Author Topic: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?  (Read 6818 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« on: 05/25/2018 11:58 am »
There are tantalizing clues that Russia is a working on a space-based anti-satellite system called Burevestnik (“Stormy Petrel”). I  apologize in advance for the long posts that follow, but I think this claim needs to be backed up with all the evidence that I have managed to gather. People who are not interested in all the details may skip the first two posts and go to the conclusions in the third one.  All the obtained information is from publicly accessible online sources, mainly technical papers and procurement documents. I will give links to all of those. All the articles are in Russian, but some have English abstracts.

The first clue came in a collection of articles published in 2015 on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Scientific Research Institute of Television (NII Televideniya or NIIT) in St-Petersburg, which has had a virtual monopoly in developing space-based TV systems for Soviet/Russian space projects ever since Luna-3 in 1959.

In the introductory article NIIT’s director Aleksandr Umbitaliyev wrote the following (see p. 3):
Our specialists are conducting work on creating a space-based space surveillance system together with NPO Lavochkin under the leadership of MAK Vympel. One of our recent projects is to develop a small-size star tracker for space systems developed by KB Tochmash.

The space-based surveillance system is most likely 14F150/Nivelir-L, which saw its first launch with Kosmos-2519/2521/2523 last year. NPO Lavochkin is known to play a leading role in that project. We know from several contracts that a second mission (14F150 N°2) is currently being prepared.

What particularly drew my attention, however, was the second line about NIIT’s involvement in “space systems developed by KB Tochmash”. KB Tochmash is short for “Konstruktorskoye Byuro Tochnogo Mashinostroyeniya imeni А.Е. Nudelmana” (“Design Bureau for Precision Machine Building Named After  А.Е. Nudelman). It  is the current name of the former OKB-16 bureau that was led by Aleksandr Nudelman. KB Tochmash’s core business are tactical surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons and various other types of weaponry. Its sole role in the space program so far has been to develop anti-satellite weapons:

- a rapid-fire cannon for at least one of Chelomei’s military Almaz space stations (Salyut-3) in the 1970s. See this story by Anatoly Zak in Popular Mechanics:

- space-to-space missiles for three ASAT projects that the Soviet Union worked on in the 1980s and early 1990s (Kaskad, Kamin and Naryad-V). For more details see an article I wrote for the British Interplanetary Society’s Space Chronicle magazine in 2016 :

Given KB Tochmash’s background in space weaponry, the single line in the NIIT article is a strong indication that the company is once again working on some type of offensive space system. It is not clear, however, if there is a link with the Kosmos-2519/2521/2523 mission. The fact that NIIT’s involvement in the MAK Vympel/NPO Lavochkin project and the KB Tochmash project are mentioned in one and the same paragraph does not necessarily mean that they are related. All we can say for sure is that NIIT is involved in a project with NPO Lavochkin/MAK Vympel (most likely 14F150/Nivelir-L) on the one hand and a project with KB Tochmash on the other hand. As of yet there is no clear evidence for a relation between the two and I will focus here only on the KB Tochmash/NIIT project. I have discussed the possible role of NIIT and MAK Vympel in 14F150 in my latest post in the Kosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread.

Not surprisingly, a search for more clues about the KB Tochmash/NIIT project on the website of KB Tochmash yielded no results.
Even worse, the pages describing KB Tochmash’s publicly known military products suddenly vanished several weeks ago, leaving information only on its civilian products. This may be part of an ongoing campaign by the Kremlin to tighten its control on Internet resources.

However, a survey of recent technical papers written by KB Tochmash specialists did turn up several articles (in 2016-2017) that seem to be related to this project. They describe a simulator developed by KB Tochmash to re-create the background against which infrared sensors need to track fast moving objects in space. The articles reveal little to nothing about the true purpose of the simulator, but it could clearly be used to simulate any background interference that an ASAT weapon would have to deal with when homing in on a target. The main element of the simulator is an optical bench called OSK-2TsL, which is installed inside a vacuum chamber that closely mimics space conditions (see images below).
(see p. 94-96, brief English summary available)
(see p. 59-64, brief English summary available )

A search for more information on NIIT’s “small star tracker” (which would be needed to determine the host vehicle’s orientation in space) also produced several results.  It was the subject of a long article in the 1/2014 issue of NIIT’s journal “Voprosy Radioelektroniki”. This is not available online, but a brief summary (also in English) can be found here:

Interestingly, the article was co-authored by one the KB Tochmash specialists involved in the space simulator experiments (Andrei Stepovoi), providing further evidence that the star tracker was indeed developed for a KB Tochmash project.

A detailed description of the star tracker can be found in a technical publication on NIIT’s space-based TV systems released last year:Теория_и_практика_космического_телевидения_с_обложками.pdf
(see p. 241-246)

A “dynamic simulator” for the star tracker has been described in at least two publications:
(see pp. 232-236, includes a brief English summary)ВКР210629КРИВОШЕИН.PDF

The star tracker was shown at an exhibition called “Fotonika-2017” held in Moscow in February-March 2017 and was mentioned in several press articles leading up to the exhibition. Some of the reports said it had already been tested “in space conditions” (without giving further details), for instance this one:

The star tracker weighs about 300 g and measures 64x58x58 mm without a lens hood and 64x58x161 mm with a lens hood (see images below).  This makes it possible to install it aboard small satellites. It has a resolution of 1024x1024 pixels, with each pixel measuring 5.5 x 5.5 µm2. It can see stars up to +6/+7 magnitude. None of the articles reveal the project for which the star tracker is intended and its name is not given (which in itself is indicative of a non-civilian purpose).

The star tracker has been under development for at least five years and possibly longer. One NIIT specialist writing in the publication on the company’s 80th anniversary (Anastasiya Chirkunova) said she became involved in the star tracker project when she began working at NIIT in 2013.
(see p. 15)

The key to finding more information on the project was a PhD dissertation defended in 2017 at the St.-Petersburg Electrotechnical University (LETI), which has close ties with NIIT. The dissertation, written by Aleksei V. Morozov, deals with the use of TV systems to “detect and follow dynamic objects in space”.

In the introduction (p. 9) Morozov says that the results of his study were used in an “OKR” (experimental design work) at NIIT on a “small-size stellar orientation sensor”. He gives the name of that OKR as “Burevestnik”. Another project where the results were applied was a NIR (research project) called Napryazheniye (a name that has been linked to Lavochkin’s 14F150 project, more on that in the Kosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread).

A subsequent search for “Burevestnik” on the site turned up several contracts signed between August 2014 and April 2015 between KB Tochmash and various subcontractors as well as between individual subcontractors. All of these were described as being part of “NIR” research themes with the following names :

Burevestnik-Pr-KBTM-GIPO  : between KBTM (KB Tochmash) and GIPO

The subject of this contract is not mentioned in the available documents. GIPO is the State Institute of Applied Optics (now part of the Shvabe holding), which specializes in infrared lenses for thermal imaging devices.

Burevestnik-Pr-KBTM-NIIPKh-A  : between NIIPKh and ZAO Aerokon

(on “optimizing the IGRT working process”) (no idea what that means)

Burevestnik-SP  : between NIIPKh and SKTB Tekhnolog

(on “recommendations for the choice of chlorine-free oxidizers for gas generating substances”)

NIIPKh is the Scientific Research Institute of Applied Chemistry, which among other things produces pyrotechnic devices for spacecraft (incidentally, the pages describing its military products were recently removed from the company’s website, just like those of KB Tochmash). The company is known to have worked on solid-propellant gas generators that produce clouds of aerosol particles to obscure moving vehicles from attacking enemy vehicles.
(p. 5-8)

One article written by NIIPKh specialists in 2016 mentions the possibility of installing such generators aboard satellites. They would produce nitrogen aerosol sprays to blind enemy spacecraft carrying “detection, homing and negation systems”. However, it is impossible to tell for sure that this is what this contract was all about.  The pdf version of the article is no longer online, but it can still be consulted here:
(see p. 94)

ZAO Aerokon, a subcontractor to NIIPKh in the contract, specializes in drones, space-based radar systems and aircraft stealth technology and its role in this contract is unclear.     

Also on the website are four contracts (described as being part of NIR Burevestnik-Pr-KBTM) between KB Tochmash and subcontractors for various components of the space background simulator:

KBTM – Shvabe Oborona i Zashchita
(for the OSK-2TsL optical bench)

(for  AChT-6A blackbodies)

(for the table of the optical bench)

КБТМ – OOO Elektrosteklo
(for optical mirrors)

One contract involving KB Tochmash (in the spring of 2015) refers to a theme called Burevestnik-M-ONB.

KB Tochmash is also known to have signed contracts on 17 July and 18 July 2014 with NPTsAP (the former “Pilyugin bureau”), which specializes in guidance and control systems for rockets, upper stages and spacecraft. See this court document which gives the dates and numbers of several major contracts signed by KB Tochmash.
However, there is no evidence that these contracts are related to Burevestnik.

Some of the aforementioned contracts say that they are based on a contract signed between KB Tochmash and NPK KBM on 1 June 2014, which in turn was based on government contracts with the numbers 013/52/2014 and 013/53/2014. The date for the latter is 22 May 2014. The parties involved in these contracts are not mentioned, but are probably the Ministry of Defense and either KB Tochmash or NPK KBM (or both).

NPK KBM (Design Bureau of Machine Building) (based in Kolomna just south of Moscow) is another weapon manufacturer which among other things produces tactical ballistic missiles, anti-tank missiles and man-portable air defense systems. Its website is here:

According to the Russian Wikipedia page about this company it worked on an ASAT projectile called Sharik back in the early 1960s (to be installed on Soyuz spacecraft), but it is not known to have been involved in any other space-related projects since. KB Tochmash and NPK KBM are two companies belonging to a holding called “High Precision Complexes” (Vysokotochnye kompleksy), which in turn is part of the “Armaments” cluster  of the Rostekh State Corporation. NIIT, incidentally, is also part of Rostekh, but is subordinate to the “Roselektronika” holding of the corporation’s “Radioelectronics” cluster. Shvabe (which groups numerous optical companies) is another holding belonging to that cluster. 

In short, the basis for Burevestnik would appear to have been government contracts signed in May 2014. However, the name Burevestnik also shows up in other contracts that cannot be linked to these contracts. I will discuss these in the next post. 

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #1 on: 05/25/2018 12:08 pm »
There are several other contracts carrying the name Burevestnik that are seemingly space-related.  I will split these into two groups.


- A contract for an OKR called Burevestnik was signed between the Ministry of Defense and NII TP on 22 February 2008. This was to be carried out in five stages, the final one ending in September 2012 (but there were delays, leading to a court case). See this court document published in 2015:

NII TP (Scientific Research Institute of Precision Instruments) has worked on a variety of space-related equipment such as ground control systems, space-based radar systems and the Kurs automatic rendezvous system.

- An OKR called Burevestnik is mentioned in the 2009 annual report of NPO Orion (see p. 3)

NPO Orion (part of the Shvabe holding) manufactures hi-tec military and aerospace electronics, also for the space industry (including infrared detectors)

- Burevestnik-M-ASN : this OKR was the subject of a contract signed between TsNIIKhM and MKB Kompas on 1 January 2012. The contract is mentioned in several court documents in 2017. It was to be carried out in three stages, the final one ending in September 2015.

TsNIIKhM is the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics and is subordinate to the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEK), a defense agency tasked with protecting state secrets and countering cyber espionage. TsNIIKhM is also involved in NPO Lavochkin’s 14F150/Nivelir-L project  and has two space-related divisions (a nanotechnology lab and a so-called Design Bureau for Applied Mechanics (KBPM))  that seem to specialize mainly in the development of microsatellites (more on all that in my latest post in the Kosmos-2519 thread).

MKB Kompas has manufactured GPS/GLONASS receivers for a wide variety of transportation systems (including aircraft, missiles and spacecraft). “ASN” stands for “satellite navigation equipment”. 

- Burevestnik-M-E : this OKR shows up in the annual reports of RNII Elektronstandart for 2012, 2013 and 2014. RNII Elektronstandart is a leading institute in the field of certification, metrology, standardization and quality control of electronic devices. See for instance the 2012 report:
(p. 19-20)


Finally, the name Burevestnik shows up in several related contracts signed in 2016-2017. Here OKR Burevestnik has the extension “KA”, which almost certainly stands for “kosmicheskiy apparat” (satellite).

- Burevestnik-KA-M-DU  (between OKB Fakel and OOO NIKAM)
(for the delivery of polyimide film)

OKB Fakel builds satellite maneuvering engines, mainly SPD stationary plasma thrusters (“DU” stands for “engine unit”). Polyimide film is used to protect a satellite’s surface from the exhaust plumes of such engines.

- Burevestnik-KA-M-EKB  (between RNNI Elektronstandart and RNII KP)

- Burevestnik-KA-M-EKB-TZCh (between RNII Elektronstandart and ENPO SPELS)

-Burevestnik-KA-M-EKB-NIIP  (between RNII Elektronstandart and NIIP)

All the contracts containing the word EKB (an acronym for “electronic devices”) are related to tests designed to see if satellite electronic systems can withstand the effects of space radiation  (“heavy charged particles” or TZCh). One of the contracts says more specifically that the tests are related to Russian-built and foreign-built electronic systems for “small satellites” (the “M” may actually stand for the Russian word “small”) .

For all the “EKB” contracts RNII Elektronstandart acts as a subcontractor to TsNIIKhM, with the two having signed a contract for that on 1 April 2016.

The basis for the Burevestnik-KA-M-EMB contracts was a contract signed on 1 December 2015 between the “Center of Special Technical Assets” of the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEK) on the one hand and weapon manufacturer NPK KBM on the other hand.

Little can be found about the “Center of Special Technical Assets”, except that it is based in Voronezh. It is said to be a branch of FSTEK’s “State Scientific Research and Test Institute for Problems of the Technical Protection of Information” (GNIII PTZI), also situated in Voronezh.  GNIII PTZI appears to be the research branch of FSTEK. Most papers emanating from this institute are about countering cyber espionage and what role it plays in a space project is totally unclear at this point. However, as pointed out before, TsNIIKhM is an organization subordinate to FSTEK and it appears to be the key player in Burevestnik-KA along with NPK KBM.

TsNIIKhM’s KBPM department is definitely involved because one of the EKB contracts is signed by KBPM’s director. There may also be a role for TsNIIKhM’s nanotechnology center. A paper written jointly in 2016 by NPK KBM and TsNIIKhM specialists (including KBM chief Valeriy Kashin and the head of TsNIIKhM’s nanotechnology center Vladimir Turkov) deals with what are termed “pulse control thrusters”. The short bursts provided by such engines could potentially come in handy for ASAT weapons to make final trajectory adjustments before hitting a target. The abstracts of the article (translated into English) are here:

Three of the authors of this article (all from TsNIIKhM) are also among the authors of a patent for a solid-fuel pulse control thruster (published in late 2016):

The text says this type of thruster is planned to be used “to create a torque or correct the flight trajectory of a special small-size object”.

TsNIIKhM’s work on solid-propellant microthrusters is also mentioned in this article in 2014:
(see p. 19)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #2 on: 05/25/2018 12:25 pm »
Putting it all together, the name Burevestnik shows up in a number of NIR (research) and OKR (experimental design) themes between 2008 and 2017 that seem to be space-related. The question is if they are related or not. I should point out in this respect that Burevestnik (“Stormy Petrel”) is a popular name in Russian culture. The “Stormy Petrel” became an important symbol in Soviet propaganda thanks to a revolutionary poem called “Song About the Stormy Petrel” written by Maxim Gorky in 1901. This is why many products and institutes bear the name “Burevestnik”. In the area of transportation alone, it has been used for a series of hydrofoil boats and a series of frigates of the Soviet Navy. It is also the name that was recently given by popular vote to a newly developed nuclear-powered intercontinental cruise missile unveiled by President Putin in his State of the Union speech on March 1. There is also a weapon manufacturer called TsNII Burevestnik. All this makes an online search for information on the space-related Burevestnik project(s) like looking for a needle in a haystack. I have seen a couple of OKRs called Burevestnik that are definitely not space-related. Even if  all the Burevestnik themes that I have mentioned above are space-related, that does not tell us for sure that they are all part of one and the same project.

In summary, we have:

- Burevestnik OKR themes involving NII TP and NPO Orion initiated in 2008-2009 (but apparently extending into 2015). Although these companies have been involved in many space projects, there is no irrefutable evidence that these OKRs are space-related, let alone related to a space weapons project.

- Burevestnik-M OKR themes in the 2012-2014 timeframe involving TsNIIKhM and RNII Elektronstandart (the latter being a relatively low-level subcontractor). Again, there is no unmistakable evidence that these are space-related. There are signs of a possible link with KB Tochmash. First, KB Tochmash was involved in something called Burevestnik-M-ONB and, second, it signed a contract with TsNIIKhM on 1 November 2011, just two months before TsNIIKhM signed the Burevestnik-M-ASN contract with MKB Kompas. See the earlier mentioned court document summing up various KB Tochmash contracts:
However, the subject of the Tochmash/TsNIIKhM contract is not known.

- Burevestnik-Pr and Burevestnik-SP research themes (NIR) in the 2014-2015 timeframe with key players being KB Tochmash, NPK KBM, NIIPKh and NIIT. The background of NPK KBM and especially KB Tochmash (with its ASAT history) as well as the types of experiments conducted as part of these themes strongly suggest that the research was linked to a space-based weapon system. Most contracts related to this theme refer back to a government contract dated 22 May 2014, but it seems to go further back in time because a star tracker produced by NIIT as part of this project has been under development since at least 2013 (and has apparently already been tested in space).

- Burevestnik-KA OKR themes in the 2016-2017 timeframe that are unmistakably space-related, with key players being TsNIIKhM and NPK KBM. The evidence points to some type of small satellite carrying stationary plasma thrusters built by OKB Fakel. The involvement of NPK KBM again strongly suggests some type of offensive mission.  There is no sign of a role by KB Tochmash in the publicly available documents. Some of the contracts refer back to a contract signed on 1 December 2015 between NPK KBM and a division of the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEK) (the “mother organization” of TsNIIKhM). However, the OKB Fakel contract refers back to an order signed by the OKB Fakel director in October 2015, suggesting that the 1 December 2015 contract was not the starting point of this theme.

In short, there is no definitive evidence for a link between all these Burevestnik themes, but there are strong clues that at least some of them are related (common denominators being TsNIIKhM, NPK KBM and, likely, KB Tochmash).

If Burevestnik is indeed a space-based ASAT system, it would be only one of several ASAT projects that Russia is currently believed to be working on. These include ground-based and air-based direct-ascent systems as well as ground-based electronic jamming systems. An up-to-date overview of these can be found in this report by the Secure World Foundation published last April (“Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment”)

One ground-based direct-ascent ASAT system that has apparently already undergone flight tests is Nudol. KB Tochmash is clearly involved in Nudol, probably in the development of its “kill vehicle”. This is apparent from the following three contracts available on the website (signed in late 2016 – early 2017).

This might imply that Burevestnik is simply the name of Nudol’s ballistic kill vehicle (which would also have to operate in space conditions), but there are at least two reasons to believe that the two are not directly related:

- The Nudol and Burevestnik contracts involving KB Tochmash refer back to different government contracts (12 July 2013 for Nudol and  22 May 2014 for Burevestnik)

- Nudol is mentioned as a separate theme along with Burevestnik-M-ONB and the Bagulnik air defense missile system in this contract involving KB Tochmash:

Finally, the question arises if there is any link between Project Burevestnik and the inspector satellites launched in recent years (Kosmos-2491, 2499 and 2504  launched by Rokot boosters in 2013-2015 and the 14F150/Kosmos-2519-2521-2523 mission launched in June 2017).  The available Burevestnik documents (the last one drawn up as late as July 2017) would suggest that the project is still in its development phase and has not yet seen any flight tests. However, it is conceivable that some elements of Burevestnik have been tested or are still undergoing tests as part of these missions. For instance, the star tracker developed by NIIT, which was reportedly tested in space conditions sometime before 2017, may have flown on one or more of the Rokot-launched inspector satellites.

It is also worth noting that the roots of both the Burevestnik and 14F150 projects seem to go back to the beginning of this decade. They may well have been a response to such developments as the Chinese ASAT test in 2007, the destruction of the USA-193 satellite by a modified SM-3 missile in 2008, the launch of America’s Space-Based Space Surveillance (SSBS) satellite in 2010 as well as the first flight of the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane in the same year (especially the latter was a matter of major concern to the Russians).

Offline weedenbc

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #3 on: 05/25/2018 12:49 pm »
Fascinating stuff, and great work piecing all this together.

I can think of two possibilities:

1) 14F150 is the tracking/targeting system and Burevestnik is the offensive weapon component (similar to the role Okno played in the Cold War-era ASAT programs)

2) Burevestnik is the program to weaponize the RPO technologies demonstrated by Cosmos 2499, 2504, etc

Bart, does there seem to be any programmatic links between those RPO missions and either Burevestnik  or 14F150?
Brian Weeden

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #4 on: 05/25/2018 08:04 pm »
Fascinating stuff, and great work piecing all this together.

I can think of two possibilities:

1) 14F150 is the tracking/targeting system and Burevestnik is the offensive weapon component (similar to the role Okno played in the Cold War-era ASAT programs)

2) Burevestnik is the program to weaponize the RPO technologies demonstrated by Cosmos 2499, 2504, etc

Bart, does there seem to be any programmatic links between those RPO missions and either Burevestnik  or 14F150?

I suppose your question is if there is a link between the rendezvous and proximity operations performed by the inspectors (Kosmos 2499, 2504 on the one hand and 2519/2521/2523 (14F150)on the other hand) and Burevestnik. I think the evidence points to Burevestnik and the inspectors being different programs, but it is certainly possible that some of the technology needed for Burevestnik has been tested by the inspectors (such as the NIIT star sensor). Since TsNIIKhM seems to be involved in both 14F150 and Burevestnik, there could also be similarities in satellite design. 

Offline gosnold

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #5 on: 05/26/2018 08:29 am »
Interesting. A small stealth satellite able to rendez-vous with targets thanks to its plasma thrusters and then to spray stuff over their optics would make a good ASAT weapon and create no debris. It could attack any kind of satellite by making their star trackers useless.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #6 on: 06/12/2018 09:19 am »
Some more insight into the Burevestnik project is provided by a procurement plan published in 2015 by a construction company called “Spetsstroi-Engineering”. It lends further support to the idea that Burevestnik is a space-based anti-satellite system and also indicates that the project is comparable in scale to its Soviet-era predecessor "IS". 

An excerpt from this procurement plan was posted by Stan Black on the “Novosti kosmonavtiki” forum in 2016.

This is the part related to Burevestnik:

Реконструкция сооружений под размещение изделия 14К168 ОКР «Буревесник» г. Мирный Архангельская область
Строителство технической позиции под размещение изделия 14К168 г. Тамбов
Реконструкция сооружений под размещение изделия 14К168 ОКР «Буревесник» г. Мирный Архангельская область
Строителство технической позиции под размещение изделия 14К168 п. Дуброво Московская область

The link given to the procurement plan was:ПЛАН%20ЗАКУПОК%202015.xls
However, this now leads to a procurement document that no longer includes the information given above.
The procurement plan mentioned several buildings that were supposed to be constructed as part of  “Experimental Design Work” (OKR) Burevestnik (which is actually spelled incorrectly as “Burevesnik”, a common mistake because the “t” in Burevestnik is not pronounced in Russian). It links Burevestnik to the index 14K168, which seems to be a “system designator” for the launch vehicle, the payload and possibly ground support facilities as well. The satellites themselves likely have a 14F designator, but this has not yet been identified.

This is a literal translation of the excerpt:

- Reconstruction of buildings to house product 14K168, OKR Burevestnik, town of Mirnyy, Arkhangelsk province
- Construction of a technical position to house product 14K168, town of Tambov
- Reconstruction of buildings to house product 14K168, OKR Burevestnik, town of Mirnyy, Arkhangelsk province
- Construction of a technical position to house product 14K168, village of Dubrovo, Moscow region

“Technical position” (TP) usually refers to a collection of buildings rather than a single building. At cosmodromes, for instance, the “technical position” contains all the facilities where satellites and rockets undergo final checks and preparations before being transported to the launch pad  (such as assembly buildings, fueling stations etc.).

So according to plans going back to 2015, infrastructure for Burevestnik was supposed to be constructed at the following locations:

1) MIRNYY  : this is the town that supports the Plesetsk cosmodrome, which tells us that Burevestnik will be based there. For some reason the procurement document mentions Mirnyy twice.

2) TAMBOV :  the site being referred to here is almost certainly the 28th Arsenal of the Space Forces (military unit 14272) in Znamenka-1, not far from the town of Tambov (about 450 km southeast of Moscow). This is a site where rockets and satellites are kept in storage and maintained before being shipped to the launch site (in case they are not directly transported to the launch site from the manufacturer). It is also the place where recovered descent modules of photographic reconnaissance satellites were stripped of usable components.   “Novosti kosmonavtiki” journalists were allowed to visit this formerly top-secret facility in 2011 and wrote an article on it in the September issue that year.  Part of that article is online here:
More pictures here:

3) DUBROVO  (also known as NOGINSK-9, situated north of the city of Noginsk, some 60 km east of Moscow). This is the home of the 821st Main Space Intelligence Centеr (GTsRKO), the headquarters of Russia’s space surveillance network (SKKP), where all the information from the country’s optical and radar space surveillance systems comes together and is processed. There is an English Wikipedia page on it here:

This describes its function as follows : “It maintains the Russian catalogue of space objects and provides data which could be used to support space launches, feed an anti-satellite programme and provide intelligence on hostile military satellites.”

Noginsk-9 was also the location of the ground control facilities for the Soviet-era ASAT project “IS” (“Satellite Destroyer”), which saw numerous test flights between 1963 and 1982. These facilities (known in the Soviet days as Object 224B) were built back in the 1960s before construction of the SKKP headquarters got underway. They consisted of a control center and five radomes, which formed a cross-shaped pattern when seen from the air (one central radome and four peripheral radomes located at exactly the same distance from the central one) (see the attached drawing from a book written by former IS chief designer Konstantin Vlasko-Vlasov). These acted as an interferometer to very precisely determine the orbit of the IS “killer satellites” on the first revolution after launch, making it possible to make final orbital adjustments prior to the intercept of a target satellite.

Adjacent to the IS facilities were exactly the same facilities (one control building, five radomes) for the ocean reconnaissance program known as US (“Controllable Satellite”).  All this hardware (two control buildings and a total of ten radomes) is situated in a forest west of Dubrovo/Noginsk-9 and can easily be seen on Google Earth. See the attached image taken from

Although the procurement document talks about buildings to “house product 14K168”, the facilities under construction at Noginsk-9 as part of Burevestnik are more likely intended for ground control tasks. They are probably being built from scratch. It looks unlikely that any of the Soviet-era facilities used for the IS project can be refurbished.  Pictures taken inside and outside one of the radomes back in 2013 show it to be in a sorry state. See the attached image from this website:

One facility known to be under construction at Noginsk-9 is “Object 1511/1”. Several contracts related to that are available on the website, such as this one:

A contract for the construction of this facility was signed between the Ministry of Defense and Spetsstroi-Engineering on 20 March 2015.  However, it is said to be part of a project called “Sledopyt” (“Pathfinder”). Several online sources describe Sledopyt as a new system to eavesdrop on satellites, replacing an earlier system known as Moment. See for instance here:

So Sledopyt is essentially a ground-based signals intelligence system that complements the information provided by the SKKP’s optical and radar facilities and is therefore not directly related to Burevestnik. Three other Sledopyt facilities are under construction at other locations in Russia : Object 1511/2 in Pionerskiy (Kaliningrad region), 1511/3 in the Primorsk region not far from St-Petersburg and 1511/4 in Shakhi (Altai region).

The construction of dedicated buildings for the Burevestnik project strongly suggests that this is not merely an experimental program, but one that Russia intends to turn into an operational system to be placed on permanent stand-by (like IS in the Soviet days). Especially the construction of facilities at the Space Forces Arsenal in Tambov indicates that hardware for this project will be produced on a relatively large scale (requiring long-term storage).

On a separate note, one design bureau known to be involved in Burevestnik is TsNIIKhM (ЦНИИХМ), the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics.  In my earlier posts I mentioned that it has two space-related departments, one a nanotechnology lab and the other a so-called Design Bureau for Applied Mechanics (KBPM). The company is also involved in the 14F150 (Cosmos-2519/2521/2523) project and seems to be a manufacturer of small satellites (see the latest post in the Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread).

TsNIIKhM may be the manufacturer of the satellite bus for Burevestnik, but it could also have another connection to this project. It turns out that TsNIIKhM was also involved in the Soviet-era “IS” ASAT project, for which it built the explosive charges (under the leadership of Kirill Shamshev).  This is mentioned in a book by former IS chief designer Konstantin Vlasko-Vlasov and also by some other sources such as this one:

Of course, this does not necessarily mean that it performs a similar role in the Burevestnik project, but it is interesting to mention nevertheless. The production of various types of ammunition was the core business of TsNIIKhM and its predecessor NII-6 before it branched out into other areas. The ammunition department of TsNIIKhM is now known as the Center of Ammunition and Special Chemistry. According to the TsNIIKhM it produces "a new generation of gunpowder, solid rocket propellants, explosive and pyrotechnic devices” and designs and produces “ammunition and its components”.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #7 on: 07/12/2018 11:00 pm »
A new tender related to the Burevestnik project has appeared on the website:

It deals with infrastructure to be built for the project at the Plesetsk cosmodrome.  More specifically,  a military construction company called the 20th Central Planning Institute (20 TsPI) is looking for a subcontractor to assess suffosion-related hazards for the "construction and reconstruction of buildings to house elements of the 14K168 complex". The name Burevestnik is not actually mentioned, but it is known from an earlier procurement document that 14K168 is the designator for the combination of the launch vehicle and the payload for the Burevestnik project (see the previous post). Suffosion is described by Wikipedia as “one of the two geological processes by which subsidence sinkholes or dolines are formed”.  Bids were expected between 28 June and 6 July.

The construction site is identified in the tender documentation as “Object 7511/4”. “7511” appears to be the general code for ground infrastructure for Burevestnik and is followed by an additional digit that denotes the specific construction site. This means there must also be sites called 7511/1, 7511/2 and 7511/3 (and perhaps more). A search for those on did indeed turn up a contract for “Object 7511/3”, which turns out to be infrastructure for Burevestnik at the 28th Arsenal of the Space Forces (military unit 142472) not far from the town of Tambov (about 450 km southeast of Moscow). As I pointed out in the previous post, this is a site where rockets and satellites are kept in storage and maintained before being shipped to the launch site (in case they are not directly transported to the launch site from the manufacturer).

The tender documentation for this contract is here:

The actual contract (signed on 28 April 2017) as well as a follow-up contract (signed on 13 June 2017)  can be found here:

The contract was signed between another construction company called  the 31st State Planning Institute for Special Construction (31 GPISS) (more specifically, one of its affiliates called the Kaliningrad Naval Planning Institute or KMPI) and the forestry management department of the Ministry of Defense (FGAU Oboronles). Oboronles was to conduct a forestry management assessment “for the construction and reconstruction of technical buildings” for Burevestnik covering an area of 3.65 hectares (about 9 acres). Burevestnik is described as a "space security complex".  Reference is made to a contract signed between the Ministry of Defense and 31 GPISS on 20 October 2015.  31 GPISS has built infrastructure at all of Russia’s cosmodromes as well as ground control stations across the country. Its website is here:

All this doesn’t add very much to what is already known about ground infrastructure for Burevestnik (see the previous post). That information was based on a procurement plan for 2015 of a construction company called  Spetsstroi-Engineering. The fact that this company is not mentioned in these later documents suggests that it ultimately did not get the contract to build the infrastructure. The Spetsstroi-Engineering procurement plan mentioned four planned construction sites for Burevestnik : two at Plesetsk, one in the Tambov region and one in Dubrovo (Noginsk-9). Therefore it is reasonable to speculate that sites 7511/1 and 7511/2 (which don’t show up in the procurement documentation available online) are ground control facilities for Burevestnik in Dubrovo and the second construction site at Plesetsk.

All that can be deduced from the new documents is that contracts for the construction of this infrastructure have actually been awarded, but that construction has not yet begun or is still in its very early stages (sinkhole risk assessments and forestry management assessments would obviously have to be made before construction gets underway). That would indicate that any test flights of Burevestnik may still be a long way away (unless use is made of existing ground infrastructure for other projects).   

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #8 on: 09/05/2018 12:40 pm »
Yet another building contract related to the Burevestnik ASAT project has surfaced on the website:

- Предмет договора : МТР (отопительное оборудование)
- Объект строительства: Строительство (реконструкция) зданий и сооружений объекта 3006М (н.п. Ногинск-9) под размещение сегмента информационного обеспечения в рамках ОКР «Нивелир»,  «Буревестник», шифр объекта 1009/5, по адресу: Московская область, Ногинский район, п. Ногинск-9, в/ч 28289.

It deals with the delivery of heating systems to a building called 1009/5, which is literally described as “an information support segment in the framework of OKR (experimental design work) Nivelir and Burevestnik”. This building is part of “Object 3006M”, which is a code-name for the 821st Main Space Intelligence Center (the headquarters of Russia’s space surveillance network) in Noginsk-9 (Dubrovo), operated by Military Unit 28289. The contract was awarded this summer by a military construction company called FGUP GVSU N°12.

What is interesting here is that projects Burevestnik and Nivelir are mentioned together. Nivelir has been linked to the production code 14F150, which in turn has been linked to the Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 “space inspector” mission.  A likely role for the Main Space Intelligence Center in both projects (ASATs and inspectors) would be to assemble information on potential targets obtained by both optical and radar space surveillance sites spread across the country. 

The relation between Burevestnik and Nivelir could go further than that, such as the sharing of certain satellite components. One indication in that direction is that a company called TsNIIKhM is involved in both projects. TsNIIKhM signed a contract with NPO Lavochkin related to 14F150 on 1 December 2011 and is also mentioned in several contracts related to Burevestnik in 2016/2017 (see my earlier posts in the Burevestnik and Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 threads).

It’s also interesting to note that one month before signing the contract with NPO Lavochkin on 14F150, TsNIIKhM signed a contract with KB Tochmash (the “Nudelman bureau”), which is also known to be involved in Burevestnik. This contract is mentioned in this court document:.

However, the document does not say what the contract was related to, so we can only speculate that it was related to Burevestnik. It is known from other court documents that TsNIIKhM signed a contract with MKB Kompas on a theme called “Burevestnik-M-ASN” (presumably related to satellite navigation equipment) one month after the contract with NPO Lavochkin.

Putting the three contracts together, we have:

TsNIIKhM – KB Tochmash (possibly on Burevestnik) :  1 November 2011  (N° 89/11-22/845-G)
TsNIIKhM – NPO Lavochkin (on 14F150) :   1 December 2011  (N° 80/0027-I-12/839-G)
TsNIIKhM – MKB Kompas (on Burevestnik-M-ASN) : 1 January 2012 (N° 879G) (probably just the last part of the actual contract number)

There are some similarities in the contract numbers, but I don't know if these are significant.

Also note that the themes “Burevestnik” and “Nivelir” (as well as “Napryazheniye”) appear right under one another in the annual reports of RNII Elektronstandart (a company that tests electronic components) for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Again, not necessarily indicative of a link, but interesting nevertheless. See for instance the 2012 report:

And just a reminder that last month a US State Department official said that Cosmos-2523 has clearly not been doing what the Russians said it would do  (namely to perform close-up inspections of another satellite) and alluded to the fact that it may be related to a space weapon development program (see the C-2519/2521/2523 thread).

I don’t know if that assumption is sheer speculation or based on intelligence.  At any rate, the apparent link between Burevestnik and Nivelir does make it conceivable that elements of Burevestnik are already  being tested in orbit.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #9 on: 10/02/2018 11:10 pm »
I’ve written an article on Russian inspector satellites and Burevestnik for “Jane’s Intelligence Review”. The full article is behind a paywall, but the first paragraphs are here:

The section on Burevestnik is essentially a summary of the evidence I have presented in this thread for Burevestnik being a new co-orbital ASAT system. However, I have also gone as far as to speculate that Burevestnik may be designed to operate in geostationary orbit, where it could pose a threat to a vast array of critical US military satellites used for communications, early warning and signals intelligence. There is no conclusive evidence for that, but there are a few things that point in that direction:

1) targets in low Earth orbit are more likely to be covered by a variety of ground-based ASAT systems that Russia is believed to be developing. These would seem to obviate the need for a co-orbital system. Moreover, the location of Russia’s cosmodromes places severe restrictions on the kinds of inclinations that can be reached by co-orbital ASAT systems in low Earth orbits.

For an overview of Russian ground-based ASAT systems, see this April 2018 report by the Secure World Foundation:

Also see a recent article in  Jane’s Intelligence Review that is partially online:

In the JIR article I have also presented evidence for a new ground-based laser ASAT project called Kalina, on which I will start a new thread.

2)  It is known from one of the online contracts that OKB Fakel was awarded a contract to build a propulsion system for Burevestnik that probably uses stationary plasma thrusters. These are routinely used by geostationary satellites for stationkeeping and for moving from one location to another.

3) A patent for a space-based GEO monitoring system filed by the Kometa Corporation in 2013 was co-authored by Andrey Stepovoy, deputy head of the KPK-1 department of the Nudelman Precision Engineering Design Bureau (KB Tochmash), who is known to have been involved in Burevestnik. In 2014 he co-authored an article on a star tracker of the Scientific Research Institute of Television (NIIT) in St. Petersburg that was developed as part of Burevestnik. He also co-authored one of the articles on the space background simulator that KB Tochmash developed under the  Burevestnik project (see the first post in this thread). Stepovoy has been involved in research related to space-based space surveillance since at least 2009. See this article (in Russian) authored jointly with two specialists of the Mozhaiskiy Military Space Academy:

The patent filed in 2013 is about a satellite to be placed in a near-geostationary orbit to accurately determine the positions of objects in GEO. 

Russian version of the patent:
English machine translation:

Such satellites could potentially assist ground-based space surveillance systems in providing targeting data for ASATs in GEO. 

4) US defense officials have stated on several occasions that Russia and China are developing an ASAT capability that could pose a threat to US satellites in any type of orbit. For instance, the Commander of the US Strategic Command John Hyten stated before a House subcommittee last June that “Russian and Chinese counterspace systems will be able to hold U.S. satellites in every orbital regime at risk within the foreseeable future”.

True, this is not necessarily an indication that the US has evidence for work on a Russian GEO ASAT system. China performed a high-altitude ballistic test launch in 2013 that some believe was a simulated direct-ascent ASAT attack on a target in geostationary orbit. 

Again, none of this is conclusive evidence that Burevestnik is intended to operate in GEO. Assuming it is, what could we expect to see? It is known from a handful of contracts (see earlier posts in this thread) that Burevestnik is a small satellite and that it will be based at Plesetsk. The only rocket capable of placing a significant payload into GEO from Plesetsk is Angara-5. One could imagine small Burevestnik satellites hitching rides to GEO on the Angara-5 along with bigger satellites and even being covertly deployed in orbit (such as the first inspector satellites launched by the Rokot booster in 2013 and 2014). They could use techniques to reduce their optical and radar signatures, such as the ones being studied under the “Vual” project initiated by the Russian Space Agency in 2011, which I have described at the end of this article:

The jury is still out on how exactly Burevestnik would knock out its targets. The profile and history of some of the companies involved (KB Tochmash, NPK KBM, TsNIIKhM) would point to some type of kinetic or explosive system (despite the fact that they generate vast amounts of space debris). One question is if such systems can be miniaturized to the extent that they can be mounted on small satellites. As I have mentioned before here, TsNIIKhM and NPK KBM have jointly studied  “pulse control thrusters” that might be used by a small orbital kinetic kill vehicle to make final trajectory adjustments before hitting a target. See very brief summaries of this 2016 article in both Russian and English:
English summary:

Three of the authors of this article (all from TsNIIKhM) are also among the authors of a patent for a solid-fuel pulse control thruster intended “to create a torque or correct the flight trajectory of a special small-size object”.

In 2016 two specialists of KB Tochmash (Andrey Konovalov and Aleksey Molokin) presented a paper related to the propulsion system of a “highly dynamic flying apparatus intended to intercept exoatmospheric objects such as space debris”. More particularly, it was about an electric drive which can regulate the thrust of what they call “differential solid-propellant rocket engines” for such an interceptor. Unlike the traditional solid-fuel engines for such interceptors, these would be able to regulate the direction and magnitude of the thrust.Авиация%20и%20космонавтика-2016.pdf

(see p. 282-284 for both the Russian article and its English translation. The Russian word for “flying apparatus” is inaccurately translated here as “aircraft”).

This patent co-authored by Molokin in 2014 might be related to this work:
English machine translation:

Meanwhile, it is also clear that KB Tochmash is  developing the kinetic kill vehicle for the ground-based Nudol direct-ascent ASAT system (and the research by Konovalov and Molokin could also be related to that). This was apparent from a number of online contracts that I have mentioned in an earlier post here (showing that KB Tochmash got the contract on 12 July 2013). Definitive evidence for this comes from the annual report of KB Tochmash for 2013 (the only one that appears to be online). This refers to the company’s work on a “multispectral electro-optical homing head” for Nudol under an OKR known as Nudol-OEGSN.
(a RAR file)

KB Tochmash has also been working on a space-based laser rangefinder that may have applications in inspection and/or ASAT systems.  In a 2015 interview with the RIA Novosti news agency, the company’s deputy general director Vladimir Slobodchikov disclosed that it is to be used in a spacecraft approach and docking system of an unidentified foreign partner (China?) and can be used both for "detecting satellites and measuring the distance to them".

A laser rangefinder is also described in a 2015 article co-authored by several specialists of KB Tochmash (including Andrey Stepovoy), but it is not clear if it is space-related:
(summaries in Russian and English, see p. 12)

As an aside, KB Tochmash’s annual report for 2013 and the 2015 RIA Novosti interview with Slobodchikov also disclose another little-known project that KB Tochmash is involved in, namely the development of stage separation motors for the Angara rocket. The annual report also confirms that KB Tochmash develops the cryogenic cooling system for the infrared payload of the EKS/Tundra early warning satellites (see the EKS/Tundra thread).


Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #10 on: 10/26/2018 03:34 pm »
Cross-posted from the Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread :

More contracts  related to the construction of the 1009/5 facility in Noginsk-9 appeared on the website early this month. As explained earlier in this thread, 1009/5 has been described as an “information support segment” for the Nivelir and Burevestnik projects.
The new contracts are here:

Some of the information contained in these contracts has also made it possible to locate two earlier contracts for 1009/5, one in September 2017 and another in July 2018:

All the contracts were awarded by the military construction company FGUP GVSU N°12. Unfortunately, nothing much new can be learned from these contracts, except that two of the buildings that are part of 1009/5 are called 165B and 165D.  All the contracts are based on a contract signed between FGUP GVSU N°12 and the Ministry of Defense on 25 August 2016. This has the number  1617187377352090942000000 and is also referred to as “Deal Nr. M0012”. The fact that this is an ongoing construction project would indicate that this facility is not yet actively being used for the Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 mission. At the same time, it shows that Nivelir (as well as Burevestnik) is likely to be turned into an operational system that will see launches on a regular basis.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #11 on: 01/06/2019 10:27 pm »
Several new contracts have appeared in recent weeks on the Russian government procurement website that are related to ground infrastructure for the Burevestnik project. More specifically, they deal with  a construction site called “Object 7511/3” in the Tambov province (Tambov, the capital of the province, is about 450 km southeast of Moscow).
for the delivery of fuel and lubricants
for the delivery of cables
for field supervision of construction work (to be conducted on a monthly basis until December 2019)

All the contracts were awarded by a construction company called FGUP GVSU nr. 5 based in Saratov and are based on a government contract signed between two unnamed partners (presumably the Ministry of Defense and  FGUP GVSU nr. 5) on 11 July 2018.  The subcontractor for the field supervision work is 31 GPISS, which has already done work related to Object 7511/3 on the basis of an earlier government contract signed on 20 October 2015 (see Reply 7).

As in some earlier documentation, Burevestnik is described as a “space security complex”, which seems to be a euphemism for ASAT projects. The term is also used in this list of military building contracts:

Here it is used not only in connection with the 7511/3 site for Burevestnik, but also for a facility called 30Zh6MK, which is a laser complex in the North Caucasus that is being modified to dazzle or blind sensors of satellites under an ASAT project known as “Kalina” (described in another thread here).

In earlier posts in this thread (see Replies 6 and 7) I mentioned that Object 7511/3 is almost certainly being built at a site in the Tambov province known as the 28th Arsenal of the Aerospace Forces (also called Znamenka-1 or Military Unit 14272) where rockets and satellites are kept in storage and maintained before being shipped to the launch site (in case they are not directly transported to the launch site from the manufacturer).

One potential problem with that is that the procurement documentation (as well as the list of building contracts mentioned above) links 7511/3 to a place in the Tambov province called Pervomayskiy, whereas the 28th Arsenal is situated next to a place called Pervomayskoye.  Both names are derived from a Russian word for International Workers' Day (“Pervomay” (1 May)) and are quite common place names throughout Russia.

There is a small town called Pervomayskiy in the Tambov province, but this is about 100 km northwest of the province capital Tambov, whereas Pervomayskoye and the 28th Arsenal are about 50 km south of Tambov, so the two places have nothing to do with one another.  However, Pervomayskiy is not known to have any connection with the space program, so I’m still assuming the documentation refers to the 28th Arsenal. Some websites do call the place near the 28th Arsenal Pervomayskiy rather than Pervomayskoye, such as this list of postal codes in the Znamensk district of the Tambov province (where the 28th Arsenal is located).

Attached are satellite images of the 28th Arsenal from Google Earth. The first is a context image, where the 28th Arsenal can be seen just north of Pervomayskoye. Also visible is a railroad line leading to the 28th Arsenal that branches off from the main railroad going to Tambov (hardware is shipped to the 28th Arsenal by rail). The second image is a close-up of the 28th Arsenal, which appears to be completely surrounded by fences.

Here is a Russian TV news report on the arsenal:

As can be seen in the report, the arsenal is also used to store recovered photoreconnaissance satellites and unflown satellites (see 3:45 - 4:35).

What exactly the arsenal's role in Burevestnik will be remains unclear, but the fact that dedicated infrastructure is being built for the project at this and other locations in Russia does suggest that Burevestnik is more than just an experimental program.  Other ground infrastructure known to be under construction in support of Burevestnik is a site called "Object 7511/4" at the Plesetsk cosmodrome and a facility called "1009/5" (a so-called "information support segment" for both Burevestnik and Nivelir) in Noginsk-9, which is home to the headquarters of Russia's space surveillance network (see earlier posts in this thread and in the Cosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread).

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #12 on: 02/01/2019 09:48 am »
Cross-posted from the Kosmos-2519/2521/2523 thread:

Some newly uncovered information suggests that:

a) Cosmos-2521 likely has the same design as three inspector satellites launched as piggyback payloads on the Rokot booster in 2013-2015 (Cosmos-2491, 2499, 2504) and that all these are part of project Nivelir.
b) Burevestnik (presumably a co-orbital ASAT system) may use the same bus as the inspector satellites
c) all these satellites are built by the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (ЦНИИХМ, transliterated either as TsNIIKhM or CNIIHM).

These conclusions are largely based on a number of patents filed by TsNIIKhM which in turn led to other sources of information.   

One of the patents (placed online in July 2018) provides a strong clue that the Rokot-launched inspectors are a product of TsNIIKhM (their manufacturer had not been identified before). With TsNIIKhM already known to be a key player in Nivelir (see earlier posts here), this probably means that the inspectors launched by Rokot and the inspector deployed from Cosmos-2519 (Cosmos-2521) are the same type of satellite (one single company is unlikely to have built two different types of inspectors). This is also backed up by the fact that identical radio signals were picked up from the satellites (see Reply 239 in this thread) as well as by other evidence presented later in this post.

The patent in question is here:
English machine translation:

It deals with a new method of performing ground-based test firings of satellite thrusters. The authors describe how this method can be applied to test firings of the K50-10.6 thrusters, which are thermal catalytic engines (monopropellant hydrazine thrusters) of the OKB Fakel design bureau. This most probably means that TsNIIKhM was involved in those test firings. The only satellites known to have carried these engines so far are Cosmos-2499 and Cosmos-2504, which rendezvoused with the Briz-KM upper stage that placed them into orbit. See this list of flown OKB Fakel engines on Fakel’s website:

The first of the Rokot-launched inspectors (Cosmos-2491) is not in the list. There is no clear evidence that it performed maneuvers, meaning that either it did not have an operational engine unit or that its engine unit failed. The list does contain a satellite named Cosmos-2491 launched on 24 March 2014, but this is actually a Glonass satellite that was called Cosmos-2492. 

Cosmos-2521 (also likely to have the K50-10.6 thrusters) is not in the list either, but it was published shortly before the satellite’s release from Cosmos-2519 and has not been updated since. Cosmos-2519, the “parent satellite” built by NPO Lavochkin, is listed. It has a different type of hydrazine-fueled thermal catalytic thruster called K50-10.5.

Performance data for the K50-10.6 thruster are given on the OKB Fakel website (see attachment 1).

While these thrusters may not seem powerful enough to account for the maneuvers performed by the inspector satellites, the satellites are so small that they are unlikely to have a second propulsion system. A probable clue as to how they made those maneuvers comes in two other patents as well as a handful of papers published by TsNIIKhM. All of their authors (Sergei Ulybyshev, Aleksandr Glushkov and Taras Gavrilenko) were also involved in the patent that mentions the test firings of the K50-10.6 thruster.
(patent published in January 2016). English machine translation:
(patent published in July 2016). English machine translation:
(paper presented at a conference in September 2015, full version available for registered users of
(paper published in 2018) (English abstract at the end of the article)
(paper published in 2018)

These are all very technical with lots of mathematical formulae, but they seem to describe a fuel-efficient way of performing orbital maneuvers by carrying out short intermittent burns rather than one single long burn. Schematic representations of satellites published in these patents and papers may very well show the configuration of thrusters and reaction wheels on the inspector satellites (see attachments 2 and 3). The conference paper presented in September 2015 says the use of thrusters in this specific mode had already been tested in flight, “confirming the results of the mathematical simulations”. This must refer to either Cosmos-2499 or 2504 or to both.

Although none of these patents and papers mention orbital rendezvous or inspection, Glushkov and Gavrilenko did present papers related to orbital inspection at conferences back in 2012 and 2013, showing that they were involved in the development of the inspectors at an early stage.
(2012 conference, see p. 67-68)
(2013 conference, see p. 41-42)

Yet another patent published by TsNIIKhM in February 2018 has made it possible to identify the propellant tank that feeds the K50-10.6 thrusters of the inspector satellites.
(English machine translation)

The patent is about pressure relief valves. While it belongs to TsNIIKhM, a further check shows that the authors are actually affiliated with NIIMash (Scientific Research Institute of Machine Building) in Nizhnyaya Salda. NIIMash is best known as a manufacturer of small satellite thrusters, but also builds propellant tanks, not only for its own engines, but also for engines produced by other companies. The link between NIIMash and TsNIIKhM becomes clear in a paper co-authored by three of the patent holders (Sergei Buldashev, Yuri Arkhipov and Aleksandr Volkov) and presented at a conference organized by NPO Lavochkin in early September 2017.
(This is an abstract of the paper. The full version can be downloaded by registered users of

It includes this excerpt:


Бак МВСК84 также прошел полныи цикл наземнои отработки и в настоящее время проходит летные испытания в составе ДУ разработки ОКБ «Факел» (КА разработки ФГУП «ЦНИИХМ»).

“The tank MVSK84 has undergone a full cycle of ground tests and is currently undergoing flight tests as part of an engine unit developed by OKB Fakel ([on] a satellite/satellites  designed by FGUP TsNIIKhM”).   

The authors use the abbreviation KA (“space apparatus”) for “satellite” and therefore it is not clear if the word is used here in the singular or the plural. They are presumably referring to the Rokot-launched inspectors and/or Cosmos-2521, which was released from Cosmos-2519 in late August 2017, shortly before the paper was given. This excerpt is also significant in that it finally confirms earlier speculation in this thread that TsNIIKhM is indeed a satellite manufacturer/integrator and not just a supplier of subsystems.

Data for the MVSK84 tank are given in the paper and also on the website of NIIMash (see attachment 4):

The paper says the tank can store nitrogen tetroxide, UDMH or hydrazine, but the website mentions only hydrazine, adding that the tank is designed for a monopropellant engine system (and K50-10.6 is exactly such a system). Its mass is “no more than 2.5 kg” and it has a capacity of just over 8 liters.   

A subsequent search on the procurement website turned up two contracts related to the MVSK84 tank which show that it will be used for two different projects:

Published in March 2014. It has a draft contract between NIIMash and OAO Kompozit on materials to be used for the production of the MVSK84 tank. The project is not mentioned.

Published in June 2018.  This has a draft contract between OKB Fakel and NIIMash for the delivery of an MVSK84 tank by 31 October 2018. The project name is given as Nivelir-DU (DU stands for dvigatel’naya ustanovka or “engine unit”).

The documentation released on Nivelir-DU in June 2018 says the contract is based on the following contracts:

30 September 2011 : GNTTs Garant – TsNIIKhM (nr. 102/18/2011)
1 December 2011 : TsNIIKhM – OKB Fakel (nr. 516/11/840-G)

Other contracts identified for Nivelir in the same timeframe are:
21 November 2011 : TsNIIKhM – OKB MEI (for an on-board radio system)
1 December 2011 : TsNIIKhM – NPO Lavochkin
(see earlier posts here)

The documentation published in March 2014 refers back to other contracts:

1 September 2011 : GNTTs Garant – FGUP KBM  (nr. 097/18/2011)
30 September 2011 : FGUP KBM – TsNIIKhM (nr. 804-G)
15 December 2011 : TsNIIKhM – OKB Fakel (nr. 514/1/895-G)
15 December 2011 : OKB Fakel – NIIMash (nr. 20/1-012/014/2011)

The involvement of FGUP KBM suggests that this contract is for Burevestnik, the presumed co-orbital ASAT system.  FGUP KBM (later renamed NPK KBM) (the Design Bureau of Machine Building in Kolomna) is so far not known to have a role in Nivelir, but it did sign contracts for Burevestnik in June 2014 and December 2015 (see the first posts in the Burevestnik thread). There is also plenty of evidence for TsNIIKhM’s involvement in Burevestnik (also see the Burevestnik thread). 

If the March 2014 documentation is indeed about Burevestnik, that would mean that Nivelir and Burevestnik have an identical propellant tank, a strong indication that the two use the same propulsion system and the same bus.  Other procurement documentation published in July 2016 had already shown that  Burevestnik is supposed to carry an engine system of OKB Fakel:

The contract (for “Burevestnik-KA-M-DU”) is for the delivery of polyimide film to OKB Fakel (probably to protect the satellite structure from the engine’s exhaust products) but does not specify the type of engine. My earlier guess was this was for one of Fakel’s stationary plasma thrusters, but the presence of a hydrazine tank would rule out that idea. Most likely, Burevestnik will use the same thermal catalytic thrusters as Nivelir.  As explained earlier here, a further link between Nivelir and Burevestnik is the construction of a joint ground control facility (1009/5) for the two projects near Russia's space surveillance headquarters in Noginsk-9.

The preliminary conclusion from all this new evidence is that in September 2011 Russia initiated two projects, Nivelir (likely for orbital inspection) and Burevestnik (likely a co-orbital ASAT system). All the satellites were to be built by TsNIIKhM and use a common bus with K50-10.6 thermal catalytic thrusters of OKB Fakel and an MVSK84 hydrazine tank of NIIMash.

Apparently, it was decided to carry out the Nivelir project in two stages. In the first stage, the satellites would fly on the Rokot booster and use the Briz-KM upper stage as a passive target for rendezvous and proximity operations. In the second stage, the target would be a satellite built by NPO Lavochkin. The contract for that phase of the project was signed between TsNIIKhM and NPO Lavochkin on 1 December 2011, with Lavochkin acting as a subcontractor to TsNIIKhM. Documentation related to the NPO Lavochkin satellite uses the production code 14F150 and the name Nivelir-L, where the “L” likely stands for “Lavochkin”. The production code for the TsNIIKhM inspector satellites is probably 14F153, which was used in one official document for Cosmos-2504, the last of the Rokot-launched inspectors. Therefore, Cosmos-2519 would seem to be the first 14F150 satellite and Cosmos-2521 the fourth 14F153 satellite.

Meanwhile, it is now clear that a second mission similar to the current one is being prepared for launch. There is procurement documentation for a satellite called 14F150 N2 and the contract signed between OKB Fakel and NIIMash in 2018 shows that a new TsNIIKhM inspector satellite (which would be 14F153 nr. 5) is also under construction. Most likely, the two will be launched together, possibly on the Soyuz-2-1v that is scheduled for launch later this year. As I explained in Reply 325, one of the objectives for the next mission may be to test a stealthy type of material (developed by NII Ferrit-Domen) that will make the inspector satellite more difficult to spot both visually and by radar.

The biggest mystery of the current mission remains Cosmos-2523, the subsatellite that separated from Cosmos-2521 in October 2017, immediately lowered its perigee by 100 km and then remained inert. The single burn it did may point to the use of a solid-fuel propulsion system. TsNIIKhM is known to have studied small solid-propellant engines for cubesat-sized satellites, but it is questionable if these would be capable of performing such a significant maneuver. Possibly, Cosmos-2523 is the satellite called “Napryazheniye” (“Tension” or “Voltage”) which first appears in Russian documentation in 2012 and is sometimes mentioned along with Nivelir as well as Burevestnik. 

Last August  a  US  official described Cosmos-2523’s behavior as “inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities” and alluded to the fact that its mission may be related to space weapons development.  That concern may have been sparked in part by the fact that  Cosmos-2523 was separated from Cosmos-2521 when the latter was still orbiting in the immediate vicinity of Cosmos-2519 (the two satellites parted company for several months after that). Possibly, DoD interpreted this as a possible simulated ASAT attack by Cosmos-2523 on Cosmos-2519, even though the maneuver resulted in Cosmos-2523 winding up in an orbit with a much lower perigee.         

Finally, the available procurement documentation shows that the organizational background of these projects is totally different from that of most traditional military space projects, where the Ministry of Defense awards a contract to a prime contractor operating under the wings of Roscosmos.  GNTTs Garant, the organization that awarded the original contracts for both Nivelir and Burevestnik, is a complete mystery. NPK KBM, which seems to play a leading role in Burevestnik,  is a weapon manufacturer that is not known to have worked on space projects earlier. 

TsNIIKhM traces back its history to 1894 and in the Soviet days was a major manufacturer of  ammunition, explosives and solid propellants. Its only known role in the Soviet space program was the delivery of explosive devices for the IS anti-satellite system.  In 2005 TsNIIKhM became subordinate to the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEK), a Ministry of Defense agency tasked with protecting state secrets and countering cyber espionage. The institute’s responsibilities were apparently further expanded in 2009, when according to its website it became “the Ministry of Defense’s leading institute for the development of promising weapons including new types of ordnance, rocket propellants and explosive devices” and began carrying out “research in key areas of weapon modernization”. Apparently, that expansion of responsibilities also included a key role in top-secret military space projects for orbital inspection and satellite negation. 

Hidden behind a thick veil of secrecy, TsNIIKhM seems to be evolving into one of Russia’s  most important satellite manufacturers outside the structure of Roscosmos. There is evidence that the company is working on several other secret space projects besides Nivelir and Burevestnik, but I will write about those later.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Burevestnik : a new Russian ASAT?
« Reply #13 on: 03/19/2019 06:08 pm »
One component likely to be flown on Burevestnik is a small star tracker developed by the Scientific Research Institute of Television (NIIT) in St.-Petersburg. As mentioned in the first post in this thread, the star tracker was linked to Burevestnik in a PhD dissertation of a NIIT specialist and is also described in a article written jointly by specialists of NIIT and the Nudelman Precision Engineering Design Bureau (KB Tochmash), which is known to have a role in Burevestnik.

Pictures of the TV camera used by the star tracker were published in a NIIT book on space-based television systems (see the first post here).  NIIT’s revamped website now has a fact sheet on the star tracker where the camera is shown integrated with the star tracker (see attachment 1).
(click on “PDF”)

The fact sheet does not link the star tracker to a specific project, but does say that the camera “has undergone flight tests in space conditions”.  This was also mentioned in a number of online articles on the star tracker that were published on the occasion of the Fotonika-2017 exhibition in Moscow in early 2017 (where the star tracker was put on display). Possibly, the star tracker was tested as part of the Nivelir satellite inspection project, more particularly on the Cosmos-2491, 2499 and 2504 satellites launched by Rokot in 2013-2015 and on the Cosmos-2521 satellite that separated from Cosmos-2519 in August 2017. As explained in the previous post here, there is some evidence that Nivelir and Burevestnik share a common bus built by the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM).

NIIT’s website also has a fact sheet on a radiation-hardened CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) image sensor for which KB Tochmash is mentioned as one of three customers (besides RKK Energiya and the Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory) (see attachment 2).
(click on “JPG”)

It is described as the first Russian-built CMOS sensor with a 1024x1024 pixel array. The areas of application are given as:
-positioning and orientation systems
-systems to track approaching objects
-observation systems designed to operate in harsh conditions

Using other sources, it is possible to identify the sensor’s name as 1205KhV014 (Cyrillic: 1205ХВ014), developed jointly by NIIT and a company called UniqueICs (Юник Ай Сиз), based in Zelenograd (which is the center of Russia’s microelectronic industry, earning it the nickname “Russian Silicon Valley”).  It has a pixel size of 15.12x15.12 μm and a spectral range of 0.36-1.05 μm (which is in the visible and near-infrared (VNIR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum). It is clear from several of these sources that the sensor was specifically designed for use in space, with one of them referring to “small satellites”:
(p. 35-37)
(p. 46)Теория-и-практика-космического-телевидения.pdf
(p. 229-231, 248, 258)

So it looks like 1205KhV014 is a CMOS sensor used in a space project involving KB Tochmash, possibly Burevestnik. However, it is different from the sensor described for the star tracker. Although that also uses a 1024x1024 pixel array, it is described as a CCD sensor (KAI-01050-ABA-FD-BA) built by Truesense Imaging (based in Rochester, New York) with a pixel size of 5.5x5.5 μm. Incidentally, the star tracker also uses several other foreign-built components including a Pentax C2514M lens and electronic parts manufactured by Altera, Analog Devices, Cypress and Linear Technology.

One could speculate that the Russians were forced to replace the Truesense CCD sensor by a domestically built CMOS sensor as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia beginning in 2014. However, the data given for the star tracker on the NIIT website indicate it still uses the Truesense sensor. Moreover, the development period for the Russian-built CMOS sensor is given as 2012-2014, which shows that it was not developed as a result of the sanctions. Therefore, the exact role of the CMOS sensor in the KB Tochmash project remains unclear at this point.

Also related to Burevestnik may be this procurement documentation placed on the website in February 2017:

This has a draft contract between KB Tochmash and the Scientific Research Institute of Space and Aviation Materials (NIIKAM) for the delivery of screen-vacuum thermal insulation (Russian acronym EVTI). All indications are that NIIKAM produces this type of material solely to protect satellites and spacecraft against the harsh conditions of space.  For some reason, the contract was not actually signed until 1 June 2018.

Finally, a correction to something I wrote earlier in this thread. As is indicated by some of the available procurement documentation, two key players in Burevestnik are TsNIIKhM and NPK KBM. Earlier I speculated that an article written by representatives of both companies in 2016 about “pulsed control thrusters” was related to Burevestnik. That was based on abstracts of the two-part article published here:

However, having gained access to the complete article, I’ve now found that it is related to a launch system for surface-to-air missiles and has nothing to do with Burevestnik.