Russia launches military satellite

by Chris Bergin

A Molniya-M rocket with a 2BL upper stage has successfully launched the Kosmos-2422 (US-K, Oko) satellite from Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia today.

The Russian military spy/early warning satellite is one of a new range of highly elliptical orbit (HEO) spacecraft that are replenishing Russia’s aging military constellation of 59 military satellites.

‘It has been assigned the number Cosmos-2422,’ said a military spokesman to RIA Novosti.

‘The satellite, which was launched in the interests of the Defence Ministry, is now in stable contact with ground control. All onboard systems are operating normally.’

The launch marked the 220th mission involving the reasonably reliable four stage Molnia-M carrier rocket, all of which have launched from the Plesetsk space center since 1970.

A US-KS (Oko) spacecraft has a 50cm diameter mirror, mounted on a 2m long cylindrical frame, weighing in at 2.4 tons, lists’s bio page for the satellite. The spacecraft has four orbit correction liquid-fuel engines and 16 orientation and stabilization liquid-fuel engines, providing active 3-axis attitude control, necessary for telescope orientation.

It’s purpose on orbit is to monitor for radiation from missiles, from which it will alert its ground station of launch activity, providing data and images of its target. Kosmos-2422 also carries several smaller telescopes that most likely provide a wide-angle view of the Earth in infrared and visible parts of spectrum, which can be used as a auxiliary observation channel.

Early attempts to set up a reliable early warning system for the Soviet Union proved to be highly unsuccessful, with only seven of 13 satellites launched managing to live more than 100 days. Before their self destruction packages were removed in 1983, 11 of 31 satellites in total were destroyed.

All were deemed inferior to their US counterparts during the Cold War, although the Soviet Union kept their lack of capability secret.

Russia’s next launch will be the Dnepr rocket, lifting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, carrying numerous satellites into orbit, including 14 ‘CubeSats.’

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