In Karachay-Cherkessia, in the vicinity of Mount Chapal, at a height of 2200 meters above sea level, there is a unique military facility - the Krona radio-optical space object recognition complex.
With it, the Russian military control the near and far space. 10 July "Crone" turned 35 years. The RG journalist visited a specific military unit and learned how hunters of spy satellites serve.
Edge of flying dogs
According to the official address, “Krona” is located in the stanitsa of Storozheva-2, but neither on paper nor on electronic maps did such a settlement appear. For all search queries, the navigator showed only one small stanitsa, the Watchtower, lost in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. And in the village itself, in order to find out the road to the “Krone”, I had to take a “tongue”. As guides, the villagers and children called the bridge, the store, the abandoned sheds, and to the question whether it was far from the part, as if by agreement, they answered: "Yes, there are side by side."
The military observatory is located on top of Mount Chapal. The military site for astronomical observations is called the "edge of flying dogs." This is not a metaphor, but a testimony of the strength of the winds on Chapala. The officers say that once during the construction of the telescope a local dog blew here by the wind. They brought a few more, but all of them claimed. Perhaps this is an army bike, but the name stuck.
- The winds here are really very strong, but the days and nights are clear all year round. It is the features of the atmosphere that became the decisive factor in choosing the location of the “Krona”, - Major Sergey Nesterenko told me the deputy commander of the unit.
The construction of the complex began at the height of the Cold War, in 1979. Then the arms race went into outer space: 3 thousands of artificial satellites revolved around the Earth. In addition, it was necessary to monitor the flights of a probable enemy ballistic missiles. Under the guidance of Vladimir Sosulnikov, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Soviet scientists have developed a complex that combines a radar station and an optical telescope. This design would allow to obtain maximum information about the passing satellites. Before the collapse of the USSR, Krona planned to use MiG-31D fighter-interceptors, which were intended for the destruction of satellites in near-earth orbit. After the 1991 events, space fighter trials ceased.
Construction and commissioning of all facilities of the complex stretched out for many years. The officers of the Aerospace Defense Forces who are carrying on the service complex say that military builders accomplished a feat when 350 km of power lines were stretched in the mountains, 40 thousand concrete slabs were laid, 60 km of water pipes were laid. Although the main work was completed in 1984, the system was put into trial operation in November 1999 due to financial difficulties. Adjustment of the equipment continued for several more years, and only in 2005, the “Krona” was put on combat duty. But the trials and modernization of the pearl complex - a laser optical locator - continues to this day.
- At the top of Mount Chapal are optical systems, and below - radar. The uniqueness of Krona is that there is no other object in which the capabilities of optical and radar facilities are concentrated in Russia, explained Major Nesterenko.
The control of outer space begins with the observation of the sky hemisphere, the detection of space objects and the determination of their trajectory. Then they are photographed, which allows you to determine the appearance and motion parameters. The next stage of control is the determination of the reflective characteristics of a space object. And as a result - its recognition, identification of an accessory, appointment and technical characteristics.
The main instrument - an optical telescope - is located in one of the buildings in the tower with a white dome opening for the duration of its work.
“It is this telescope that, working as part of an optical-electronic system, allows obtaining images of space objects in reflected sunlight at a distance of up to 40 thousand km. Simply put, we see all the objects, including diameters up to 10 cm, in near and far space, ”said Major Alexander Lelekov, commander of the duty crew. - After computer processing, the data goes to the Space Control Center in the Moscow region. There they are processed and entered into the Main Catalog of Space Objects. Now only Americans have the opportunity to compile such an information base, which, in accordance with international treaties, regularly exchange this information. According to recent data, around the Earth 10 thousands of space objects rotate, including operating domestic and foreign satellites. Separate category - space debris. According to various estimates, up to 100 thousands of pieces of debris are in orbit.
- What are they dangerous?
- First of all, uncontrollability. Collision with them can lead to disruption of communication, navigation, as well as to man-made accidents and catastrophes. For example, a small fragment of the size of 1 cm can destroy any satellite or even an orbital station of the ISS type. But it is in space. And the possible consequences associated with the fall of space objects on Earth. For example: once a week an object larger than 1 meter goes off the orbit. And our task is to foresee such a situation, to determine with what degree of probability it will occur, where, in which area there will be a fall.
UFO is not familiar
Accompanied by officers I pass to the holy of holies - the command post of the unit. I am immediately warned that photography is limited here. Categorically you can not remove the jobs of duty.
Everywhere impeccable cleanliness. Unlike modern films, where the military or scientists have a mass of all kinds of equipment and computers, the interior here is spartan and more closely resembles the 1980's. Karelian birch panels, bedside tables, desks, desk lamps, phones with a circular dial. On the walls - homemade visual agitation: hand-drawn posters about the Space Forces, stories parts, tables with calculations on which the readings of the locators are chalked up. In the operating room, where several officers are on duty, in front of the tables there is a huge screen onto which the entire cosmic situation is projected. From the speakers come the command, clear only to military astrologers.
The Russian flag, portraits of Putin and Shoigu remind of modernity. In the red corner - the icon of St. Nicholas.
“This was given to us by the local father when he consecrated the locator,” says Alexander Lelekov.
Immediately I remembered the ditties, which were sung in the 1961 year: "Gagarin flew into space - I did not see God." But, apparently, the times are changing, and there are no atheists among the military.
Having watched the work of the crew on duty, I ask the question: do you believe in astrology and have you ever met a UFO at work? A major with a smile like that of Yuri Gagarin replied:
- I do not believe in astrology. And about the UFO ... I was in the army for many years, until “Krona” I served on the “Pechora” and in the Moscow region, but I had never encountered anything like that. All objects that we observe are of reasonable origin.