Author Topic: Kosmos-2571 Razdan N°1 (14F156) - Soyuz-2.1b - Plesetsk 43/4 - Nov 25 2023 (20:58:06 UTC)  (Read 9621 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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My best guess right now is that Kosmos-2571/2572 (whatever it will ultimately be called) is the first Razdan satellite (14F156 N°1), but that instead of being a big KH-11 class satellite, it has a smaller optical payload that is identical or very similar to that to be flown on the Resurs-PM satellites.

I earlier discussed Razdan here:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=49654.0
https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4006/1

Based on what was known then, I concluded that Razdan was a big KH-11 class spy satellite carrying a telescope with a 2.35 m primary mirror. The problem with that is that the Soyuz-2-1b rocket used for this launch had a relatively small payload fairing (see attachment 1), not the big one that is usually placed on top of this rocket. The big fairing has been used even for satellites that should be significantly smaller such as Persona, Lotos-S and Pion-NKS (see a picture of a Soyuz-2-1b with a Persona spy satellite in attachment 2). It is hard to imagine that a satellite with a 2.35 m telescope could fit inside the smaller fairing, so we can virtually rule out that this is the payload launched last week.

Razdan: a two-stage project

It now looks like Razdan is a project that will be conducted in two stages, with the big KH-11 class satellites appearing only in the second phase. This is actually what was claimed in an article that appeared in the Kommersant newspaper in July 2016 (back in those days it was still possible for that kind of sensitive information to occasionally leak in the Russian press):
https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3049019

The article’s author (the usually well-informed Ivan Sarfonov) wrote that the 2+m telescope (developed by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant or KMZ) would be introduced on the third satellite, implying that the first two satellites would carry another, smaller optical payload. He did not specify what kind of payload, although he hinted that its manufacturer might be LOMO, an optical company based in St.-Petersburg. At the time, the first two satellites were expected to be launched in 2019 and 2022 and the third one (with the KMZ telescope) in 2024.

Razdan’s optical payload is referred to in several documents as Sevan. This name first appeared in procurement documentation in late 2014, several months after RKTs Progress was awarded the contract for Razdan by the Ministry of Defense on June 19, 2014. Two companies were assigned to work out the preliminary design for Sevan at that time, namely KMZ and LOMO. For some reason, the Ministry of Defense awarded a second contract to RKTs Progress for Razdan on September 26, 2016. Then, four days later, the MoD signed a direct contract for Sevan with KMZ. It is known from procurement documents that under that contract KMZ was to develop a telescope with a primary mirror of 2.35 m (as well as a secondary and tertiary mirror). The mirrors themselves were to be produced by the Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory (LZOS).

My interpretation of all this was that KMZ and LOMO were initially ordered to forward competitive proposals for Sevan and that the ultimate choice fell on the KMZ proposal in September 2016 (which was after Sarfonov wrote his article). Also, there was no sign of LOMO in documentation related to Razdan after 2014. 

The use of the smaller payload fairing for last week’s launch now indicates that the plans mentioned in Kommersant in 2016 did not change after all. It looks like LOMO was assigned to build a smaller optical payload for the first satellites and that KMZ’s big 2+meter telescope will fly at a later stage (so Sevan appears to be a generic name for two different optical payloads developed under Razdan).

The link with Resurs-PM

There is evidence that the LOMO telescope is very similar or identical to the 1.5 m telescope that the company is building for Resurs-PM, the next-generation Resurs-P satellites. The Resurs-PM project officially got underway on October 27, 2016 with a contract awarded by Roscosmos to RKTs Progress. In the original plans, Resurs-PM was to carry three payloads:

-OEK-VR:  a high-resolution payload with a 1.23 m telescope. LOMO had actually started the development of this telescope back in 2010 under a Roscosmos R&D project known as Pribor-OEK. 
-ShMARS: a  medium-resolution payload
-a hyperspectral payload

As can be determined from documentation published on Russia’s government procurement website, the Resurs-PM project underwent significant changes in late 2018. The launch of the satellites was moved from Vostochnyy to Plesetsk, a clear sign that the project was being partially militarized. The documentation refers to a decision made on September 27, 2017 under which several Roscosmos projects, including Resurs-PM, would be carried out on the basis of “technical documentation provided by the Ministry of Defense”. My understanding is that Roscosmos is still the organization officially in charge of Resurs-PM, but that the MoD is playing a major role behind the scenes.

Under the new plans, the high-resolution payload built as part of Pribor-OEK was to be replaced by one “based on a high-resolution electro-optical observation satellite with a 1.5 m primary mirror” (in another passage it is called “an analogous satellite”). The medium-resolution payload was replaced by another one (ShOK-PM) and the hyperspectral payload was dropped. It is quite probable that the “analogous satellite" with the 1.5 m mirror is Razdan and that as part of Resurs-PM’s partial militarization it was decided to incorporate this telescope into Resurs-PM. Using the same telescope on both Razdan and Resurs-PM obviously also saves costs.

Resurs-PM’s new high-resolution payload retained the name OEK-VR, but in a handful of sources it is also called Elegia. In one court document related to Resurs-PM (which also refers to 14F156, the index for Razdan), it appears to be named 201OE81. The OEK-VR payload is seen in attachment 3. The main difference with the earlier planned telescope is the slightly bigger primary mirror (1.5 m vs. 1.23 m) and the larger focal length (15.8 vs. 15.6 m). It is a so-called Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors.

OEK-VR has one panchromatic channel and eight multispectral channels covering the spectral range from 0.4 to 1.05 microns. Resurs-PM is supposed to be placed into a circular orbit at an altitude of around 700 km (although orbits as low as 450 km are also being considered). From an altitude of 700 km, the maximum resolution of the panchromatic and multispectral channels (at nadir) are 0.4 m and 1.6 m respectively. Assuming Razdan has the same telescope, its resolution from an altitude of 300 km must undoubtedly be even more impressive, possibly close to what is generally considered to be the maximum resolution that can be theoretically achieved by a remote sensing satellite (0.15 m). Resurs-PM’s optical payload is also designed to observe other orbiting satellites, so Razdan may very well be used for space situational awareness tasks as well.

Another sign that Razdan and Resurs-PM share the same 1.5 m telescope is that they use the same CCDs (produced by NPP Elar). These are called Kem-PKh (pixel size 9x9 µm2) for the panchromatic channel and Kem-MS (pixel size 18x18 µm2 ) for the multispectral channels.  The manufacturer of the primary mirror is most likely LZOS, the same company that develops the bigger 2.4 m mirror.  In a newsletter published by LZOS in late 2018, it was reported that it had delivered two 1.54 m mirrors to LOMO. These are almost certainly the primary mirrors for Razdan N°1 and 2 (by that time the decision to fly these mirrors on Resurs-PM hadn’t even been made). There is at least one online picture of the mirror (see attachment 4). LZOS has a long tradition of building 1.54 m mirrors for LOMO. Mirrors of that size were provided for the two Araks-V satellites (Kosmos-2344 and 2392), launched in 1997 and 2002 (which also used the two-mirror Ritchey-Chrétien configuration) and for the three Persona satellites (Kosmos-2441, 2486 and 2506) (which used the three-mirror Korsch configuration). While the inherent resolving power of Razdan’s telescope may not be significantly higher than that of Persona, it should still obtain more detailed images thanks to its lower orbit (300 km vs. the 750 km orbits of Persona).   

In an earlier LZOS newsletter published in 2014 it was said that Razdan would “most likely” carry a silicon carbide mirror with a diameter of “at least 1.5 m”, which should pave the way to building similar mirrors with diameters of up to 3-4 m. However, later publications by LZOS on silicon carbide mirrors gave no indication that they had reached a stage of maturity where they could have been delivered to the customer in late 2018. Presumably, the mirrors use a cheaper material that has been traditionally used in Russian ground-based and space-based mirrors, namely SO-115 or Sitall (a crystalline glass-ceramic material). LOMO had also studied silicon carbide as an option for the smaller 1.23m telescope originally envisaged for Resurs-PM, but those plans do not seem to have materialized either.

One lingering problem is the limited ability to send imagery to the ground via geostationary data relay satellites. Only one military data relay satellite (Garpun/14F136 nr. 12L/Kosmos-2513) is currently operational and it has been in orbit for nearly eight years. ISS Reshetnev is working on a new generation of military data relay satellites (probably named Gerakl), but it is not known when they will be ready to fly. The Ministry of Defense seems to be counting on those new data relay satellites for Resurs-PM as well. As can be deduced from the documents dealing with the project’s militarization, the satellites will be able to work in conjunction not only with Roscosmos’ Luch satellites, but also with military data relay satellites that will enable them to downlink pictures less than one hour after they are made.   

Razdan’s bus is probably very similar to that of Resurs-PM. As is known from procurement documents, it has an engine unit (14D520) that has also been flown on other Resurs type satellites. It does look, though, like the bus has been adapted to fly in very low orbits, namely by outfitting it with an electric propulsion system (presumably a first for an optical reconnaissance satellite). This is known from procurement documents for Razdan that mention xenon tanks for such a propulsion system that were produced by NIIMash in Nizhnyaya Salda. The manufacturer of the electric propulsion system itself is not known (presumably OKB Fakel or the Keldysh Research Center). The electric thrusters alone will presumably be not enough to counter the aerodynamic drag that the satellite will experience if it remains at its current low altitude, but should help save at least some precious propellant for the liquid-fuel propulsion system. Razdan also has control moment gyroscopes (SGK-250) that provide attitude control without the need to consume propellant. 

Assuming Razdan is similar to Resurs-PM, it should have a mass of at least 6.5 tons (the latest available data for Resurs-PM is that it will weigh somewhere between 6.415 and 6.615 tons). The use of the Soyuz-2-1b for last week’s launch indicates the mass of the satellite is indeed somewhere in that range. According to data from RKTs Progress, the maximum payload capacity of the Soyuz-2-1a and Soyuz-2-1b to a 200 km, 98.3° orbit from Plesetsk is 5.9 and 6.9 tons respectively, so the mass of Kosmos-2571/2572 should be between those two values.

One final question is whether even a satellite with a 1.5 mirror fits inside the payload fairing used by the Soyuz-2-1b for this launch. After all, Persona, which also has a 1.5 m telescope, used a Soyuz-2-1b with the wider fairing. It should be pointed out, however, that the smaller fairing was also used for the launch of Resurs-P1 and Resurs-P3, which were also launched by the Soyuz-2.1b. Resurs-P2 used the bigger fairing because it had a scientific payload (Nuklon) attached to its side. A picture of a Resurs-P inside the smaller fairing can be seen in the attached image from Nicolas Pillet’s website (see attachment 5). The exact dimensions of Resurs-PM are not known, but if they don’t differ significantly from those of Resurs-P, it should also fit inside the smaller fairing (see attachments 6 and 7 for a comparison of Resurs-P and Resurs-PM). If Razdan is about the same size as Resurs-PM, the same would, of course, apply to that satellite as well.   

The KH-11 class satellites

As for the status of the 2.35 m telescope, the latest available update came in the annual report of LZOS for 2020, which said primary, secondary and tertiary mirrors for Sevan had been delivered to “the customer” (what must be KMZ). Whether those are flight-rated mirrors is not at all certain. The Sevan contract awarded to KMZ in September 2016 was for a so-called “NIR” (research project), not an “OKR” (development project). Moreover, LZOS’ annual report for 2017 mentioned the construction of mirrors for an experimental version of an optical complex with a 2+m mirror, most likely a reference to the Sevan telescope for the big KH-11 class satellite. 

It is not even clear if the MoD has awarded a contract to RKTs Progress for the construction of the bigger spacecraft. As far as is known from publicly available sources, only 14F156 N°1 and 2 were part of the two Razdan contracts awarded by the MoD in 2014 and 2016. Since the bigger satellites should differ significantly from the first two ones, they may even get a new 14F index. It is even questionable if they can be made light and compact enough to be launched by the Soyuz-2-1b. Analogous US satellites have been launched by the Titan-4 and the Delta Heavy, so the big KH-11 class satellites may require the lifting power of the Angara-A5. They are not likely to fly until the second half of this decade.

Judging from the 2016 Kommersant article, the bigger KH-11 class satellites are still considered part of the Razdan project. Actually, Razdan appears to be a more general name for new-generation photographic reconnaissance satellites. It is also seen in documentation related to Kosmos-2525, the small experimental photoreconnaissance satellite of VNIIEM launched in March 2018. This has been referred to in documentation both as EMKA (“experimental small satellite”) and Razdan-N.   

The new spy satellite is a long-awaited addition to Russia’s fleet of military imaging satellites and should significantly enhance the country’s intelligence-gathering capabilities from orbit. Indications are that only one of the high-resolution Persona satellites (Kosmos-2506) is still operational. It performed its latest orbit correction as recently as June this year. Russia may also be receiving high-resolution imagery from Khayyam, the satellite that VNIIEM built on a turnkey basis for Iran. In addition to that, Russia operates two Bars-M military topographic mapping satellites with lower resolution payloads. Radar imagery is presumably being provided by NPOMash’s Neitron satellite (14F01-01 or Kosmos-2553) and it is very well possible that at least some of the radar imagery from the recently launched Kondor-FKA satellite is also being used for military purposes.


Offline B. Hendrickx

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One final question is whether even a satellite with a 1.5 mirror fits inside the payload fairing used by the Soyuz-2-1b for this launch. After all, Persona, which also has a 1.5 m telescope, used a Soyuz-2-1b with the wider fairing. It should be pointed out, however, that the smaller fairing was also used for the launch of Resurs-P1 and Resurs-P3, which were also launched by the Soyuz-2.1b. Resurs-P2 used the bigger fairing because it had a scientific payload (Nuklon) attached to its side. A picture of a Resurs-P inside the smaller fairing can be seen in the attached image from Nicolas Pillet’s website (see attachment 5). The exact dimensions of Resurs-PM are not known, but if they don’t differ significantly from those of Resurs-P, it should also fit inside the smaller fairing (see attachments 6 and 7 for a comparison of Resurs-P and Resurs-PM). If Razdan is about the same size as Resurs-PM, the same would, of course, apply to that satellite as well. 

It turns out that Resurs-PM will indeed use the smaller payload fairing (named 17S13A7). This is confirmed in Roscosmos procurement documentation for 2017 that appeared on Russia's government procurement website. This means that if Razdan has the same design as Resurs-PM (as now looks fairly likely), it could fit inside the fairing used for the November 25 launch (which was 17S13A7).

Although Persona also has a 1.5 m telescope (like Resurs-PM), it did use the bigger payload fairing. There is at least one difference between the bus of the Persona and Resurs satellites. Persona's solar panels are mounted parallel (and not perpendicularly) to the satellite's body (more or less like the solar panels on the Hubble Space Telescope). This can be seen in a fuzzy ground-based image of the first Persona satellite (Kosmos-2441) as well as in a patent that describes the unfurling mechanism of Persona's solar panels (it refers to 14F137, the satellite's military index).
https://patents.s3.yandex.net/RU2422334C1_20110627.pdf

Still, it is not clear if this played a role in the choice of the bigger fairing for Persona. After all, the solar panels of the Resurs satellites are in a similar configuration when stowed for launch under the payload fairing.

Offline Alter Sachse

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Still no maneuver, orbit is gradually decreasing
Current data

96.62° 90.55 min 291x312 km
One day you're a hero  next day you're a clown  there's nothing that is in between
        Jeff Lynne - "21century man"

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