degrees, with exceptions to be noted. The classes are so uniform and so sharply delineated one from the other it is no trick to place flights within classes. Assigning missions to some of these classes is harder. Those in lowest orbit, since 1967 and now appearing typically about four times a year, are circularized at about 550 kilometers. The last 8 of these 26 payloads were recently shown by Geoffrey Perry to be disposed in a regular pattern with their orbital planes at 45 degrees intervals. (19) As these are relatively long life orbits, replacements relate either to substitutions for failed instrumentation or are to extend the completeness of coverage. By a process of elimination and by comparison with some U.S. flights, these seem to be military elint or ferret flights. They seem to remain passive through that part of their flights outside the Soviet Union , and hence must be gathering rather than giving out information. There being so many of them and without published scientific findings, their role has to be military.

3. Plesetsk Navigation Missions

The second category of C-l flights are those which flew in circular orbits at about 775 kilometers from 1967 'to 1970, and then the series was replaced by a new group that flew at about 1,000 kilometers circular orbit. These flights came about twice a year, and the clarity and sharpness of the changeover showed that one program was replaced by the other. These flights at 74 degrees in turn came to an end in 1972. That year, almost identical flights appeared 'at 83 degrees inclination instead, and about four a year are put up.

This report has suggested that it should be possible to find within the Soviet program the navigation satellites which for many years the Russians have said were flying but "which they did not identify. It is now possible with high confidence to identify the main series of navigation flights. First of all, Geoffrey Perry has found that these flights fall into a regular pattern of orbital planes 60 degrees apart, providing the necessary global coverage, with replacements put up as earlier payloads' instrumentation fails. Second, the Kettering group have found that these satellites broadcast on the same frequencies as the American Transit navigation satellites—150 and 400 MHz. Third, Christopher Wood of the Kettering group has recently discovered within the telemetry from these satellites that the Russians broadcast time signals in hours, minutes and seconds, synchronized with the international standard and Moscow time, which is a further indication that these flights are almost certainly serving a navigation purpose.

The first shift of the flights from 775 kilometers to 1,000 kilometers would extend their range slightly. The next shift from 74 degrees inclination to 83 degrees extends coverage in polar regions, even though not flying at the 90 degrees favored by their American counterparts. Also, in the summer of 1975, Perry found that among the 83 degree navigation satellites even a fourth series has appeared. At first these seemed to be thrown in at random, but now they are filling m a similar grid pattern of orbital planes 60 degrees apart, as the third series, but these are offset by 20 degrees from the earlier set. What all of this seems to indicate is that the Soviet system has been evolving over a period of time with product and operational improvements.

It is amusing that a recent Soviet article explains in detail how to use the U.S. Navy's NNSS (Transit) system to determine ship positions, never mentioning that it is also a probable description of how to use the Soviet system as well. The article claims that when the look angles from ship to satellite fall in the elevation range of 26-66°, the accuracy of the system is 60-130 meters. (20)

4. An Unidentified Category at Plesetsk

When flights of the C-l began at Plesetsk in 1967, these seemed to be a continuation of the single flights with which the Tynratam series had closed in the years 1965-1968. These flights come once or twice a year at 74 degrees, and at a typical altitude of 825 kilometers circular. They do not fit the regular series of probable ferrets whose complete, low-flying network gives close to round-the-clock worldwide coverage. They do not give out the signals the navigation satellites now are known to broadcast. They seem to be passive in most of their travels across the globe, and apparently about one active at a time is sufficient to take care of whatever need is being fulfilled, with a replacement sent up only when instrumentation in an earlier one fails. Most guesses are that these relay some kind of data where real time transmittal is not urgent, or they would fly higher and would show up in greater numbers. This suggests among the earlier catalogued uses one of the store-dump systems for military or clandestine services use. This cannot be confirmed, but a process of elimination does not suggest much else.

5. A Plesetsk Series Which Could Add Geodesy to Navigation

Still another series of flights, most typically put up about twice a year fly at altitudes of about 1,200 kilometers circular orbit. These most closely resemble in their regular patterns and signal emissions the navigation series already discussed, except that these would seem in some fashion duplicative and surplus. One is reminded that navigation and geodesy are not easily separated as both need precise orbits, accurate timing signals. Both are capable of using Doppler shifts of frequencies carefully tuned to measure distances or pinpoint locations. If one had to decide which series was predominantly for navigation and which predominantly for geodesy, the choice would seem to be the ones appearing very frequently would serve a day-in, day-out navigation purpose. Those flying higher and less frequently would allow the linking of triangles over greater distances for building the geodetic grid defining the geoid. Hence, this series from 1968 to the present is considered the most likely candidate for a geodetic system. This would also account for some of the stray flights at similar altitudes but at other inclinations such as 83 degrees (Kosmos 480) and at 69.2 degrees (Kosmos 708). Using several inclinations often helps geodetic work.

6. Plesetsk Military Communications Possibly for Command and Control

The highest altitude flights of the C-l are those that put up eight payloads at a time in circular orbits about 1,500 kilometers high. The trade press believes them to be military communications satellites. If so, it would seem they are of the store-dump type because they do not fly high enough to permit real time communications among all Soviet forces. These launches come two or three times a year, meaning even if their instrumentation fails that probably 24 to 30 or more are active at any one time. These would seem to come closest to providing a redundant route, limited number of channels, worldwide system such as might be needed for some kinds of military communications and command and control. The store-dump feature would not allow real time control of all missile forces, but it would allow passing of information to or from Soviet submarines and other organizations if time was moderately important but not demanding to the extent of being real time. The fact that we should be looking for military communications systems within the Kosmos family is strengthened by testimony before Congress by the Department of Defense that such systems exist beyond the Molniya, more open system. They could also be used on a real-time basis for tactical communications within a given theater of operations.

8. Plesetsk Minor Military C-l Flights

 Last of all among the C-l military-related payloads are a very small remnant—Kosmos 660 at 83 degrees and Kosmos 687 at 74 degrees. With their eccentric orbits, they do not fit the regular military series already described for the C-l, all of which are virtually in circular orbits. This eccentric orbit pair may turn out ultimately to be scientific, or, if no findings are published, they will end up in the category of "minor military". As will be shown presently, the C-l probable ferrets are paralleled by a group of bigger probable ferrets put up by the A-l. Perhaps in similar fashion, the B-l minor military category payloads are being upgraded to use of the C-l part of the time, but this cannot be answered conclusively until enough time has passed to see whether any scientific findings are published related to these flights. If no reports appear in the literature, they will probably remain to be counted as minor military.

Kosmos 752 is also unclear as to purpose. It was placed in an orbit of 65.9 degrees, just like the target craft of the 1971-72 period, an inclination not previously used for any other flights by the C-l vehicle.

It may be a "minor military" flight like Kosmos 660 at 83 degrees inclination and Kosmos 687 at 74 degrees inclination, but this flight is more nearly in circular orbit than 660 and 687. Aside from the inclination, Kosmos 752 is a close match in apogee and perigee for Kosmos 461 which flew at 69 degrees, and which in time was revealed as scientific.

9. Non-Military Uses of the C-1 Launch Vehicle

Table 6-4 is added here in the interest of completeness and comparability to account for the other uses of the C-l. These were discussed in an earlier chapter and need no further discussion now.


The newest of the Soviet space launch vehicles to come into use has been that derived from the SS-9 Scarp very large ICBM. In at least one of its versions, it may be carrying an upper stage which was paraded in Moscow as the final stage of the SS-10 Scrag which itself never entered the operational missile inventory. But the SS-10 appellation as "global" used in parade descriptions ultimately was transferred to the SS-9 and this may have been brought about by salvaging for further use this final stage. The F series of launch vehicles is unique in that not one has been applied to any civilian program. There have not even been accounts of supplemental scientific payloads. Further, this larger vehicle, capable of carrying up to 4,500 kilograms of payload, and unlike the awkwardly shaped A class vehicles with their cryogenics, uses storable propellants, and can be placed in a silo launch facility.

With its size and general flexibility, the vehicle has been used for several quite different kinds of missions, indicated by the marked differences in flight mode among each of the groups and even with these groups. Also, with inertial guidance almost certainly a feature, these vehicles have shown some versatility in being launched at a greater variety of azimuths from a given launch facility. All the space launches with the F vehicles have come from Tyuratam.

Table 6-5 which follows summarizes all the F class flights.

4. Remainder of the F-l-m Program,  

The above sections account in some fashion for all the F class flights but two. The first of these was Kosmos 699, launched on December 24, 1974 into a 65 degree inclination orbit just like the ocean surveillance flights. But this time the orbit was circularized at a little over 400 kilometers high, leaving a carrier rocket in a lower eccentric orbit. At first it looked like an evolutionary step in the ocean surveillance program. This was not borne out when the next pair of ocean surveillance flights appeared in April 1975 at the same altitudes as the rest of the ocean series. Kosmos 699 on April 18, 1975 , was apparently deliberately exploded into many fragments rather than being broken into three parts and then one part shifted to higher orbit.

Hence the mission of Kosmos 699 cannot be assigned to any previous family, and typically it takes a number of flights of a given type before one can begin to deduce missions, unless the Russians themselves explain. As this is almost certainly a military program, there was no further press release after the first basic announcement of orbital parameters. Geoffrey Perry and Russell Attwood at Kettering Grammar School studied changes in the mean orbital period of Kosmos 699 and concluded that the spacecraft's mission involved trials of a micro-thruster which, over a period of months moved the payload both up and down as if electric rocket tests were being carried out. (37)

Perry, with two more of his pupils, John Kellett and Stuart Ganney, observed similar changes in the mean orbital periods of Kosmos 723 and Kosmos 724, prior to their maneuvers into higher orbits at the close of their active phase of ocean surveillance, which suggested that such a micro-thruster was being used on each for station-keeping. Perry and Ganney noticed that the micro-thruster onboard Kosmos 723 went into a continual active mode on about April 7, thereby destroying the relative spacing between the two satellites.

At launch, Kosmos 724 was some 27 minutes behind Kosmos 723 with an orbital plane separation of 23 degrees. On the day before Kosmos 723 was moved into the higher orbit the difference had decreased to less than two minutes. Perry suggests that this was the cause of the relatively shorter active phase of Kosmos 723 (only 43 days compared with 71, 74, and 65 days for Kosmos 651, 654, and 724 respectively). Similar maneuvers had been associated with Kosmos 382, the D-l-e lunar-related, man-related test payload. Since Kosmos 382 at least had no other point in common with these F-l-m payloads, so far as one can judge, it seems likely that the electric rocket tests in all cases were only supplemental or auxiliary to the main purposes of all of these flights. No other military payload had flown at the altitude of Kosmos 699, although the closest fits have been the F-l-m targets of the 1967-1971 period and the continuing series of C-l elint ferrets of many years. The C-l's and the F-l-m targets have neither been blown up after completing their missions, so there was something, probably, that was considered more sensitive about this flight unless it was only hap-penstance that it was destroyed. Kosmos 777, launched on October 29, 1975 with elements of 456 by 437 kilometers, 65 degrees, and 93.3 minutes, looked like a very close repeat of Kosmos 699. It remains to be seen whether it will supply additional clues to permit the assignment of a reasonable mission to this pair of flights. Sven Grahn in Sweden has found that Kosmos 777 was transmitting on 166 MHz, a frequency also used by the ocean surveillance types. Perry noted that this flight also used a probable ion-thruster system to adjust the orbit over a period of time.

The final 1975 test, Kosmos 785, was very similar to those of the ocean surveillance pairs, but it was moved into the higher orbit, leaving two pieces in the lower orbit, after only ten revolutions. This immediately caused speculation 'about premature failure, but Perry's analysis of mean orbital period suggests that small orbital corrections are made from time to time implying the payload is not dead. (38) Grahn monitored likely frequencies and discovered that it was transmitting on 180 MHz instead of 166 MHz, typically used by the pairs of ocean surveillance flights. (39)


In 1964, an A-l launch vehicle was used at Tyuratam to put up an unexplained payload in a circular orbit at about 700 kilometers. This was Kosmos 44. As similar flights came over a five year period, first at that launch site, and later at Plesetsk, the use was finally revealed as support of a weather reporting system by returning cloud cover television pictures.

In 1969, the same kind of weather satellites were put into orbit with some differences in altitude, but mostly around 650 kilometers circular, and they were now given the name Meteor. In 1970 and 1971 each year there was one flight at about 890 kilometers circular, and since that time, it has become the standard for continuing operational weather satellites.

In 1970, in virtually the same kind of orbit at the first series of Meteor payloads, there came Kosmos 389. The most likely supposition was that this was a weather satellite which had failed, and hence had been given a Kosmos name instead of a Meteor name, so as to hide the fact that no weather pictures were being returned.

This supposition almost certainly was wrong. Each year for six years a single repeat of this kind of flight has occurred. The Meteor failure explanation no longer fits. Furthermore, all the Meteors since the beginning of 1972 have flown at the new, higher altitude while these Kosmos flights continue at the older, lower altitude.

With no published findings, these flights almost have to be military in nature. Next, one applies the kind of analysis which permitted the sorting out of each of the different families of C-l military flights to look for possible matches which might suggest that a later generation craft was coming into use which might carry more equipment than a smaller C-l. Where the C-l payloads which put up singly may range about 800 kilograms, an A-l would probably put up three to four times that much (2,400 to 3,200 kilograms).

There are not enough of these payloads to provide a navigation system, and no such telemetry has been discovered coming from these flights. They are not high enough to be helpful for geodetic work. They could handle store dump communications on a limited basis. But they come closest in altitude to the C-l electronic ferret flights. Hence, most Western observers have counted these flights as belonging in the latter category. Undoubtedly having a larger A-l satellite than the payload used in the major C-l elint system already described would afford extra opportunities to monitor a wider range of electromagnetic frequencies, record more data for later replay, and carry on board more special equipment for preliminary analysis of signals detected. There also might be some division of labor between two classes of elint satellites. The big network in planes 45 degrees apart might be used mostly for capturing a large volume of communications where messages are heard only once. The more complex and less common larger elint satellites might concentrate on specialized sources of electromagnetic signals such as radars where presumably the class of signals would be repetitive. There seems no way to determine the accuracy of such speculations based upon material in the public domain.

Table 6-9 lists all the A-l, non-recoverable uses for military purposes, and for convenience includes parallel columns for weather satellites, so the general relationships of flight mode can be compared.


In 1964, Kosmos 41 was put into a 12-hour, semi-synchronous orbit, which would repeat its ground trace each day. This orbit carried it from a low point around 400 kilometers in the southern hemisphere and reaching to 65 degrees south latitude, to a high point almost 40,000 kilometers high in the northern hemisphere and reaching to 65 degrees north latitude. One climb each day came over North America , while the other came over Eurasia .

A year later, the purpose' of the test became 'apparent when the Molniya 1 satellites came into operation to support the Orbita system of domestic communications already described in another chapter. Eventually, most of the Molniya launches came from Plesetsk, and then Molniya 1 came to be paralleled by a Molniya 2 and even a Molniya 3. Their several functions have already been described.

Also in 1964, Elektron 1 and 2 were put up as a pair in January, with the first payload ranging out to about 7,000 kilometers, and the second out to about 68,000 kilometers. Elektron 3 and 4 were put up as a similar pair, six months later, and 12 hours different as to hour of launch. The Elektron flights have had many scientific findings published about them, and in function they were roughly equivalent to the American POGO flights to gather geophysical data. Western analysts noted that their announced weights and their big spreads of solar cells provided more experiment capacity than had been announced. This raised the possibility that these satellites had a secondary mission of providing engineering data required for building a missile and nuclear explosion detection system for the Russians. This added use cannot be confirmed. The Elektron series despite their eccentric orbits used the A-l class of launch vehicle.

In 1967, Kosmos 159 was put up at Tyuratam using the A-2-e like the Molniya flights, but ranging out to 60,600 kilometers and at an inclination of about 52 degrees. It most certainly looked as if it would be a scientific successor to the Elektron flights, but strangely no findings have filled the literature as one would expect. So, either the payload failed, or it also was planned as a military development flight, also looking like an early warning test for missile detection, or a nuclear detection flight to guard against any surprise tests of nuclear devices in the atmosphere or in space. However, a recent unpublished hypothesis by David R. Woods suggests Kosmos 159 was related to the manned program and his case is convincing. It is discussed in another section.

In 1967 and again in 1968, there were individual flights which looked very much like Molniya flights, from Tyuratam. These were called Kosmos 174 and Kosmos 260. They seemed as if they could be Molniya 1 failures, or were military communications satellites. Now that increasingly, the Molniya 1 flights look as if they were dedicated to military use, there would seem to be little reason not to use the Molniya name for these two Kosmos flights, if they were merely military communications satellites.

With the passage of time, one is led rather strongly toward a parallel to the situation of military Kosmos flights which match the Meteor flights. If so, then Kosmos 174 and 260 were not Molniya flights, but some new, military mission. This view is strengthened by the fact that more recently each year a single flight with a Kosmos name in the Molniya pattern is launched from Plesetsk. While all the current Molniya 1, 2 and 3 family launchings are conducted at 'an inclination of 62.8 to 63 degrees, every one of them has an apogee over 40,000 kilometers, almost an average of 40,800 kilometers. But each of the four Kosmos flights at this inclination has an apogee of 39,000 kilometers approximately, most typically 39,400 as a average value. This seems fairly convincing that they are not Molniya failures. Even more convincing, the Kosmos flights have not been in the right planes to fit the patterns described by Perry and Perkins.

One can only speculate as to the mission if it is not communications. The United States has given some prominence in testimony before Congress to its early warning satellites which are placed in 24-hour synchronous orbits to give warning of all space and missile launchings, with information on trajectory and type signatures, particularly in infrared. This is the same kind of orbit that the United States uses for most of its current communications satellites. Because the Russians have the same need for early warning to supplement their home ground-based radars, it seems only natural with their most frequent use of inclined, eccentric orbits for communications, that they would transfer this proven technique to their early warning needs as well. The 12-hour orbit with its two high lobes in the northern hemisphere would be very good in supplying wide coverage in those regions where missile operations would be most likely. On one daily pass, all of North America would be in view, plus coverage of the arctic; on the other pass, all of Eurasia would be in view plus coverage of the arctic.

Again, this is a mission that cannot be confirmed from public sources of information, but the mission need is so obvious and the usefulness of the satellites is such a good fit that this analysis is reasonably satisfying as a working hypothesis until proven otherwise.

A parenthetical footnote can be added: The D-l-e vehicle is not known to have been dedicated to military uses, except for the military manned space station, but perhaps with the upgrading of capacity common in other missions, it must be recognized that the next time a few years hence a review of this nature is prepared, the picture will be changed. It may be concluded that the Molniya 1-S in 24-hour synchronous orbit is the first of military satellites in fixed positions in parallel to military Molniya 1 satellites in 12-hour orbits. Likewise, Kosmos 775 also in 24-hour synchronous position may be an engineering test for Statsionar "civilian" communications satellites, or it might be the first of a series of military early warning satellites put up in parallel to Statsionar, in the same way there are parallels between Molniya comsats and these similar Kosmos early warning orbits.

Table 6-10 summarizes the A-2-e Earth orbital missions, plus the Elektron A-l missions, to compare and contrast these several uses.


This chapter has reviewed the principal probable military uses of space by the Soviet Union , examining each mission and candidate group of flights, if any, which seem to come closest to being the probable agents of execution. Now it is time to summarize in tabular form the general division of activity between civil and military, with all the caveats which have been carried in the text to this point. For the sake of comparison, corresponding figures have been developed for the United States , and the division in the latter case is not just between NASA and DoD, because some missions in the past could as easily have been done by either principal agency. Bather, the attempt has been to look at those missions which have broad scientific and civil applications, and which are generally readily discussed in press releases of both the United States and the Soviet Union , to contrast these flights with others in which both governments show considerable reticence. As explained, in the Soviet case, these make up the largest part of the Kosmos program. In the U.S. case, these are flights which carry no names and no details beyond the fact of launch. Such a table is necessarily arbitrary and subject to argument, but has been evolving over the years with sufficient time to test that as a simple count, without value judgments and special weighting, it is generally indicative of the division of launch and payload effort. Table 6-14 follows.



19. G. E. Perry, private communication, September 6, 1975 .

20. Referativnyy Zhurnal 51 Astronomiya' Otdel'nyy Vypusk, No. 8, 1975, 8.51.160.

37. Perry, G. H., and R. J. Attwood, Flight International, London , May 1, 1975 , p. 718.

38. Perry, G. E., Private communication, January 18, 1976 .

39. Grahn, S., Private communication, January 25, 1976 .

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

As noted, the Russian Military Forces introduced an apparently new photographic reconnaissance system or variant in 1994 with the flight of Kosmos 2290. Whereas its nature was readily discernible by its orbital behavior, the mission of Kosmos 2285, which was launched three weeks earlier, remained undefined at the end of the year. Kosmos 2285 was launched by a Kosmos-3M booster from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and inserted into an orbit of 974 km by 1013 km at an inclination of 74.0 degrees. This orbital regime had not been employed by the USSR/CIS since 1972 when an early generation navigation satellite system was shifted to the present-day 83 degrees inclination.

According to an ITAR-TASS news release, "the launch had been successful and that it was carried out in the interests of the Ministry of Defense" (Reference 132). Through early 1995 the spacecraft exhibited no maneuverable characteristics, and its radar cross-section of a few square meters was consistent with Parus and Tsikada class gravity-gradient satellites. Also like most LEO navigation satellites, no operational debris was found after deployment which might suggest the release of special sensor covers or appendages such as solar arrays or antennas.

In addition, no signal receptions from Kosmos 2285 were reported by the Kettering Group, thereby preventing a possible association with other military space systems. Visual observations of Kosmos 2285 by Paul Maley indicated that the spacecraft presented an optical signature virtually identical to Russian LEO navigation satellites. Further information or flight activity will be required before Kosmos 2285 can be better categorized.

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