The Briz-M upper stage has successfully placed into orbit a set of military satellites, spokesperson for Russian Defense Ministry’s Aerospace Defense Forces Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin told ITAR-TASS on Friday.
“The Briz-M upper stage successfully placed three military satellites into the final orbit at the prescribed time — at 11:12 Moscow time (07:12 GMT). The satellites have been taken under control by the facilities of Russian Defense Ministry’s ground-based automated management system that will be controlling them further during the orbital flight,” the official said.
After the orbit placement, the spacecraft have been assigned the sequence numbers Kosmos-2496, Kosmos-2497, Kosmos-2498.
The light-class Rokot launch vehicle with the Briz-KM and thee military satellites was set off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome at 09:27 Moscow time (05:27 GMT), Friday.
Defense satellites launched from Plesetsk inserted into final orbit
PLESETSK (Arkhangelsk region). A Rokot launch vehicle powered with a Briz-KM upper stage has delivered three defense satellites to a final orbit, Russian Defense Ministry press service and information department spokesman for the Aerospace Defense Forces Col. Alexei Zolotukhin told Interfax-AVN on the phone.
"The defense satellite cluster has successfully reached the final orbit," Zolotukhin said.
Ground stations of the Russian Defense Ministry automated network took control of the satellites to guide them through the period of their service life, he added.
Once the satellites were inserted into orbit, they acquired reporting names Cosmos-2496, Cosmos-2497 and Cosmos-2498.
The light launch vehicle Rokot is a derivative from the RS-18 ICBM made by the Khrunichev Space Center.
Rokot is comprised of the first and second stages packed in a transport launch container, a Briz-KM third stage, a payload fairing, a coupling, an intermediate section and a payload section.
The first Rokot launch from Plesetsk was conducted on May 16, 2000. As of now, 21 Rokot missions have been accomplished.
Meanwhile, a source in the rocket and space industry told Interfax-AVN that the Briz-KM and the satellites were supposed to separate from the Rokot second stage at 9:33 a.m. Moscow time. The satellite cluster mass stands at approximately 950 kilograms.
This is the 11th space launch done by Russia in 2014. One mission, the launch of the Express-AM4R satellite with a Proton-M rocket, failed. The satellite was lost because of a third stage engine glitch. The Khrunichev Space Center is the builder of Proton-M.
A mysterious Russian space object could be the return of the ‘satellite killer’
An artist’s conception of a Soviet anti-satellite weapon destroying a satellite in 1984. (Defense Department Photo)
There was a time, not too long ago, when some of the world’s brilliant rocket scientists didn’t think of space as something to conquer, nor monetize, nor explore — but as a means to make war. During the Cold War in the 1960s, they eyed outer space as a potential theater of conflict, where human-piloted space vessels would engage in gravity-free dogfights and fire missiles. The ambitions were unrealistic. But they did nonetheless give birth to a Soviet anti-satellite weaponry program simply called “Istrebitel Sputnikov” — the “satellite killer.”
It was thought the killer was retired. It was thought the Soviet empire’s collapse had grounded it. But now, as the Financial Times first reported, there are whispers of its return out there in the blackness of space.
As news of the Virgin Galactic crash, Antares explosion and Rosetta exploration filled science pages, another space drama has quietly unfurled. In May, a Russian rocket launched to add several satellites to its existing constellation. In the process, it deployed what was first believed to be a piece of space debris, but has now become a matter of great speculation. “I have no idea what it is!” space security expert Patricia Lewis of the think-tank Chatham House told The Washington Post in a phone interview.
Few do. Russia did not declare its orbit, and now the U.S. military, space experts and amateur sleuths have been closely tracking its movements, each of which has been deliberate and precise. The unidentified satellite — called Object 2014-28E — recently navigated toward other Russian space objects, its voyage culminating in its recent hookup with the remains of the rocket stage that originally launched it.
The satellite could be nothing. It could be space junk. It could be a search-and-rescue mission or some innocuous method to clear space debris — the bane of satellite navigation. Or it could be something more. The Russian Ministry of Defense didn’t immediately return the Washington Post’s request for comment.
“There’s always confusion with these sort of things, because no one knows exactly what these satellites are up to,” space expert Robert Christy, once a member of the famed Kettering Group of astronomers, told The Post.
Despite that confusion, every expert interviewed agreed such satellites, which the Chinese use as well, may be the latest chapter in the militarization of space — first conceived as something akin to science fiction that has now evolved into subtler cyberwarfare, hinging on debilitating vital satellite systems. Virtually every modern technology — cellphones, map services, television shows and any number of communication services — hinges on satellites. Targeting them could cripple a nation’s abilities to conduct its military or shut down crucial global communication services.
“Imagine if you were having a Katrina episode and all of your satellites suddenly got jammed,” Lewis said. “Just imagine that.”
Lewis said there are several explanations for the mysterious Russian satellite. Some benign. Some not. Each possible use would be experimental. One of them, she said, involves the clearance of debris — almost like a space vacuum. Many space-bound nations “are looking at how to do this,” Lewis said. Or the mission could have something to do with search and rescue. Other possibilities are substantially more bellicose. “This satellite could be used as some sort of ant-satellite weapon. Or it could be that you use this to cyber jam the satellites to grill them and take control of them, and that way you just leave the satellite dead,” Lewis said.
But both options make little sense, she continued. After all, you don’t need to shoot a satellite into space to “cyberjam” other satellites. Just look at the Chinese. They just hacked U.S. weather systems without launching their own satellites — and did so right here from the ground. And destroying a satellite would create so much debris “it would affect your own satellites’ surveillance and achieve a null goal.”
Quelle: The Washington Post
Object 2014-28E – Space junk or Russian satellite killer?
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It is a tale that could have come from the cold war. A mysterious object launched by the Russian military is being tracked by western space agencies, stoking fears over the revival of a defunct Kremlin project to destroy satellites.
For the past few weeks, amateur astronomers and satellite-trackers in Russia and the west have followed the unusual manoeuvres of Object 2014-28E, watching it guide itself towards other Russian space objects. The pattern appeared to culminate last weekend in a rendezvous with the remains of the rocket stage that launched it.
The object had originally been classed as space debris, propelled into orbit as part of a Russian rocket launch in May to add three Rodnik communications satellites to an existing military constellation. The US military is now tracking it under the Norad designation 39765.Quelle: TFT
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Its purpose is unknown, and could be civilian: a project to hoover up space junk, for example. Or a vehicle to repair or refuel existing satellites. But interest has been piqued because Russia did not declare its launch – and by the object’s peculiar, and very active, precision movements across the skies.
Russia officially mothballed its anti-satellite weaponry programme – Istrebitel Sputnikov or satellite killer – after the fall of the iron curtain, though its expertise has not entirely disappeared. Indeed, military officials have publicly stated in the past that they would restart research in the event of a deterioration in relations with the US over anti-missile defence treaties. In 2010, Oleg Ostapenko, commander of Russia’s space forces, and now head of its space agency, said Russia was again developing “inspection” and “strike” satellites.
Moscow’s ministry of defence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Whatever it is, [Object 2014-28E] looks experimental,” said Patricia Lewis, research director at think-tank Chatham House and an expert in space security. “It could have a number of functions, some civilian and some military. One possibility is for some kind of grabber bar. Another would be kinetic pellets which shoot out at another satellite. Or possibly there could be a satellite-to-satellite cyber attack or jamming.”
In a week when the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft landed a probe on a comet, the peregrinations of 2014-28E could seem insignificant, but they highlight an area of growing – if so far little publicised – concern for defence strategists: the weaponisation of space.
Having the ability to destroy or degrade an opponent’s satellite communications has been regarded as a powerful military capability since the space race began but, after the collapse of the iron curtain, many of the secret research projects Soviet and US engineers were working on were quietly shelved. In the past few years, however, interest in space weapons has revived.
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“It would be odd if space were to remain the one area that [militaries] don’t get their hands on,” says Ms Lewis. Cyber attacks on satellites are already a reality, she points out: last week, hackers linked to the Chinese government infiltrated US federal weather satellites.
Russia has in the past been at the forefront of efforts to try to secure an international treaty to prevent weapons being deployed in space, but its efforts have fallen on stony ground.
Amid rapid advances by other foreign powers, and the recent deterioration in relations between Moscow and the west, plans to revive the IS programme would make strategic sense, said one Russian military expert.
As far back as 2007, the Chinese showed they had the ability to shoot down satellites with rockets and in 2008 the US demonstrated it had the same capability.
More recently, in May this year, a Chinese satellite known as Shijian 15 began to exhibit unusual propulsion capabilities and eventually intercepted another Chinese satellite, Shijian 7.
“The experiment was linked to the possible use of a remote capture arm and close proximity operations,” said Max White, a member of the Kettering group of astronomers, which made a name for itself in the 1960s by pinpointing the location of Soviet spy satellite launches. “Both can have peaceful as well as military nuances, with the former for refuelling in space, and the latter for disabling an active payload belonging to a foreign nation, potentially without causing a debris cloud.
“Whether the Russians feel they need to demonstrate such capability is a matter for debate,” Mr White added. He, too, has been following the activities of object 2014-28E.
In a signal of international sensitivities over the prospect of anti-satellite technologies being rapidly developed, a Chinese missile test this year drew an unusually fiery response from the Pentagon. US authorities said they had “high confidence” that a July launch was a test for a ground-based weapon to strike a satellite, accusing the Chinese of “destabilising actions”. China’s test was later also condemned by the EU.