Author Topic: Russia's space surveillance network  (Read 4272 times)

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Russia's space surveillance network
« on: 03/09/2022 03:59 pm »
This is a new thread dedicated to Russia’s ground-based space surveillance network, which consists of a variety of optical and radar systems to observe orbiting objects. The largest part of this network is operated by the Ministry of Defense and known as SKKP (“Space Surveillance System”). Its headquarters is situated in Noginsk-9 (also known as Dubrovo) some 60 km northwest of Moscow. There is also a civilian component operated by Roscosmos (more particularly TsNIIMash) which is known as  ASPOS OKP  (Automated System for Warning of Dangerous Situations in Near-Earth Space).  The space surveillance network performs multiple tasks, including monitoring of space debris and collection of data on foreign satellites. One specific task of SKKP is to provide targeting information for anti-satellite systems.

Some of the space surveillance systems have been fairly well described in open sources, such as the Krona radar/optical facilities and the Okno optical system, both part of SKKP. Others are much less publicized, such as Sledopyt, a network of SIGINT complexes to eavesdrop on foreign satellites, which has been discussed here in a separate thread:

In this post I’ll focus on a hitherto unknown component of SKKP, namely a mobile optical complex known as Zorkiy (a Russian adjective meaning “sharp-sighted”, “vigilant”). The prime contractor is the Krasnogorsk Plant Named After S.A. Zverev (PAO KMZ), one of Russia’s leading optical manufacturers, belonging to the Shvabe holding.   

Zorkiy was the subject of two government contracts signed between the Ministry of Defense and PAO KMZ on October 17, 2015 and December 24, 2018 (the first contract was terminated on November 19, 2018). This can be determined from various court documents:

Zorkiy is described here as “an optical station for the observation of high-orbiting small-size space objects”, but few other details are given. 

Zorkiy also appears in an article written by specialists of PAO KMZ in 2018:

Here it is called a “principally new” mobile optical system sporting a telescope with a 1.5 m diameter main mirror, which gives it “a unique limiting magnitude”.

Although little can be learned about Zorkiy from these sources, it turns out that such a mobile optical space surveillance system was first described in an article published by  PAO KMZ as early as 2009, showing that plans for the system have been circulating for well over a decade.

According to the article, each mobile complex would consist of two vehicles, one carrying the “telescope module” and the other a “control module” (see attachment 1). Its main objectives were to detect small pieces of space debris as well as small satellites ranging in mass from about 100 g to 500 kg in any type of orbit. It would have to become a highly flexible system using easily replaceable pre-fabricated modular parts and capable of being rapidly stowed and deployed. What is described as a “cloud sensor” would make it possible to maximize the efficiency of observations under partially cloudy skies. 

The system was supposed to work in two modes, namely search and detection mode and tracking mode, with the latter making it possible to accurately determine the orbital parameters of the observed object.  The optical system would consist of a large-size and a small-size objective each having their own photodetectors. The large-size objective (with an entrance pupil of 1600 mm and a focal distance of 2400 mm) could operate in a wide-field mode (2.73°x2.73°) to observe objects in medium and high Earth orbits and in a narrow-field mode (0.11°x0.11°) to observe objects in all kinds of orbits. The smaller objective (with an entrance pupil of 280 mm, a focal distance of 420 mm and a field of view of 15.6°x15.6°) was intended to search for and detect only low-orbiting objects. 

A patent for PAO KMZ’s mobile optical system was published in 2012:
English machine translation  here:

This says the system has a pointing mechanism that enables it to observe objects all the way from the horizon to the zenith (the drawings in attachments 2 and 3 show the telescope observing objects near the horizon and in the zenith).  Its 1.5 m mirror was designed to see pieces of space debris as small as 10 cm in geostationary orbit.  One of the drawings shows that the telescope can be transported either by road or by rail (see attachment 4).

The 2009 article and the 2012 patent describe the system as it was initially conceived and it is not clear if the version that was ultimately approved for development (probably in 2015) is exactly the same. The aforementioned court documents would indicate that it is intended to observe only small objects in high orbits, not low and medium orbits.  Other court documentation does confirm that the system consists of two vehicles, one carrying the telescope and the other carrying control systems. These are referred to as TBM-MO and TBM-MU  (TBM stands for “transportable module” and MO and MU probably for “optical module” and “control module”).  A key role in the development of these modules is played by SMU PEMZ, a company based in Podolsk  just south of Moscow.
(p. 6)

Another participant in the project is the Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory (LZOS). This can be determined from one issue of the company’s in-house journal and a contract on the government procurement website (currently inaccessible):
(p. 4)

LZOS would seem to be responsible not only for building the 1.5m primary mirror, but other mirrors as well   (the article in the company’s journal mentions “mirrors of several diameters” for Zorkiy). LZOS is a longtime partner of PAO KMZ. Among other things, the two companies jointly build the telescope to be flown on the next-generation Razdan optical reconnaissance satellites.

The current status of this secretive project is unknown. It is unclear how many of these mobile complexes have been or are being built and if any are operational yet. The latest available documentation related to Zorkiy is a contract signed by PAO KMZ in June 2020 for the delivery of Glonass/GPS receivers, probably to accurately determine the location of the mobile complexes.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #1 on: 03/15/2022 10:20 pm »
One clarification with regard to Zorkiy: the telescopes are not supposed to perform their observations while sitting on a mobile platform, but from a specially constructed foundation, allowing them to observe the sky in a vibration-free environment. This can be seen in the first drawing attached to the previous post (the foundation is in position 5). This is also confirmed in the patent related to Zorkiy. The idea is to transport telescopes from one observation site to another, each having its own foundation. The telescope is mounted on the foundation and removed from it using a crane. It can be accessed via a ladder fixed to the foundation (position 28 in drawings 2 and 3).

One does wonder what the advantages are of having this mobility. The most obvious one that comes to mind is that the Zorkiy telescopes can be moved around depending on weather conditions. However, they would probably have to cover significant distances to reach a new observation site, by which time the weather there may also turn for the worse.

An article published in 2009 that probably gives an early description of Zorkiy does sum up a number of benefits of such a system, but few of those seem to be specifically related to its mobility. It would appear from that article that the control station that is deployed together with the telescope can be used not only to operate the telescope that it accompanies, but also telescopes situated at large distances. This suggests that some of them will be remotely operated so that they can be placed in distant and inhospitable locations far away from population centers (as is also done with some astronomical telescopes). 

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #2 on: 03/29/2022 10:30 pm »
Another little known element of the Ministry of Defense’s space surveillance system (SKKP) is a network of optical observatories known as Pritsel (“Target”) or 14Sh33 (14Ш33). The ultimate goal is to build four Pritsel observatories at various locations in Russia, but only one or two currently appear to be operational.

As can be learned from a court document, Pritsel officially started on April 17, 2007 with a contract signed between the Ministry of Defense and the Scientific and Industrial Corporation ‘Precision Instrument Systems” (NPK SPP):

According to the document, the original plan was to start the project with the construction of an experimental version of Pritsel in Russia’s Far East. However, in October 2010 it was decided to place it near Zmeinogorsk in the Altai mountains, which is also the location of the Altai Optical Laser Center (AOLTs), another part of SKKP (and also built by NPK SPP). This made it possible to cut costs by using existing infrastructure and benefiting from the experience of people already employed there. 

As is literally stated in the document, the site would be used for “complete testing of the main 14Sh33 unit” and subsequently also for testing “in natural conditions” of serially produced 14Sh33 units that would then be relocated to their scheduled observation sites. It would appear that those plans have since changed and that the telescopes are transported directly from the manufacturer to the observation sites instead of undergoing initial testing at the Altai site.  A new contract for Pritsel was awarded to NPK SPP by the Ministry of Defense on October 13, 2015 and presumably set new goals and timelines for the project.   

Pictures and technical features of the Pritsel observatory in the Altai mountains are seen in two PowerPoint presentations of NPK SPP:

It consists of two telescope domes separated by a blue building that contains computer and other systems to control the telescopes (see attachment 1). The telescope seen on the left is intended for detecting low-orbiting objects and “gathering information on space objects” and the one seen on the right is intended for detecting objects in high orbits. A close-up of the telescope on the left shows that it actually is an assembly of five telescopes (attachment 2):

- one Sova-75-O telescope (75 cm aperture) for observations of high-orbiting objects as small as 15-25 cm at distances up to 50,000 km (this contradicts the information in the other slide that the telescope on the left is used only for observing low-orbiting objects). Other sources describe it is a catadioptric system (using both lenses and mirrors) and also mention a version of the telescope named Sova-75-I (possibly an infrared telescope).

-two Sova-25 telescopes (25 cm aperture) for observing objects as small as 20 cm at altitudes between 500 and 3,500 km

-two Sova-5 telescopes (5 cm aperture) for observing objects as small as 50 cm at altitudes between 120 and 800 km.

The other telescope dome seems to house only a Sova-75-O telescope. The aft side of the Sova-75-O telescope is seen in attachment 3 and more technical features of the Sova-75-O and Sova-25 telescopes are given in the slide in attachment 4. 

The pointing mechanism for the telescope (named SM-834) was designed by the Design Bureau of Special Machine Building (KBSM) and is manufactured by the Zlatoust Machine Building Factory. See for instance here:
KBSM has developed similar pointing systems for many other telescopes as well, including the ones used by the Peresvet laser complexes.

The Pritsel observatory in the Altai mountains is designated in some documentation as “Object 3762/2”. It was built on the basis of a government contract signed between the Ministry of Defense and the 31 GPISS military construction company on October 7, 2015 and became operational in 2017. As can be learned from a variety of court and procurement documents, that same contract also envisaged the construction of at least two other Pritsel observatories:

-3762/1 (also referred to as Object 1261):  roughly 10 km north of Yakovlevka in Primorye, the southernmost part of the Russian Far East (see the map in attachment 5). It is on the territory of what is known as “Military Unit 51430”. The site has several big dish antennas, but their purpose is unclear. This is presumably the location that was originally selected for the experimental version of Pritsel. The most recent Google Earth imagery of the site (dating back to June 2017) doesn’t yet show anything resembling an optical observatory.

-3762/4:   near Yevpatoriya in Crimea. There is some evidence to suggest that it will be located close to Lake Terekly (also known as Lake Solyonoe), a salt lake some 5 km northwest of Yevpatoriya. Also situated in this area is the 70 m RT-70 radio telescope, belonging to the NIP-16 space tracking station. The latest available Google Earth imagery of the region (October 2020) does show what appears to be a new construction site in the area between the RT-70 telescope and the salt lake, but it cannot yet be positively linked to 3762/4. Clearly, plans to build this site in Crimea cannot have been part of the original Pritsel contract signed in 2007 and must have appeared only after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Site 3762/3 is not seen in documentation. According to some sources, the remaining Pritsel site is near Mondy in the Republic of Buryatiya in eastern Siberia (also the location of the Sayan solar observatory). Other reports say it is in the Kaliningrad region.  Mondy would seem to be the more likely location. The location of the four Pritsel/14Sh33 sites can be seen in attachment 6 (indicated by the red dots).

In November 2020 the general designer of NPK SPP said that the observatory near Yevpatoriya would be the next to become operational after the one in Altai, indicating that 3762/1 and 3761/3 are not ready yet and are far behind schedule.

In October last year the chief designer of SKKP Vitaliy Goryuchkin said that the observatory near Yevpatoriya was nearing completion and was expected to begin operations in 2022. He added that “a bigger telescope” would be deployed in the same region “in the near future”.
It’s worth noting that Pritsel/14Sh33 shows up in court documentation that also mentions communication links between two anti-satellite systems (Nudol/14Ts033 and Peresvet/14Ts034) and the Ministry of Defense’s space surveillance headquarters in Noginsk-9. This may indicate that Pritsel plays a role in providing targeting data for Russian ASAT systems. The name itself (again, Pritsel means “target”) also points in that direction. 

Pritsel’s Sova telescopes are also used by a network of Roscosmos space surveillance sites known as ASPOS OKP stationed both in Russia and abroad, but that’s a subject for a later post. 

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #3 on: 04/08/2022 08:17 pm »
The civilian component of Russia’s space surveillance network is called the Automated System for Warning of Hazardous Situations in Near-Earth Space (ASPOS OKP). Sources differ on when exactly the deployment of this system began. Its first elements seem to have begun operating in 2006, but there are indications that it was not formally approved until March 4, 2009 with a contract awarded by Roscosmos to TsNIIMash (the prime contractor). It operated in an experimental mode until January 1, 2016.

ASPOS OKP’s main task is monitor space for any objects (functioning and non-functioning satellites, pieces of space debris) that may pose a threat to Russian civilian and dual civilian/military satellites as well as the International Space Station. Among other things, it also monitors efforts to place upper stages into fast-decaying or graveyard orbits and helps predict uncontrolled re-entries of space objects.   

Although ASPOS OKP operates independently from the military SKKP space surveillance network, some organizational charts show that there is exchange of data between the two networks. ASPOS OKP seems to focus primarily on objects in medium and high orbits and for information on low orbiting objects it appears to rely mainly on data supplied by radar systems of SKKP as well as Russia’s missile early warning system.

The main segments of ASPOS OKP are seen in the diagram in attachment 1:

- the Main Information and Analytical Center (GIATs), also described as the system’s “central core”. This is based at the
  Mission Control Center in Korolyov outside Moscow (owned and operated by TsNIIMash).
- a center to monitor objects in geostationary, highly elliptical and medium Earth orbits. This is based at the Keldysh Institute
  of Applied Mathematics (IPM) in Moscow and acts as a sort of interface between GIATs and the optical telescopes used by
- a center to monitor solar and geomagnetic activity, based at the Pushkov Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and
  Radio Wave Propagation (IZMIRAN) in Troitsk (Moscow region).
- a network of optical telescopes (KSOES) in Russia and abroad. Most of the telescopes on Russian territory are built by the
  Astronomical Scientific Center (AO ANTs), which has a control center (ATsUK) from which the telescopes are remotely

The observatories on Russian territory are called “experimental electro-optical units” (EOP) and come in two types. EOP-1 is mainly intended to monitor the geostationary belt and EOP-2 to monitor other high orbits. The observatories outside Russia (so far only one in Brazil) are called “electro-optical complexes for detection of space debris” (OEK OKM). In early 2019 ASPOS OKP numbered a total of 36 telescopes. The map in attachment 2 shows the location of the observatories.

Both the EOP-1 and EOP-2 observatories have three instruments each, one with a wide field of view to make surveys and two with narrower fields of view to make targeted observations of catalogued objects. 

EOP-1 (see attachment 3) consists of:

- a combination of two 19 cm telescopes on a single mount with a wide angle of view (7x15°), mainly used to make surveys
  of the geostationary belt. In a single night it can perform up to 25,000 position measurements of up to 500 objects
  measuring as small as 0.8-1m in diameter.
- a 25 cm telescope (OEK-25) with a field of view 3.4x3.4°.
- a 40 cm telescope (OEK-40) with a field of view of 2.2x2.2°.

In early 2019 there were four EOP-1 observatories:

EOP-1-1 : Kislovodsk (northern Caucasus)
EOP-1-2 : Byurakan (Armenia)
EOP-1-3 : Nauchnyi (Crimea)
EOP-1-4 : Nauchnyi (Crimea)

The EOP-2 observatories (see attachment 4) look for objects in highly elliptical orbits (with apogees ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 km), in 20,000 km circular orbits and in other high orbits with apogees above 3,500 km. They also make targeted observations of earlier catalogued objects at altitudes ranging from 200 km to 200,000 km. Each observatory has:

- a combination of four 19 cm telescopes (OEK-19) on a single mount used for surveys. In a single night they can make up to
  30,000 position measurements of objects measuring as small as 0.8-1 m.
- a 40 cm telescope (OEK-40)
- a 65 cm telescope (OEK-65). It can see objects as small as 25-30 cm at distances up to 40,000 km.

In early 2019 there were two EOP-2 observatories:
EOP-2-1: Blagoveshchensk (Russian Far East)
EOP-2-2: Kislovodsk

The single OEK OKM observatory (built by NPK SPP) is situated at the Pico dos Dias observatory in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, about 40 km from the city of Itajuba (see attachment 5). It has been operational since April 2017. It consists of five telescopes installed on a single mount. It seems nearly identical to the assembly of telescopes seen at the Ministry of Defense’s 14Sh33/Pritsel observatory in the Altai mountains (see the previous post):

- one 75 cm Sova-75-O telescope for surveys of the geostationary belt, capable of seeing 30 cm objects at a distance of
  40,000 km.
- two 25 cm Sova-25 telescopes for surveys of low and high Earth orbits
- two 5 cm Sova-5 telescopes to observe objects in low Earth orbit (up to 1,500 km)

Also part of ASPOS OKP are a single OEK-65 telescope in Ussuriysk (Russian Far East), a 50 cm telescope (OEK-50) in Kislovodsk and a 25 cm telescope (RKS-25) in Abrau-Dyurso (on the Black Sea coast). The latter is described as a testbed for new technology.

On November 29, 2016 Roscosmos awarded a contract to NPK SPP to modernize the ASPOS OKP observatories under the names EOP-1M, EOP-2M and OEK OKM-M (with the work on EOP-1M and EOP-2M subcontracted to AO ANTs) (see attachment 6). Among the modifications planned for the EOP-1M observatories was the inclusion of an OEK-65 telescope and the use of new photodetectors and computer systems. EOP-1-4 was to be relocated from Crimea to Chile (and renamed EOP-1M-4).

The EOP-2M observatories were also to be equipped with new photodetectors and computer systems.  EOP-2-2 was to be moved from Kislovodsk to Mexico (and renamed EOP-2M-2) and two new observatories (EOP-2M-3 and EOP-2M-4) were to be built in Orsk in the southern Urals and in Malaysia. These would have two pairs of OEK-19 telescopes installed on separate mounts rather than four placed on a single mount.

A second OEK OKM observatory (OEK OKM-2) was scheduled to be built in South Africa and two modified OEK OKM observatories (OEK OKM-M-3 and OEK OKM-M-4) were to be installed in Mexico and New Zealand. These would have two Sova-75 telescopes (including Sova-75-I, possibly for infrared observations), four Sova-25 and two Sova-5 telescopes.

RKS-25 was to be moved from Abrau-Dyurso to Ireland and one additional RKS telescope was scheduled to be installed in Cuba.

The modernization effort was to be finished by December 2020, but according to online court documentation, the contract between Roscosmos and NPK SPP was annulled in February 2020 and the current status of this work is not clear. In February 2021 Roscosmos announced that it was reviewing its plans for installing ASPOS OKP telescopes abroad because of the corona pandemic.

Early this year ASPOS OKP’s general designer Grigoriy Stupak announced that plans had been approved to expand the capabilities of the system under the name “Mlechnyi Put” (“Milky Way”). Apart from optical telescopes, it would also include radars (mainly to detect objects in low orbits), radio monitoring systems as well as a constellation of satellites, not only to detect and observe orbiting objects, but also asteroids and comets that could pose a threat to Earth.

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #4 on: 05/05/2022 04:11 pm »
While the majority of Russia’s space surveillance systems are either optical telescopes or radars, three of them are essentially electronic intelligence systems. Two, called Moment and Sledopyt, are intended to intercept radio emissions from foreign satellites flying over Russian territory. Moment, located in Noginsk-9, has been operational for many years. Sledopyt, a network of four ELINT complexes, is still under construction at various locations in the country (see the separate thread).
The existence of a third ELINT system, named Nast-R, came to light in court documentation that appeared online last year:
This website seems to have been blocked outside Russia, but two of the documents are also available here at certain times of the day:

In the documents, Nast-R is described as a “network of assets to monitor space-based radar systems” (“nast” is a Russian noun meaning “a thin crust of ice over snow” and the “R” probably stands for “radar”). The project officially started on May 19, 2020 with a contract awarded by the Ministry of Defense to MAK Vympel, one of Russia’s leading developers of space surveillance systems. The only other source that mentions Nast-R is MAK Vympel’s annual report for 2019, which lists it as one of several projects to be started in 2020.

Although the name is not seen elsewhere, Nast-R likely is the subject of a handful of technical publications by MAK Vympel describing various ways of detecting and analyzing radar signals from satellites.

According to one of the articles, a radar monitoring system would make it possible to determine the carrier frequency, bandwidth, modulation type, pulse repetition frequency and the polarization of the radar signals and also to estimate the satellite’s ground swath. In addition to that, a network of such systems working in coordination with Glonass satellites can be used to accurately determine the orbital parameters of radar satellites. One of the other articles said the radar monitoring systems should be mobile, among other things because of the frequent overflights of radar satellites over different parts of the country on any given day.

Also related to Nast-R seems to be a so-called “radiotechnical complex for monitoring satellites” (abbreviated as RTK MKA) described on MAK Vympel’s website:

RTK MKA can not only calculate the orbital parameters of satellites, but also determine their purpose and technical features. It is said to be capable of receiving “unique information”, among other things by using new signal processing algorithms and artificial intelligence. The system uses serially produced components to cut costs and reduce development time. Its key elements are:

-an antenna (its configuration depends on the frequencies to be observed)
-a pointing mechanism (its configuration depends on the size of the antenna and the speed with which the satellites need to be tracked)
- a dome to protect the antenna from external interference
- a computer system and associated software
(see the attached image)

This is what is called the “basic configuration” of the system and it can be adapted for a variety of purposes, only one of which is to create “small-size detectors” to pick up radar signals from satellites.  So it would seem that Nast-R is a specific, specialized version of RTK MKA and it may not look exactly the same as the antenna seen in the attached picture. Nothing is said on Vympel’s website about the possible mobility of the radar detection system. 

According to the website, RTK MKA can be integrated into existing optical and radar space surveillance systems and can also be installed abroad. It would appear that MAK Vympel has already found a foreign customer for the satellite radar monitoring system. This can be learned from a brief bio of Aleksandr Ksendzuk, identified as MAK Vympel’s “deputy general designer for science and testing” and also a co-author of two of the technical articles mentioned above.

The bio said that work was underway for an unidentified foreign customer on a “system to determine reconnaissance by radar satellites”. It would be capable among other things of establishing the orbital parameters, the country of origin and the technical characteristics of such satellites. It was noted that “its successful development will make it possible to create a unified export version of elements of the space surveillance system”.  The bio appeared in 2019, which shows that work on the export version began before the start of the Nast-R project.

Nothing is known so far about the planned number of Nast-R observatories or their location. Since Nast-R was approved only two years ago, construction may not yet have begun. 

A key question is why Russia is so interested in having this radar monitoring capability (to the best of my knowledge, no other country has an equivalent system). One obvious answer that comes to mind is that by obtaining a better understanding of the radar signals, it is possible to increase the efficiency of electronic warfare systems aimed at interfering with those signals.  Russia has at least two ground-based mobile electronic warfare systems (Krasukha-4 and Divnomorye) that can reportedly jam radar reconnaissance satellites.

Denying adversaries the opportunity to image Russian territory from space seems to be considered an important goal of Russian counterspace systems. It also appears to be the main task of the Peresvet mobile laser complex, intended to dazzle space-based sensors following the movements of mobile ICBM units. Research is also known to have been done on jamming satellites needed to relay imagery obtained by both optical and radar reconnaissance satellites flying over Russia.   

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #5 on: 06/07/2022 07:08 pm »
As outlined in the previous post, MAK Vympel is working on a project called Nast-R, a network of ground-based systems to monitor radar satellites. The project officially began with a contract awarded to MAK Vympel by the Ministry of Defense on May 19, 2020. Some additional information on the project in MAK Vympel’s annual report for 2020 provides clues that it may also bе designed for electronic warfare against such satellites.  The report is available here:

The report has details of a meeting of MAK Vympel’s board of directors held on July 29, 2020. This meeting formally approved the contract, which is worth roughly 895 million rubles (about $14 million) and runs until December 1, 2022, a sign that the system may be fielded relatively soon.

The same meeting also approved a contract awarded by MAK Vympel under Nast-R to the Scientific Research Institute of Modern Telecommunication Technologies (NII STT), based in Smolensk. This contract was worth about 580 million rubles (roughly $9 million) and expires on November 30, 2022, with the work expected to be completed by September 1, 2022. The nature of the work assigned to NII STT (known as Nast-R-STT) is not revealed, but the value of the contract indicates that it plays a key role in the project.

The few articles that NII STT has published on space-based radar systems suggest that its role may be to develop electronic countermeasures against them. Most of them were written in collaboration with researchers of the Zhukovskiy/Gagarin Air Force Academy in Voronezh, formed in 2008 through the merger of the Zhukovskiy and Gagarin Air Force Academies. Two key authors are Ivan Kupryashkin and Vladimir Likhachov, who work for the Academy’s electronic warfare department and seem to be consultants to NII STT. Kupryashkin now heads that department and specializes in electronic countermeasures against radars. Some of their publications are referenced in articles by MAK Vympel that are almost certainly related to Nast-R (see the previous post).   

One of the NII STT articles discusses ways of analyzing so-called linear frequency modulated (LFM) signals, which are being increasingly used by ground-based, air-based and space-based radars because they provide more information, are less prone to jamming and more difficult to detect than traditional radar signals.
The authors propose an “autocorrelation receiver” capable of digitally analyzing wideband LFM radar signals and making it possible to “parametrically reproduce” them in electronic countermeasure systems. Analysis of LFM signals using the autocorrelation technique is also the subject of one of the MAK Vympel articles likely related to Nast-R.

Kupryashkin and Likhachov have also co-authored several patents on electronic countermeasures against radars, including these three (published in 2015-2017, with English abstracts):
(countermeasures against space-based radars to prevent them from seeing “masked objects”)
(countermeasures against LFM radar signals)

All of them are based on the principle of radar deception, a technique in which false targets are generated to confuse enemy radars.  The radar signals are picked up by a receiver and after passing through several other systems (such as amplifiers and analogue-to-digital converters) are relayed back to the radar in a distorted form. As is noted in all three patents, these radar deception systems can be built using off-the-shelf technology.

It is worth noting that NII STT also has a role in Tobol (also known as 14Ts227), a ground-based space-related electronic warfare system. According to one court document, NII STT received a contract from Tobol’s prime contractor Russian Space Systems in 2019 to perform maintenance work on at least one system belonging to Tobol.

So will Nast-R be used for electronic warfare against radar satellites?  On the one hand, MAK Vympel, Nast-R’s prime contractor, has no history of developing electronic warfare systems and in the available documentation Nast-R is described as a “monitoring system”, suggesting it has a purely passive data gathering role. On the other hand, the involvement of NII STT may indicate that Nast-R also has an “active” component which uses that data to prevent orbiting radars from seeing certain targets on the ground.  As already pointed out in the previous post, the only logical reason for investing in such radar monitoring systems would seem to be the need to develop countermeasures against them.

Russia already has two electronic warfare systems (Krasukha-4 and Divnomorye) that can reportedly be used against radar satellites, but these are also used against other targets and are probably jammers, meaning they block the radars by saturating them with noise. Nast-R could significantly complement the capabilities of these existing systems by focusing solely on satellites and relying on a different technique (radar deception) to interfere with their operation.   

Offline B. Hendrickx

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Re: Russia's space surveillance network
« Reply #6 on: 06/10/2022 10:10 pm »
Radar observations of Earth-orbiting satellites are made by the vast network of radars belonging to Russia’s missile early warning system (SPRN), but there are also a number of dedicated space tracking radars belonging to the military SKKP space surveillance network.  One type (named Krona) has been operational since the Soviet days and is installed at facilities in the Caucasus (near Zelenchukskaya) and the Russian Far East (near Nakhodka).

A more recent addition to SKKP is Razvyazka (a word with various meanings, but it seems to be most commonly associated these days with a traffic interchange). Also known as 14Ts031 (14Ц031), it is a radar complex situated some 15 km northwest of Chekhov, a small town about 65 km southwest of Moscow. It was constructed at the same location as Dunai-3U, a missile early warning radar complex built in the Soviet days as part of Moscow’s A-135M missile defense system. Dunai-3U was also designated 0746, 20Yu6 (20Ю6) and Chekhov-7 and was operated by Military Unit 03863. It had the NATO codename Cat House. 

Dunai-3U consisted of two sites separated by 2.7 kilometers, each having two radars, one facing west and the other facing east. The radars of the “southern” site (labeled Site 1 in procurement documentation) were used for transmitting radar signals and those of the “northern” site (Site 2) for picking up reflected radar signals. The west-facing radars (named SRLS-61) kept an eye on potential missile attacks from Western Europe and the east-facing radars (SRLS-62) were used mainly to track missile and space launches from Kapustin Yar and Baikonur. The Dunai-3U radars were also used to monitor satellites up to altitudes of 3,500 km. Advantages over other missile early warning radars (such as Dnepr and Daryal) were that they operated in the UHF rather than the VHF range, allowing them so see smaller objects (15-40 cm). They also had a wider field of view.

Both the SRLS-61 and 62 radars became operational in May 1978. The west-facing SRLS-61 radars are still functional today. The east-facing SRLS-62 radars were decommissioned in September 1998, probably because the missile/rocket tracking role was no longer considered a priority.  Several years later it was decided to transform both the SRLS-62 transmitting and receiving radars into dedicated space tracking radars. The Razvyazka project officially got underway with a contract signed between the Ministry of Defense and the Almaz-Antei Concern on September 7, 2009 (a follow-up contract was later signed on August 11, 2017).  The company placed in charge of the project was PAO Radiofizika, which belongs to Almaz-Antei. A major subcontractor is NPP Piramida, which provides the electronics for both the transmitting and receiving antennas. The current chief designer is PAO Radiofizika’s Mark V. Nikitin.

Razvyazka is described in documentation as a “specialized radar station for the detection and monitoring of small space objects”. It was apparently needed mainly to enable observations of the growing number of nanosatellites and space debris fragments. According to a brochure released by PAO Radiofizika at the MAKS-2021 aerospace show, it is a digital active phased-array antenna operating in the P-band and designed to “catalog space objects and observe high-orbiting satellites”. A small mobile P-band radar complex known as Demonstrator (displayed at several aerospace shows early last decade) seems to have served as a technology demonstrator for Razvyazka. As explained in a documentary on the Russian space surveillance system aired by the Zvezda military TV channel last April, Razvyazka’s ability to see objects in high orbits is unique. Traditionally, radars have been used to observe objects in relatively low orbits (up to about 5,000 km), with optical telescopes focusing on objects in higher orbits.  Razvyazka is said to be capable of seeing objects in “record high orbits”, but no exact altitude was given in the documentary. There were also plans for a radar to observe high-orbiting objects in the Soviet days (named Krona-V), but these were canceled.

Some sources have claimed that Razvyazka was conceived to provide targeting data for the Nudol anti-satellite system. It may indeed be no coincidence that Razvyazka was initiated just one month after Nudol (which was approved in August 2009). However, there is no conclusive evidence for a connection between the two. Razvyazka and Nudol were mentioned in the same paragraph in Almaz-Antei’s annual reports for 2011 and 2013, but without being clearly linked. The two have similar military indexes (Razvyazka being 14Ts031 and Nudol 14Ts033), but two other projects with the same type of designator (14Ts032/Sledopyt and 14Ts034/Peresvet) have no direct connection to Nudol either.  There are also vague clues that Razvyazka may provide targeting data for Aerostat, a long-range ABM system with likely ASAT capabilities, but, again, the evidence for that is far from convincing. Actually, if Razvyazka is indeed mainly intended to observe objects in higher orbits, it would not be suitable to provide data for Nudol, which is aimed at objects in low Earth orbit (and the same goes for Aerostat, if it has an ASAT capability).

Razvyazka appears to have gotten off to a slow start. It wasn’t until November 10, 2014, more than five years after the official start of the project, that the Ministry of Defense awarded a contract for the actual construction work at both Sites 1 and 2 (now together referred to as Object 0746-M). Google Earth imagery shows that the demolition of old support buildings for the east-facing Dunai-3U radars got underway several months prior to that. The radar array buildings themselves were not torn down, but modified for their new space tracking role.  Dimensions given for the transmitter array (code-named 102BM) and the receiver array (code-named 202BM) are 15x100m and 50x100m respectively.  Several new support buildings were constructed for Razvyazka at both sites, including a command and control building, a power supply building and a storage hangar.

A recently published court document shows that nearly 13 years after its approval Razvyazka is still not operational.
(accessible only at certain times of the day)
Before being declared operational, military hardware has to go through what are called “preliminary tests” and “state tests”. Preliminary tests of what is described as “an experimental version” of Razvyazka were finished in August 2020, but revealed that the transmitting radar of Razvyazka interfered with the adjacent transmitting radar of Dunai-3U (Dunai-3U has been certified to continue working until December 31, 2024, according to the document). This made it necessary to modify all of Razvyazka’s 3072 transmitter modules before the start of “state tests” in December 2020. Those tests had to be suspended in February 2021 due to software issues and more problems with the transmitter modules, 600 of which (more than 20 % of the total amount) broke down. At the time of writing (April 7, 2022), “state tests” of Razvyazka had still not been completed.

Despite the slow progress in making Razvyazka operational, Sergei Boyev, the director of MAK Vympel, hinted in the recent documentary on the Zvezda TV channel that other Razvyazka type radar complexes may be built elsewhere in the country.

A couple of pictures and drawing are attached:
- a context image showing the location of Sites 1 and 2 with respect to Chekhov
- Google Earth satellite images of Sites 1 and 2 (June 2020). The support buildings with the light blue roofs were built specifically for Razvyazka.
- ground images of Sites 1 and 2 (from the Zvezda documentary)
- drawings of the transmitter and receiver arrays (taken from online procurement documentation)
- detailed maps of Sites 1 and 2 (also from online procurement documentation)

The documentary on the Zvezda TV channel is available on YouTube (see 4:00-10:00 and 27:45-29:20 for footage of Razvyazka).


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