Friday, September 14, 2007

Russian EW satellite has drifted off station - EW system seriously degraded

Blog editor note: This is in my opinion is a serious military situation. I would say that the Russian satellite based EW network is no longer operational and its capability is the most degraded I have ever seen in recent memory. They can only view the US mainland for early warning of a land based ballistic attack for six hours day (via Cosmos 2414). They have no early warning capability of a sea-based missile launch or a missile launch from any other part of the world. This is a scarey situation now that the Strategic Forces is nearly blind to a missile attack. The orbital graphic below tells the tale of the tape.

I find it interesting that the Russians racheted up activity from their Long Range Air Forces four days prior to their moving the geostationary satellite below.

Background information below courtesy of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (RSNF) blog. This blog report does contain frequency information.

Click on picture for a better view.

Cosmos-2379, one of the two Russian early-warning satellites that appears to be operational, has drifted off its station at 24 degrees West in geosynchronous orbit. The satellite started drifting around August 17 and is drifting east, which may indicate that it is a controlled transfer to a different station. As of this morning the satellite was at 11 degrees East, so it hasn't reached the next closest early warning satellite geostationary orbital slot at 12 degress East.

An early warning satellite in the 24 degree west orbital slot can maintain 24-hour coverage of the U.S. territory. At the same time, reliability of that coverage is believed to be fairly low.

Cosmos-2379, launched in August 2001, is six years old (72 months), which is about the maximum operational life demonstrated by these satellites. So, it is quite possible that Cosmos-2379 has completed its mission. If 2379 is no longer operational that leaves only one operational early-warning satellite, Cosmos-2422, launched in July 2006, in a high earth orbit (Molniya).

The HEO satellite, Cosmos-2422, is in the position to observe launches from the U.S. territory for only about six hours a day.

The Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces blog posted on April 3, 2007:

Cosmos-2393 early-warning satellite ended its operations, bringing the number of active satellites in the space segment of the Russian early warning system down to two.

Cosmos-2393 (NORAD catalog number 27613) was launched on December 24, 2002, into a highly-elliptical orbit. It was a satellite of the 73D6 type, which are part of the US-KS early-warning system. Cosmos-2393 did not perform its regular orbit-correcting maneuver that was expected to take place in the first days of February 2007 (the last maneuver took place in November 2006). The life span of the satellite, about 50 month, is above the 40 months average for spacecraft of that type, indicating that it was a normal termination of the satellite mission.

After the Cosmos-2393 departure, the space-based segment of the Russian early-warning system is left with just two satellites - Cosmos-2422 (29260) on the highly-elliptical orbit and Cosmos-2379 (26892) on the geostationary orbit.

In 2007, the Space Forces are planning to launch a new US-KS satellite into the highly-elliptical orbit. The date of the launch has not been announced yet.

Russia, meanwhile, is working on a new space-based early-warning system, known as EKS.

The Commander of the Space Forces, Col.-General Vladimir Popovkin said on August 22, 2007, that Russia will begin tests of a "new orbital segment of the early-warning system" in two years.

As mentioned above, the new system might be known as "EKS" (the title reportedly stands for "Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Systema" or "Integrated Space System"). It was reportedly designed about 1999 or 2000 by the Energiya Corporation.

Details about the new system are scarce, but it would probably include satellites in highly-elliptical and geostationary orbits, just like the current system. Some reports indicate that in addition to detecting missile launches, satellites in the new system will provide a communication package for ballistic missiles, hence the "integrated space system" mention above.

At the same time, EKS it is not the only early-warning satellite project that has been proposed by Russian industry. A competing project was developed by the Lavochkin Design Bureau, which produced satellites of the US-KS and US-KMO systems. It appears, however, that they did not get an order for the new system.

Popovkin also admitted that the current space-based early-warning system does not provide continuous detection of missile launches. He disclosed that in 2007, the system was able to detect four ballistic missile launches (three of them Russian) and seven space launches.

The satellite deployed in the highly-elliptical orbit -- Cosmos-2422 (HEO, launched on July 21, 2006, NORAD catalog number 292600 -- is most likely a first-generation satellite of the 73D6 type that was built for the US-KS system (also known as Oko).

This system was designed to detect land based launches of ballistic missiles from U.S. territory and cannot detect missiles launched from sea platforms or other regions.

The geostationary Cosmos-2379 (GEO, 24 Aug 2001, 26892) is a newer satellite of the 71Kh6 type, which has the capability to detect missiles against Earth background. Satellites of this type were developed for the US-KMO system, which was supposed to provide global coverage. This system is not yet operational.

The early-warning satellites transmit information in real time tot he command center at Serpukhov-15 (near Kurilovo, Kaluga oblast). The information is processed there and transmitted to the command center of the 3rd Army in Solnechnogorsk. These Russian Oko EW satellites transmit downlinks at 2286.0, 2292.0, 2298.0 and 2304.0 MHz.