Navigation satellite systems of the USSR, Russia and the United States. First story

The first generation of navigation satellite systems in the Soviet Union was named “Sail” and was developed on the basis of the Navy's Research Hydrographic-Navigation Institute (NIGSH). The very idea of ​​using artificial Earth satellites as the main element of navigation came to the former naval navigator Fufayev Vadim Alekseevich in 1955. Under the leadership of the ideological inspirer, an initiative group was created in NIGSH, which was engaged in long-range coordinate determination. The second direction was the topic of Doppler coordinate determination under the leadership of V.P. Zakolodyazhny, and the third group was responsible for the goniometric determination of coordinates - the head of the direction was E.F. Suvorov. By the beginning of the 1960s, the appearance of the first domestic low-orbit global navigation satellite system was developed. In addition to the NIGSI, the staff of the NII-4 of the Ministry of Defense took an active part in the project. It was assumed that the ships of the Navy of the Soviet Union would be the very first "users" of satellite navigation. However, all of a sudden came up - the program was sharply limited in funding and actually froze. Intelligence data on the final stage of development of a similar system in the camp of a potential adversary, the United States, became “roasted rooster”. By 1963, the Americans actually commissioned the Transit satellite system, and on January 15, 1964, the government decided to create a Soviet analogue under the code “Cyclone” (some sources mention the breathtaking name “Cyclone-B”).

From this point on, semi-underground works of initiative groups became the official state program. The lead developer of the system was OKB-10, Mikhail Fedorovich Reshetnev was appointed the “chief”, and the radio-engineering institute for proborostroyenia (NIIP) was responsible for the radio equipment. At the level of sketches, the project was ready by July 1966, and at the same time the test bases were approved - the oceanographic vessel “Nikolai Zubov” with submarines B-88, B-36 and B-73.

Vessel "Nikolay Zubov". Source:

Cosmos-192 (the launch vehicle was Cosmos-3М), launched on November 25 of the year from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, became the first domestic operating spacecraft. The next was “Cosmos - 1967”, sent to low orbit 220 of May 7, “Cosmos - 1968” (292 of August 14 of the year) and “Cosmos-1969” (332 of April of 11). The tests ended by the summer of 1970 and found the following accuracy: based on the Doppler effect, 1970 km, the distance measuring system, 1,5 km, and the correction of the guidance system was 1,8-3 angular minutes.

Navigation satellite systems of the USSR, Russia and the United States. First story
The layout of the satellite system "Cyclone". Source:

Spacecraft system "Parus". Source:

The satellite orbit height was 1000 kilometers - these were typical low-orbit devices with a period of revolution around the planet in 105 minutes. To the equatorial plane, the inclination of the orbits of the "Cosmos" series was 830that made them near-polar satellites. After six years of trial operation of four navigation satellites in September 1976, the system was put into service under the name “Parus”. By that time, the accuracy of determining the coordinates of the vessel on the move was 250 meters, and in the port at mooring lines - about 60 meters. The system was operational enough — the positioning time was within 6-15 minutes. The key difference in domestic development from the American Transit was the possibility of radiotelegraph communication of ships and submarines of the Navy with command posts and with each other. Communication was provided both in terms of joint visibility and in the variant of transferring a message from one subscriber to another, that is, on a global scale. In the latter case, the communication delay was 2-3 hours. Thus was born the first in the world navigation and connected satellite system "Parus", which turned the navigation in the Soviet fleet. For the first time, it became possible to determine your own location, regardless of the weather, time of day and year, anywhere in the oceans. This system is still functioning.

In 1979, the “Cicada” system was put into operation to serve civilian ships, deprived of military navigation equipment and communication options. Two years earlier, the Artik icebreaker, based on satellite navigation data, reached the North Pole for the first time in the world for ships. For Cicada, an orbital constellation of four satellites was detached, and the military Parus at various times had on average 6-7 spacecraft in low orbit. The installation of the COSPAS-SARSAT rescue equipment or, as it is also called, the Nadezhda system developed in the Omsk association Polet, has become a major upgrade of Cicada. The rescue system appeared after the signing of the intergovernmental agreement of the USSR, USA, Canada and France on November 11, 23 on the development of COSPAS - Emergency Ships Search Satellite System, SARSAT - Search And Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking. The system was to be responsible for finding planes and ships in distress. Satellite reception points were originally located in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk, Vladivostok (USSR), San Francisco, St. Louis, Alaska (USA), Ottawa (Canada), Toulouse (France) and Tromso (Norway). Each satellite, flying over the surface of the Earth, received signals from a round area with a diameter of 1979 km. The minimum number of satellites needed for confident receiving signals from emergency beacons was four vehicles. Since at that time no one, except the USA and the USSR, could make such a technique, it was these two countries that provided the COSPAS-SARSAT orbital grouping. The satellites received a distress signal, relayed it to a ground station, where its coordinates were determined with an accuracy of 6000 km and within an hour made a decision about the rescue operation.

The emblem COSPAS-SARSAT to 1992 year.

Illustration of the COSPAS-SARSAT working principle. Source:

It was the Soviet satellite with the equipment "Hope" in September 1982 of the year recorded the first distress signal from a light-engine aircraft crashed in the mountains in western Canada. As a result, three Canadian citizens were evacuated - this is how the COSPAS-SARSAT international project opened an account of saved souls. It is worth recalling that such story It was born in the midst of the Cold War - in 1983, Reagan officially called the USSR "The Empire of Evil", and COSPAS-SARSAT is still functioning and has already been saved by the order of 4000 people.

Domestic apparatus "Hope" of the international system COSPAS-SARSAT. Source:

About the need to develop a medium-orbit navigation system, necessary not only for the "sea", but also for aviation with the "infantry" in the USSR began talking in 1966. The result was the research work “Forecast” under the leadership of Yu. I. Maksyuta, in accordance with which in 1969 they argued the possibility of launching navigation satellites into the Earth’s middle orbit. In the future, this project was called GLONASS and was created with the participation of a large number of organizations - the Krasnoyarsk Design Bureau of Applied Mechanics, the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Engineering and the Leningrad Scientific Research Radio Engineering Institute (LNIRTI). The Soviet Union launched the first GLONASS satellite into space on October 12, 1983, and in 1993 the system was adopted by Russia, albeit in a truncated version. And only by 1995 GLONASS was brought to the staff of 24 vehicles, the ground infrastructure was improved and navigation earned 100%. At that time, the accuracy of determining the coordinates was 15–25 meters, the determination of the velocity components (new option) was 5–6,5 cm / s, and the domestic equipment could determine the time with an accuracy of 0,25–0,5 μs. But within six years, the orbital constellation was reduced to 5 satellites and everything was ready for the complete elimination of the Russian satellite navigation system. The second birth took place in August 2001, when the government of the Russian Federation adopted the federal target program “Global Navigation System”, designed to some extent to compete with GPS. But this is a slightly different story.
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  1. kig
    19 June 2018 09: 40
    I saw this Cicada, stood on the Far Eastern icebreakers. The rack with the equipment is growing with me, and a very specific way to display information: something like a teletype. A narrow paper tape crawled out of the printing device with a terrible chatter, on which the secret naval codes were printed. For example (an example is taken in bulks): 12 + 04 3567 15 - 112 357. According to naval terminology, this meant north latitude of 43 degrees and east longitude of 112 degrees for some minutes. Then came some tricky icon indicating a successful observation, and codes indicating the quality of the received signal, the height of the satellite, etc. If the observation was unsuccessful, then from the fly to read the tape was completely impossible, it was necessary to get the manual and look for a transcript. At the latitude of Vladivostok, the pause between observations reached 4 hours. But in the north, in my opinion, every hour and a half. With modern gps, of course, can not be compared, but at that time it was cool.
    1. +7
      19 June 2018 14: 25
      I don’t know about Cicada, but in 2002 I put the GPS system on Merkava-2 tanks, which was also hemorrhoids. The problems started in the antenna itself with gyroscopes, the maximum inclination to the side according to the passport was 25 °, but in fact no more than 20 °, every four hours to turn on the reboot system, if you didn’t, then the accuracy drops to 500 meters, and constant corrections for the magnetic compass and the Northern star, in addition, the block itself gave out only coordinates, without a map and symbols, in short hell. I have not seen any crew who could use it, try to make corrections while driving When the tank jumps, and you need to adjust the system every 12 hours from a fixed tank, the system was extremely capricious, its American mother. Therefore, when they began to install the Israeli system, it became immediately easier, and the map shows where both its barmels and mine fields, and continuous updating of data, and the interface is understandable, not any dancing with a tambourine and matyukov.
  2. +8
    19 June 2018 11: 04
    Author, thanks! Wonderful article. Briefly, clearly, and to the point. Without satellite navigation, the navigator would still go to sea according to the numbering, “Nautical Tables,” holding a sextant in his right hand and a stopwatch in his left hand. But you have to pay for everything. Before the advent of satellite navigation, the navigator should have a good knowledge of algebra and spherical trigonometry, and be able to count well. Now, all the high navigational culture has degenerated into an “ability” to put a point on the map several times per watch on GPS, or not to put anything anywhere if the card is electronic. So progress on the one hand turned into regression on the other ...
  3. +9
    19 June 2018 12: 58
    I published the textbook "Marine Radio Navigation Systems" Publishing House "Radio and Communication" 1991. Under my leadership and personal participation, many of these systems were created. Then the departments were opened in military universities and civilian too.
    This year, another regular textbook “Radio Navigation of Ship and Land Based Aircraft” was submitted for publication. Scientists from Cranfield University asked to give them the first textbook in 1992. I did it then.
    1. +1
      8 July 2018 13: 39
      Why and who needs a book of 91 years?
      91 years .... it was a good time. There was a textbook by Nikitenko - he was then finalizing in Makarovka and in our laboratory in RIRV-LNIRTI, he’s already old. His textbook is 76 years old. In my opinion, in the same year - 91 - the father Shebshaevich the patriarch of GNSS GLONASS died, he has the last book - Network satellite radio navigation systems - just 91 years old. He also worked for us with a research institute in our unit. Now at the head of the institute - RIRV - is the son of Shnbshaevich.
      Former deputy Chief Designer RSDN IFRNS Chaika
  4. +4
    20 June 2018 12: 57
    When the first navigational bombing was carried out on a MiG-1981M aircraft in 27, the district air force commander believed that now the bomb would hit exactly "automatically." Out of about fourteen pilots, only three risked dropping bombs because they saw where they might get (low clouds, below - a mechanized infantry battalion). RSDN and RSBN could not provide the required efficiency, and the commissioning of GLONASS was greatly delayed, although the USSR had to get ahead of everyone.