Author Topic: Project Stan: defending satellites with lasers  (Read 1050 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Project Stan: defending satellites with lasers
« on: 12/05/2021 11:18 pm »
There is evidence that Russia has been working on a project to outfit various types of vehicles, including satellites, with lasers to defend them from enemy attack. The project’s name is Stan, which is a Russian noun with various meanings (torso, camp, mill).  This is clearly considered a highly secret project and very little has leaked out on it online.

The overall project co-ordinator is RFYaTs-VNIIEF, which was awarded a government contract for Stan by the Ministry of Defense on July 25, 2012. See these court documents:
https://kad.arbitr.ru/Card/dd484c33-e1d3-4d3d-9d05-40c0a5d67749
RFYaTs-VNIIEF was the only bidder in a closed tender announced by the Ministry of Defense in March 2012.

RFYaTs-VNIIEF (Russian Federal Nuclear Center – All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics), based in Sarov some 500 km east of Moscow, is Russia’s leading research and development center for nuclear weapons, but it also has departments specializing in other fields, including an Institute of Laser Physics (ILFI) that has done extensive research in the field of laser physics and technology. RFYaTs-VNIIEF is also the prime contractor for the project publicly known as Peresvet, a mobile laser system that is co-deployed with mobile ICBM units and capable of dazzling satellite sensors trying to follow the movements of those units.

Most of the limited amount of information available on Stan has to do with the development of a laser system that can protect aircraft from missile attacks. As can be determined from procurement documents, the leading design bureau for that part of the project is NII Ekran, with one of its subcontractors being the State Institute of Applied Optics (GIPO). See, for instance, here:
https://zakupki.gov.ru/223/contract/public/contract/view/general-information.html?id=2502508

NII Ekran specializes in radar and optical countermeasures to protect aircraft and helicopters from missile attacks, including lasers used to confuse the infrared homing systems of incoming missiles. Such a laser system is incorporated into a so-called “on-board defense complex” known as L-370 or Vitebsk (export name: President-S), mainly intended for use aboard helicopters.

The system developed under Stan is called 13NL08 and was tested at the Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) in Zhukovskiy outside Moscow in 2017 (the test flight program was called Stan-E). See LII’s annual report for 2017 and procurement documentation:
http://old.lii.ru/load/files/godovye-otchety/godovoy-otchet-za-2017-god.pdf
(p. 35,46)
 https://zakupki.gov.ru/223/contract/public/contract/view/general-information.html?id=3649485

It was flown aboard a modified Ilyushin-76MD airplane and apparently fired laser beams at a simulated multispectral homing head carried by a MiG-29UB fighter jet flying in the vicinity. The test flights are described here:
http://old.aviationunion.ru/Files/Nom_5_LII_GR.pdf

The attached pictures from the article show the system in its stowed and deployed configuration. Procurement documents indicate that the system was later declared operational for use on the Tu-160M strategic bomber and possibly other Tupolev aircraft as well.   

It would appear that project Stan is not limited to just aircraft defense systems. There are at least three pieces of evidence strongly suggesting that Stan also has a space-based component.

Stan-KAR (GLP Raduga)

The most convincing evidence comes in a recent edition of a local newspaper published in Raduzhnyy, a military town with limited access in the Vladimir province just east of Moscow. This is home to the Raduga State Laser Test Center (GLP Raduga).

http://www.raduzhnyi-city.ru/about/massmedia/gazeta-raduga-inform/2021/РИ-53(1532)%20от%2030.07.21_compressed.pdf
(p. 4)

The newspaper has a brief bio of a researcher of GLP Raduga (Leonid Fedochenko), who worked on a part of the project called “Stan-KAR”. Fedochenko’s role was to “study the output of the laser, work out a method to install the complex aboard the defended object and reach an agreement on that [method] with the designers of satellites”. It is not clear what “KAR” means, although the “K” could stand for the Russian word for “space”.

Another part of Stan that Fedochenko worked on was “Stan-MBR-R”. MBR is the Russian abbreviation for “intercontinental ballistic missile”. If that is what it means here, that would indicate that Stan also envisages the development of a laser system to defend ICBMs or their warheads from anti-ballistic missile defense systems, however futuristic that may seem.

Stan is also mentioned in at least two other editions of the newspaper, but no specific details are given.
http://www.raduzhnyi-city.ru/adm/files/R-I/Ar-2016/РИ-07.pdf
(p. 4)
http://www.raduzhnyi-city.ru/adm/files/R-I/Ar-2016/РИ-09.pdf
(p. 5)

In one of these, Stan along with two other projects is linked to “detection and guidance systems” operating in the visible and infrared parts of the spectrum. 

GLP Raduga has also done research on a space-based laser ranging system to detect space debris, but it is unclear if there is a link with Stan. It was mentioned in a paper presented two years ago by GLP Raduga’s director Sergei G. Kazantsev (a veteran of the VNIIEM Corporation, a leading manufacturer of Earth remote sensing and meteorological satellites). The system would employ a near-infrared disk laser that after some modifications would also be capable of vaporizing small pieces of space junk. It would make use of laser nanoceramic technology.
http://www.inasan.ru/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Abstract-book.pdf
(p. 28)
In an earlier paper devoted to space-based laser technology, Kazantsev wrote that a “laser ceramics” laboratory had been set up at GLP Raduga in 2013 to work on nanoceramic technology for solid-state lasers (one type of which are disk lasers).
http://jurnal.vniiem.ru/text/163/29-47.pdf


Stan-AKB (PAO Saturn)

One company involved in the project is PAO Saturn, which specializes in building solar panels and batteries for satellites. Its participation in Stan was revealed in a presentation of the company that appeared online in mid-2019 and caused a bit of a stir in some Russian media at the time because it also mentioned PAO Saturn’s involvement in top-secret space projects such as Nivelir and Burevestnik.

 https://docplayer.com/124565554-Sostoyanie-kvalifikacii-litiy-ionnyh-batarey-pao-saturn.html
(p. 19, 34)

PAO Saturn performed work on the project under the name “Stan-AKB”, which was linked to something called “SEP RSU”. AKB likely stands for “storage battery”. “SEP” is an abbreviation commonly used for “power supply system” and the “SU” in “RSU” may refer to “control system”. The company provided lithium-ion batteries for Stan called 8LI-40 made up of individual cells known as LIGP-40. The batteries were described as having an active design lifetime of five years. Two of the batteries had been produced for the project at the time of writing, including one flight-rated version. Ground testing and “state tests” had been completed. Similar batteries (LIGP-40A) are installed on the Aist-2D remote sensing satellite, launched in 2016. The 8LI-40/LIGP-40 batteries are also mentioned in a PhD dissertation devoted to lithium-ion batteries for satellites, confirming that they are specifically designed for use in space.
http://earchive.tpu.ru/bitstream/11683/68401/1/thesis_tpu-2021-41.pdf
 
It could be deduced from the presentation that PAO Saturn is a subcontractor for this work to NPO RIT in Tver (RIT stands for “Development of Innovative Technologies”). Although NPO RIT received a Roscosmos license for “space activities” in July 2015, there is nothing on its website or elsewhere that points to a role in the space program or laser development.  Possibly, NPO RIT is in charge only of the laser's control system. According to its website, one of its activities is the development of  “control systems for various objects”, including laser engraving systems. PAO Saturn would then be responsible for delivering the power supply system for that control system.

Stan-KAEP (RKK Energiya)

The third piece of evidence comes from the 2016 annual report of RKK Energiya, where something called “Stan-KAEP” is linked to Soyuz and Progress missions to the ISS. Here is the English version of the report:
https://www.energia.ru/en/corporation/adocs/adoc_2016.pdf
(see p. 104)
Strangely enough, there is another version of the same report where “Stan-KAEP” is missing from the same paragraph.

A possible explanation for RKK Energiya's participation is that some kind of experiment related to Stan was carried out (or planned to be carried out) on a Progress vehicle following undocking from the ISS. Several Progress vehicles have spent extra time in space before being de-orbited to conduct experiments, some of them with rather obscure purposes  (such as those performed with a mysterious payload mounted on Progress MS-07 in 2018).


The only other references to Stan that I’ve been able to find also show the name followed by an abbreviation beginning with the letter “K” (which, again, might stand for “space”, although this is not at all certain).

Stan-KIN

This is seen in a number of contracts signed in 2014 by the M.F. Stelmakh Polyus Research Institute (NII Polyus), which is described on its website as “a supplier of laser industrial systems, semiconductor and solid-state lasers, laser rangefinders and designators for high-precision weapons laser gyros for various applications as well as laser navigation systems on their basis”. As part of Stan-KIN, NII Polyus ordered laser diodes operating at a wavelength of 852 nanometers (near infrared). See, for instance here:

https://zakupki.gov.ru/223/purchase/public/purchase/info/common-info.html?regNumber=31401561847

NII Polyus also builds a laser rangefinder for the Burevestnik interceptor satellites.


Stan-KAA

This appears only in a PowerPoint presentation (no longer online) of a company named NPP Advent, where it is listed as one of several projects that the company worked on or began working on in 2013. NPP Advent has a broad profile, but one of its more eye-catching products is a mobile laser system to destroy drones. It received a Roscosmos license in October 2015 for the development of “control equipment for an on-board cryogenic cooling system”. Its website also reveals that it produces pointing mechanisms “for use in space”.  According to the same presentation, NPP Advent became involved in 2014 in Numizmat, another secretive space project.


With so little information available on Stan, many questions remain unanswered. If this is a system that is supposed to be compatible with a variety of satellites, it will need to have standard interfaces and be light and compact enough for the satellites to remain within the payload capacity of their launch vehicles. Aside from the laser itself, the system would obviously have to include some kind of early warning system to detect incoming ASAT interceptors.  It is not clear who is the leading developer of the space-based system (if it is not RFYaTs-VNIIEF itself).  GLP Raduga, which is a laser test center, is unlikely to perform that role. 

Work on space-based laser weapons came to a halt after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but may have been resumed in late 2012 under a research project known as Sistema-KV, which (among others) involved NII RET (an institute belonging to the Bauman Technical University), the Kometa Corporation and its affiliate NII OEP. While NII OEP had a role in testing Stan’s 13NL08 air-based system, there is no evidence for a link between Sistema-KV and Stan.

Russia has also studied at least one other type of satellite defense technology under a research project named “Vual” (“veil”), assigned by Roscosmos to TsNIRTI in 2011. This involved the use of nanosized carbon black particles to obscure satellites from the view of ASAT interceptors. More in this article on Soviet/Russian ASAT defense systems: 
https://www.thespacereview.com/article/3536/1

The project achieved its goal of developing an installation that could produce the particles on an industrial scale. It is not known if the results of the project have been incorporated into any specific space projects.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Project Stan: defending satellites with lasers
« Reply #1 on: 12/06/2021 06:03 am »
If anyone thought that space wouldn't eventually be heavily militarized, they are quite naive about human nature.

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