Despite the rivalry between the leading cosmic powers in the creation of large-capacity launch vehicles, in the near future, small and ultra-small spacecraft (ICA) will receive rapid development. What tasks will they solve?
In conditions of congestion near-Earth space rate on the ICA can be very promising. And not only because they are many times cheaper than multi-ton cobwebs, but their efficiency is no less.
Monsters in orbit
One of the most important directions for the development of ICA systems is information support for the troops. Russia was the first country to deploy the appropriate equipment on board an ultra-small spacecraft. In 1995, this direction was supported and, as they say, blessed by the commander of the Military Space Forces (1989 – 1992), Colonel-General Vladimir Ivanov. A group of young scientists under the leadership of Major General Vyacheslav Fateev gathered to implement the plan.
Small spacecraft can be created in the walls of the university
What does the ICA have to do with the information support of ground forces and EKR? The fact is that each traditional space system has its pros and cons. After all, the development of orbiters was not without reason with a constant increase in size and weight - this was required by the equipment placed on them. Take satellites optoelectronic intelligence. Their resolution is proportional to the diameter of the lens of the onboard telescope. Optics that produce acceptable reconnaissance results weigh between three and five tons. Satellites equipped with such equipment, give good pictures. But for economic reasons, such spacecraft start up very little, and they physically cannot be at the right point of the orbit to control the situation in an arbitrarily selected area. Either there must be a lot of such reconnaissance satellites, or you will have to accept the fact that control from space of a specific battlefield is possible, at best, two or three times a day. In addition, the interpretation of satellite images for target recognition requires, as a rule, a large investment of time, which is unacceptable under the conditions of conducting combat operations.
Radio intelligence also imposes serious requirements on the carrier: to increase the resolution, the on-board receivers must be carried as far as possible, but there is a limit - the size of the satellite.
Space radar intelligence, based on the so-called monolation principle, has its own requirements. Here we need a large power system onboard power supply, which increases the load. In addition, such a system provides only one view of observation and it is easy to deceive it by using false targets in the form of the simplest corner reflectors.
It turns out that with the traditional methods of space reconnaissance, spacecraft cannot be small by definition. So it is time to adopt other methods. At the forum "Army-2015" they were devoted to the "round table" "Small spacecraft - a tool for solving problems of aerospace defense."
The first direction is multispectral intelligence. As Vyacheslav Fateev says, with a minimum diameter telescope we can, as they say, cover the target and take a picture with a low resolution. But if we add to this the multispectral portrait of the goal, then using the on-board computer we get a high-quality image in real time. An optical reconnaissance system without a large telescope is quite compact, and the speed of signal processing with modern means is high. The experiments performed showed promising results, but they have not yet been claimed by the Ministry of Defense. But in the USA, a spacecraft for information support of the TACSAT battlefield has already been created on this principle.
The second direction is the development of radio intelligence. With a distance between 10 – 50 satellites of kilometers, the resolution of a space system due to an increase in the measurement base increases hundreds of times. The parameters of the spacecraft required for this purpose are calculated. It weighs only 100 kilograms. And a system of three or four such ICAs will be able to provide duplex communication on the battlefield, monitoring vehicles, territory, atmosphere ... The accuracy of determining the coordinates is meters. Today such a system is extremely demanded by rocket troops and artillery. But in order to get an order for it, again, it is necessary to work seriously with the Ministry of Defense.
With regard to radar, experts have investigated the possibility of third-party radio illumination of the target or its irradiation from other satellites - as if from the side. What does this give?
“One cluster satellite that has a transmitter irradiates the Earth’s surface and targets, and lightweight satellites next to it (without transmitters and powerful power supply systems) receive a response signal,” explains Fateyev, “and build radio images of these targets. Moreover, in the cluster we receive not one, but several radio images at once, which eliminates the possibility of interference and opens the possibility of opening masked targets. ”
Scientists conducted an experiment on radar target light using the GLONASS spacecraft. The signal was weak. Nevertheless, seven radio images of the observed target were synthesized with illumination from seven satellites at once. This has become a new direction of work. Judging by the publications in the foreign press, they became interested in the experiment abroad. The European Space Agency intends to repeat it. But no matter what they get, here we were the first.
Guarding Orbital Borders
For the information support of troops, it is important to solve not only the problem of operational mutual communication of units in the area of military conflict, but also the problem of global operational communication of remote military groupings (groups of ships of the Navy, aviation groups) with the central military command. As domestic and foreign experience shows, all these problems are relatively simple and stable to be solved with the help of low-orbit groupings of small satellite communications.
Another important area of troop information support is global weather control in combat areas and areas of troop redeployment. It is also under the force of ICA groups. Our and foreign experience has shown this.
One more direction is the improvement of the space flight of the aerospace defense organization. Here, according to Vyacheslav Fateev, the first and most successful application of the ICA is the development of the space control system (SSS). A number of satellites with cross fields of observation are located in orbit. The simulation says that only eight spacecraft in the group will allow you to specify the goal of any new object within half an hour. Now in ground optical-electronic and radar systems it takes several hours.
The gain in the creation of such a space train is that we do not have ground-based facilities that would observe orbits with an inclination of less than 30 degrees. For us, they are not available, but this system will make the problem solved.
It is possible to expand the space echelon of the SCCE through the creation of electronic reconnaissance equipment. To this end, radio-technical interception devices are placed on small spacecraft. As a result, it is possible to observe globally all geostationary communication systems that were previously unavailable for monitoring.
Another problem to be solved by the aerospace defense in the near future is the fight against the so-called inspection satellites. We know that Americans use them. Data on the creation and launch into geostationary orbit of two small satellites weighing about 220 kilograms were published. The goal is to control the actions of their geostationary spacecraft. However, these two spacecraft in orbit are moving either to one or the other side in the area of coverage of both the US and our geostationary spacecraft. It is very difficult to notice them from the Earth, but our UCC was able to do it.
Can an ICA be even smaller? There are calculations: with the size of 0,4 meter, the magnitude of the MCA will be approximately M18. And if it is even smaller, the satellite becomes indistinguishable from the Earth, and it is almost impossible to fight with such an “invisible person”. What to do?
“One of the most important areas of ICA development is the inspection of the geostationary orbit,” said Fateev. - If we can implement, it will be a success. But for this we need our inspection satellites. ”
The next most difficult direction is the space-based detection systems of hypersonic aircraft (GZLA). This is one of the most dangerous and serious weapons, which flies at medium altitudes (from 20 to 40 km and even higher). It seems, and not a satellite, but not a plane. Speeds - over 5 Mach. Not every radar is capable of fixing. Nevertheless, the Russian space monitoring system, in which there are ICAs, will be able to see such hypersonic devices. Since they heat up to 1000 degrees and create a plasma field around them, it takes a total of nine ICAs to “cover up” the HSADA.
Finally, it is necessary to create a grouping of the operational control of the ionosphere, including in the circumpolar region. This is extremely important, especially when solving problems of improving the accuracy of GLONASS. Errors in the determination of coordinates are still significant today, and before 2020, they should be significantly reduced. This is also necessary in connection with the commissioning of over-the-horizon radar systems of the aerospace defense system. Without a deep knowledge of the properties of the ionosphere, we cannot solve the problem of accurately determining the coordinates of radar targets. The problem is completely solved with the help of a group of small ionospheric monitoring devices.
The problem of continuous radiation observation in near-Earth space is not removed from the agenda.
As you can see, to solve various tasks, including those facing the troops, it is necessary to develop a multi-satellite information support system. This does not mean that a separate grouping is necessary for each of the 10 – 12 systems discussed above. It will turn out too expensive. According to Fateev, all this can and should be united in one group, the basis of which is mutual radio communication between all the nearest ICAs that create the network. Everyone sees a neighbor in the millimeter-wave channel and transmits his information through it.
At the same time, the most important task is being solved - the creation of a global information transmission system between any terrestrial and space consumers. If this is achieved, then information from any ICA can be transmitted to the desired point of the Earth, whether it be combat command signals from the commander to a subordinate or intelligence from other devices. Moreover, by virtue of the constant presence of one to three MCAs in the visibility zone of the consumer (the central military command), intelligence information is transmitted in real time from any place.
Thus, a single universal multi-satellite group solves the tasks of providing global communication, comprehensive operational intelligence of the theater and near-earth space, complete control of the Earth’s gravitational field (unfortunately, Russia is now left without orbital geodetic systems) and the weather ... Obviously, such opportunities will be used and in the military, and for peaceful purposes. And the most interesting civilian application will affect each of us. We are talking about the implementation of the idea of "Cosmic Internet". Some countries are already building such projects. "Space Internet" will nominate Russia to the number of the most informationally developed countries.
“It remains to be convinced of the effectiveness of the proposed universal unified ICA dual-use system for our military customer,” summarizes Fateyev. - Of course, there are problems. It is necessary to develop completely new information and space technologies. In addition, the smaller the spacecraft, the shorter its life in orbit. Therefore, it is necessary to envisage either an increase in the height of the orbit, or a timely replacement of the ICA. In addition, an economic assessment of the created unified system is necessary in order to understand how beneficial it will be for the state. ”
Who will formulate a technical task?
One of the problems is, experts state, that the customer, that is, the Ministry of Defense, has no experience in their creation and use. The second obstacle is the lack of tactical and technical requirements for such ICA. No one has yet clearly and precisely said what the TK should be.
Of course, there are relevant institutions, research institutes, interconnected standards. “In accordance with the international classification, ICAs are divided into devices from 500 to 100 kilograms, from 100 to 10 kilograms, from 10 to 1 kilograms, from kilograms to 100 grams, recalls Vladimir Letunov, General Director of the Scientific and Technological Progress Program for Integrated Technology Development. - It matters and the size of the devices. Objects with a diameter of less than 10 centimeters are not identified by means of radio control, and they can only be seen at certain heights in optics. ”
There is an understanding that a single platform should be developed for such ICAs. But the idea has not yet been specified. The basics on which the grouping is built are understandable, there is a set of classifiers, restrictions and constituent parts. According to Letunov, in the foreseeable future, 90 percent of the spacecraft will be small, followed by the future.
Deputy Chief Designer NPO them. Lavochkina Nikolai Klimenko explained that their company has been working on the creation of the ICA for a long time and purposefully and has a corresponding reserve. Created a modified space platform "Karat-200". On its basis, applied scientific and technical solutions are proposed. A number of experimental devices have already been in space. There are projects of other spacecraft of this type for solving applied tasks in the interests of the military. However, the Ministry of Defense does not give the go-ahead for production.
The old dog is empty
Does Russia have a concept for launching and using ICA? Alas ... Although for the first time a proposal on the use of ICA was put forward, we repeat, the former commander of the Military Space Forces, Colonel-General Vladimir Ivanov. His idea was that large satellites - for senior management, ICA - for groups of troops. It was 20 years ago, but the concept was never implemented. Why?
Required specific cases. In particular, a series of small radar vehicles was designated under the code name Condor. They have not received development. Now only one of these devices is in orbit. Why did not work? Because the opposition of large and small spacecraft is counterproductive, wrong. They should complement each other. In peacetime, high-performance machines are needed for the formation of reference databases. ICA does not solve this problem. And the big ones can. Earlier in a special period, that is, before the war, according to the existing canons, it was envisaged to build up the orbital constellation at the expense of the spacecraft’s ammunition. But it has not existed for many years, there is simply nothing to replenish the orbital grouping. However, the ammunition should be. Because when it becomes necessary to enter the necessary data into the rocket route maps, the main role is played not so much by productivity as by the frequency of observation. Building up a grouping involves more than just increasing the number of devices: 20 – 25 – 30 ... No economy can withstand this. This means that the quantity must be accurately calculated. The frequency of observation in two or three hours is quite satisfied with the military department.
It is necessary to simplify the design as much as possible, to reduce the price of products using commercial offers. The experience of local conflicts shows that their duration is from a week to a year. It means that the active life of the ICA must be commensurate. The main thing is not to allow a situation where readiness for launch will be ensured only by the end of hostilities.
But for this and requires the development of an appropriate concept. The period of preparation for the launch of such devices from the arrival of the team - a week. In the opinion of the developers, it would be advisable:
- to create the concept of operative increase of the capabilities of the orbital grouping in a special period while maintaining the requirements for the payload for this standard (they should be applicable to both large and small spacecraft);
- to develop unified requirements for the manufacturing technology of spacecraft, which will ensure their accelerated release;
-create unified space platforms with a modular architecture and automated interfaces for accelerated integration into space systems (so that all developers have a clear idea of how and from what we will make the device);
- implement Russian interfaces that will ensure the functioning of space platforms in various conditions.
Finally, it would be right to gather an expert community, including from representatives of the defense industry and ordering bodies, in order to decide on the use of such a multi-purpose joint grouping of spacecraft in a special period of time.
Until the named approaches are implemented, nothing new will appear in the space orbits of Russia.