Russia’s Great Power Status Said Boosted By Space Monitoring Effort

Text of report by Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on 30 March

[Article by Vitaliy Denisov from material of Colonel Vladimir Lyaporov, commander of the Space-Control Force: “Through the Prism of Optical Assets”]

The Russian system of space control (SKKP) has accumulated sufficient experience of the accomplishment of diverse objectives involving not only the surveillance of objects in space but also determination of the time and area of their impact.

Unique work has been performed in support of the docking of the Soyuz 13 spacecraft with the Salyut 7 orbital station. It was on the basis of data of the control system that the spacecraft was accurately guided and its docking performed, which made it possible to extend the functioning of the orbital station by five years. A great contribution here was made by major-generals A. Suslov, G. Dobrov, and A. Zaytsev and colonels S. Averkin, M. Doroshchuk, V. Krutyakov, and V. Nikolskiy, veterans of the space-control system, who participated in the development of the unique systems and studied and competently operated them in the process of the work.

At the start of the 1960s, following the launch of the first national and foreign artificial Earth satellites, the leadership of our country reached the conclusion as to the need for the organization for military and economic purposes of the continuous surveillance of objects of artificial origin in circumterrestrial space. Government decisions on the development of the corresponding surveillance and communication facilities and also a data- management and-processing centre were made. Military outfits of the units were formed simultaneously with the construction and commissioning of the new space-control facilities. Under the conditions of the domestic disorder and the need to tackle many tasks in terms of logistic support for the base installations and construction and assembly at the newly commissioned facilities colonels V. Bilyk, V. Taraday, N. Martynov, and G. Mostovoy and Lieutenant-Colonel A. Kolesnikov, the leading commanders, and their men established the best traditions of the space-control system.

The facilities that were developed together with other sources of data on space objects formed the system of space control. It is at the present time a permanent strategic information system within missile-space defence, which is a factor of support of the country’s security, and also performs a most important role in our state’s space activity.

The events of the start of the 1990s could not have failed to have affected the cooperation of the organizations working on the development of the SKKP. Funding declined abruptly, and the scientific and manufacturing potential shrank.

Nonetheless, the work to develop the control system continued, but in terms of timeframe it still lagged behind what had been scheduled. Tests of the Krona system radar were completed successfully in 1992, and official tests of a new computer system at the command post were conducted in 1995.

Under these challenging conditions it was decided in January 1992 for preservation of the results that had been achieved and the possibilities of further efforts in missile-space defence as a whole and in the space-control system in particular to form the Vympel interstate stock corporation as an integrated research and production complex. First, the corporation was designed to preserve the level of the operational efficiency of the systems and assets of missile-space defence that had been attained. Second, to support the modernization and buildup of their possibilities through improvement of the combat algorithms and programmes of provision of the command posts managing the systems and assets with modern computer equipment. A role of considerable importance was assigned the development of new defence and information warning and communication resources.

New space-monitoring possibilities appeared as a result of the exchange of information data between the space-control systems of the Russian Federation and the United States. This became possible as a result of the joint efforts of specialists of Russia and the United States on the urgent environmental problem of space junk, which had become a real threat to the operation of spacecraft and the Mir and International Space Station long-term orbital systems. As a result of the comparison of information data, confirmation of the high performance characteristics of our space-control system was obtained.

As of 1999, work on the development of the control system was accelerated considerably. That year, following five years of experimental operation, the Krona system of the first development stage went on alert duty. It was designed for tracking spacecraft in low orbit. In addition, the new Okno opto-electronic system for detecting high-orbit objects was put on experimental alert. It is a passive detector operating in the visible spectrum at nighttime and at dusk, given optical visibility. The medium signalling space objects is solar radiation reflected from their surface.

The Moment radiotechnical system was put on experimental alert for monitoring spacecraft’s radio waves and the provisional determination of the possibilities of the system for space control with use of its information was performed in 2003.

A local computer network intended in the process of its further development to replace the multiprocessor computer system based on the Elbrus 2 computer was installed and preliminarily (engineer) tested at the control system’s command post.

A component of space monitoring – the system of notification of the Russian Federation of the passage of special spacecraft – was officially tested at the start of 2003. The introduction of the primary direction of this system permitted an increase in the reliability and level of automation of the process of notification of the users.

As of 2000, the pace of research into space-monitoring facilities has increased considerably. Intricate efforts to furnish the hardware of the space-monitoring command post with modern microprocessor computer equipment and the conversion to it of the space-monitoring software-algorithm system and the commissioning in full of the Krona and Okno systems and other prospective means of space monitoring are being planned and pursued at this time.

Aside from the effort to upgrade and quantitatively increase the observation facilities and possibilities of the system of control and the modernization of the hardware and the software-algorithm system of the space-monitoring command post, the work on substantiation of the need for the development of an international system of surveillance of circumterrestrial space under the aegis of the United Nations is promising. It is to be materialized on the basis of an exchange of the data of national systems and assets of the monitoring of space with the attraction of the assets and systems of Russia, the United States, France, China, Britain, Japan, Brazil, and other interested countries.

This system is ultimately to expand its sphere of operation to circumsolar space with the objective of the timely warning of asteroid and comet dangers.

The maintenance and development of our national system of space control will contribute to Russia’s retention of great-power status.

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