Author Topic: CNIIHM: Russia’s secret satellite builder  (Read 18454 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1395
  • Liked: 1920
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: CNIIHM: Russia’s secret satellite builder
« Reply #20 on: 01/06/2023 10:35 am »
Although CNIIHM’s involvement in the development of so-called “inspector satellites” has been obvious for quite some time, it has now also been acknowledged for the first time in an official document, namely a report on worldwide commercial space activities published last year by Samara University in collaboration with Roscosmos.
https://kosmos.ssau.ru/files/Kosmos_SSAU_marketrepot_2022.pdf

In a chapter devoted to the Russian space market, CNIIHM is listed as a manufacturer of what are literally called “microsatellites of the inspector type” (see p. 67). Also included is a graph showing that CNIIHM accounted for 2.4 % of the Russian satellites that were in orbit in early 2022 (see attachment 1).


Meanwhile, it seems that CNIIHM is now also beginning to play a role in Russia’s manned space program. This can be determined from a court case between CNIIHM and the Progress Rocket and Space Center (RKTs Progress) in which RKK Energiya acts a third party. The court case is still ongoing and so far only some preliminary documentation has been published.
https://kad.arbitr.ru/Card/14a3c703-0dad-44e2-bf3b-d0d982e4e8a7

What can be learned from this is that CNIIHM received some type of contract from RKTs Progress on January 22, 2020, with Progress in turn being a subcontractor to RKK Energiya. The contract number makes it possible to establish that the work is part of a contract awarded by Roscosmos to RKK Energiya on December 19, 2016 for “Proton-NEM”. This covers all the work needed to prepare the Science Power Module (NEM) for launch and place it into orbit with a Proton rocket. At the time, NEM was still planned to be attached to the Russian segment of the International Space Station, but it is now scheduled to become the first element of the new Russian space station called ROSS. It is now also likely to fly on an Angara-A5M rocket from Vostochnyy instead of a Proton from Baikonur.

RKTs Progress has a dual role in the NEM project. It built a static test model of NEM’s pressurized section and may also build the hull of the flight-rated version (although that is not entirely clear). As is known from technical specifications for Proton-NEM, it is also responsible for what in Russian is called the “assembly and protection unit” (“sborochno-zashchitnyy blok” or SZB), which is a technical term for the combination of the payload fairing and the adapter that attaches it to the rocket’s upper stage. In June 2021, RKTs Progress issued a press release on tests of the SZB, including a picture of a separation test of one of its elements (see  attachment 2).
https://www.samspace.ru/news/press_relizy/15314/

CNIIHM is presumably involved in the latter work, not the development of the module itself  (which is covered by another contract between Roscosmos and RKK Energiya). The contract number includes the abbreviation TsBS (ЦБС), which may refer to the specific system that CNIIHM is responsible for, but it is not seen in space-related literature. Given its historical background in explosives and solid-fuel engines, CNIIHM may provide pyrotechnic charges needed to separate elements of the payload fairing, but that is entirely speculative. 

While CNIIHM plays only a minor role in this project as a subcontractor, this is its first known involvement in not only a manned space project, but even a civilian space project. It is a sign of the company’s expanding role in Russia’s space program.     

Offline B. Hendrickx

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1395
  • Liked: 1920
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: CNIIHM: Russia’s secret satellite builder
« Reply #21 on: 04/07/2023 10:52 pm »
As explained here in Reply 17, there is evidence from procurement documentation that CNIIHM is working on a joint satellite project with ISS Reshetnev. What is known from that documentation is that CNIIHM awarded a contract to ISS Reshetnev on December 1, 2017. Subsequently, ISS Reshetnev concluded a contract with NPP Geofizika-Kosmos on July 25, 2019, presumably as part of the same project. Geofozika-Kosmos develops attitude control sensors for satellites.

Another clue that such a project indeed exists came in an article published by a CNIIHM specialist (Valeriy Shilnikovskiy) in the journal of the Mozhaisky Military Space Academy last year:
https://vka.mil.ru/upload/site5/document_file/nn0e9qhIvf.pdf
(p. 74-83)

The article discusses an autonomous navigation system for small satellites which is based on an optical system that uses the Moon to accurately determine the satellite’s orbit parameters. It describes a three-step process to achieve that goal. The author performed a simulation of this autonomous navigation technique for a small satellite in geostationary orbit, noting that it is difficult for GEO satellites to rely on signals from navigation satellites. The reference given for that simulation is a so-called “engineering note” written by ISS Reshetnev in 2019 and titled “Development of navigation equipment for a small satellite”. In Russian terminology, an “engineering note” (inzhenernaya zapiska) is a document that outlines the basic design features of a system. It is intended only for internal use and the fact that the author has access to it strongly suggests that the simulation was performed in the framework of a joint CNIIHM-ISS Reshetnev project and was not done merely for academic purposes. 

Shilnikovskiy has also co-authored two related patents that were placed online last year:
https://patents.google.com/patent/RU2776096C1/en
https://patents.google.com/patent/RU212327U1/en
(these are links to the English machine translations)

The first describes the navigation technique in more detail, saying it can be used in "control systems for small satellites". The on-board optical system uses images of stars to determine the satellite’s orientation in space (like a traditional star tracker), but in addition to that can be used for navigation purposes by imaging the Moon. In the attached scheme from the patent (also published in the article) (2) is the orbit of the satellite, (3) the orbit of the Moon, (4) the position of the satellite and (5) that of the Moon.

The second patent focuses on the optical system itself, which is capable of taking separate images of star fields and the Moon with the same exposure time and then blending them into a single high-quality image. It says that hardware and software of the Astrol-17 star tracker (a product of NPO Lepton) can be used for this purpose, but that its Kodak KAI-2020 image sensor would have to be replaced by a CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensor with a resolution of 2048x2048 pixels, such as those produced by Gpixel (a Chinese company). According to the patent, the device can be used most effectively in machine vision systems needed for "automatic on-orbit servicing". 

The other patent holders besides Shilnikovskiy are Sergei Khramov (another CNIIHM employee) and two specialists (Denis Puzikov and Ivan Pastukhov) who can be identified as working for a company named NPP Astroorientir. This is based in Zelenograd near Moscow, which is home to much of the Russian electronic industry and is therefore sometimes nicknamed Russia’s Silicon Valley. There is very little information on this company. Its name suggests it specializes in astronavigation systems. One article published in 2017 said the company had developed a small, lightweight star tracker (A-14), a “prototype” of which had already been tested in space:
https://www.nkj.ru/archive/articles/31025/

In late 2018, NPP Astroorientir received a contract from MFTI university (the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology) to study the feasibility of developing a space-based machine vision system using Russian-built electronics.
https://www.tenderguru.ru/contract_na_zakupku/38986923
As noted in the accompanying documentation, it would be needed for satellites in Sun-synchronous orbits and geostationary orbit. Although there are no indications of any connections between this contract and the presumed CNIIHM/ISS Reshetnev project, the MFTI university does have close links with CNIIHM.

According to a conference paper presented in 2019, Astroorientir had developed a star tracker for small satellites together with NPP Elar and TsNIIMash. It was described as being part of NPP Elar’s work on systems for “special purposes”, a word combination often used in Russian as a euphemism for “military”. NPP Elar provided a CMOS image sensor for the star tracker and an accompanying table gives a pixel resolution of 2048x2048 (as in one of the patents), although it is not entirely clear if that relates to that particular sensor.
https://www.vniiem.ru/ru/uploads/files/conferences/190513/materialy_2019.pdf
(p. 56-57)


What can be deduced from all this is that the joint CNIIHM/ISS Reshetnev project most likely involves a small satellite in geostationary orbit. It appears to have some type of machine vision system that includes a star tracker capable of using both the Moon and background stars to determine its orientation and orbit parameters. There is some confusion though over the subcontractor(s) involved in that aspect of the project. Three companies with an apparent role in the project (NPP Geofozika-Kosmos, NPO Lepton and NPP Astroorientir) all produce star trackers.

Obviously, a computer vision system would be needed for rendezvous and proximity operations with other satellites. On-orbit servicing of satellites, an objective mentioned in one of the patents, could indeed be the project’s goal. Numerous plans have been published in Russia for on-orbit servicing of satellites, but none of these are known to have moved beyond the proposal stage. ISS Reshetnev, which produces the bulk of Russia's geostationary satellites, has done research in a related field, namely technology to remove defunct satellites from the geostationary belt  (in collaboration with both its daughter company NPTs MKA (which specializes in small satellites) and the Moscow Aviation Institute). 

It should be pointed out, however, that this clearly is a highly secretive project that is most likely military in nature. Other goals could be on-orbit inspection of GEO satellites (also performed by several American and Chinese satellites) or even ASAT operations. It’s worth noting that one of the CNIIHM patent holders, Sergei Khramov, has also co-authored a patent on a satellite designed to destroy space debris in GEO by spraying it with electrostatically charged particles (see Reply 13). This might just as well have less peaceful applications.

The exact division of labor between CNIIHM and ISS Reshetnev in the project is unknown. The two may have needed to team up only because the satellite needs to ride to GEO together with an ISS Reshetnev satellite. Similarly, three of CNIIHM’s small “inspector satellites” (Kosmos-2491,2499, 2504) hitched a ride to space together with ISS Reshetnev’s Strela-3M and Gonets-M satellites in 2013-2015 and a CNIIHM nanosat (Kosmos-2548 or ERA-1) flew as a co-passenger with three Gonets-M satellites in 2020. The latter work had to be co-ordinated via a contract awarded by CNIIHM to ISS Reshetnev (see Reply 19). However, it is more likely that CNIIHM has a key role in developing the satellite itself, drawing from its long-standing experience in building and operating GEO satellites. This would also appear from the “engineering note” mentioned here earlier.

Finally, more evidence for the close ties between CNIIHM and ISS Reshetnev comes in this review of a PhD dissertation in 2021:
http://195.19.40.226/dissertations/var/www/uch/assets/essay_reviews/Отзыв_на_автореферат_Корчагина_Е.Н..pdf

The review is signed by Yevgeniy N. Korchagin, who is described as a “permanent authorized representative” of CNIIHM at ISS Reshetnev. Korchagin is also identified in the document as “chief specialist of the Design Bureau of Applied Mechanics” (KBPM), which is a design bureau within CNIIHM that specializes in space-related systems (by sheer coincidence, KBPM is also the name that ISS Reshetnev had from 1966 until 1977). An online search shows that Korchagin is a veteran of ISS Reshetnev who later also worked for NPO Lavochkin. The PhD dissertation that he reviewed is about clusters of Earth observation satellites, but CNIIHM is not among the companies where the results of the PhD were applied.  Anyway, the fact that CNIIHM has a permanent representative at ISS Reshetnev is a clear sign that the connections between the two companies are more than casual.


Offline B. Hendrickx

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1395
  • Liked: 1920
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: CNIIHM: Russia’s secret satellite builder
« Reply #22 on: 05/02/2023 01:17 pm »
Meanwhile, it seems that CNIIHM is now also beginning to play a role in Russia’s manned space program. This can be determined from a court case between CNIIHM and the Progress Rocket and Space Center (RKTs Progress) in which RKK Energiya acts a third party. The court case is still ongoing and so far only some preliminary documentation has been published.
https://kad.arbitr.ru/Card/14a3c703-0dad-44e2-bf3b-d0d982e4e8a7

What can be learned from this is that CNIIHM received some type of contract from RKTs Progress on January 22, 2020, with Progress in turn being a subcontractor to RKK Energiya. The contract number makes it possible to establish that the work is part of a contract awarded by Roscosmos to RKK Energiya on December 19, 2016 for “Proton-NEM”. This covers all the work needed to prepare the Science Power Module (NEM) for launch and place it into orbit with a Proton rocket. At the time, NEM was still planned to be attached to the Russian segment of the International Space Station, but it is now scheduled to become the first element of the new Russian space station called ROSS. It is now also likely to fly on an Angara-A5M rocket from Vostochnyy instead of a Proton from Baikonur.

RKTs Progress has a dual role in the NEM project. It built a static test model of NEM’s pressurized section and may also build the hull of the flight-rated version (although that is not entirely clear). As is known from technical specifications for Proton-NEM, it is also responsible for what in Russian is called the “assembly and protection unit” (“sborochno-zashchitnyy blok” or SZB), which is a technical term for the combination of the payload fairing and the adapter that attaches it to the rocket’s upper stage. In June 2021, RKTs Progress issued a press release on tests of the SZB, including a picture of a separation test of one of its elements (see  attachment 2).
https://www.samspace.ru/news/press_relizy/15314/

CNIIHM is presumably involved in the latter work, not the development of the module itself  (which is covered by another contract between Roscosmos and RKK Energiya). The contract number includes the abbreviation TsBS (ЦБС), which may refer to the specific system that CNIIHM is responsible for, but it is not seen in space-related literature. Given its historical background in explosives and solid-fuel engines, CNIIHM may provide pyrotechnic charges needed to separate elements of the payload fairing, but that is entirely speculative. 

CNIIHM’s role in the NEM project indeed turns out to be the delivery of pyrotechnic devices to jettison the launch vehicle’s payload fairing, which is built by the Progress Rocket and Space Center (RKTs Progress) in Samara. This is confirmed by newly published court documentation:

https://kad.arbitr.ru/Card/14a3c703-0dad-44e2-bf3b-d0d982e4e8a7

This mentions pyrotechnic charges (PDO-1) for explosive bolts which are needed for something called 374OD55. A similar index (374ОD57) is used for the payload fairing (literally the “assembly and protection unit”) of the next-generation piloted vehicle Oryol. Moreover, the PDO devices are linked to the separation of payload fairings on CNIIHM’s website:

https://cniihm.ru/научные-направления/пироэнергодатчики

CNIIHM acts as a subcontractor to RKTs Progress, having received a contract for the work on January 22, 2020. RKTs Progress in turn is a subcontractor to RKK Energiya, the prime contractor for NEM. The documentation doesn’t specifically mention NEM, but does refer to the December 2016 government contract between Roscosmos and RKK Energiya that covered work to launch  NEM into orbit. Originally planned for launch on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, NEM is now scheduled to fly on an Angara-A5M from Vostochnyy in late 2027, becoming the first element of Russia’s new space station ROSS.   




Tags:
 

Advertisement NovaTech
Advertisement Northrop Grumman
Advertisement
Advertisement Margaritaville Beach Resort South Padre Island
Advertisement Brady Kenniston
Advertisement NextSpaceflight
Advertisement Nathan Barker Photography
0