Friday, June 21, 2024
Friday, June 21, 2024
Home » Sanctions further delay Russian missile early warning program in space

Sanctions further delay Russian missile early warning program in space

by Thomas Burke
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Russia launched its sixth Tundra early warning satellite in November and has four more to go before reaching its goal of 10 total by 2024. But sources say production problems and sanctions are among the issues delaying the space program.

The Defence Ministry’s Kupol constellation of satellites — an integrated space-based detection and combat control system — was designed to help the country track ballistic missile launches. Also known as EKS, Kupol serves as a replacement to the Soviet-era Oko and Oko-1 systems, which were operational from 1982 to 2019.

Russia wants at least 10 Tundra satellites in high-elliptical orbit — as well as a number of geostationary satellites — to support EKS. In late 2016, then-First Deputy Commander of the Aerospace Forces Lt. Gen. Pavel Kurachenko said the service planned to have all 10 in orbit by 2020.

But that year, the government-published newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported the Defence Ministry had plans to deploy a total of 10 by 2022. And around the same time as that report, a ministerial newspaper cited the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, then-Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, as saying the deployment of a group of orbital spacecraft for EKS is envisaged by 2024.

“The launch rate will be dictated by the need to replace aging or defunct satellites,” according to Bart Hendrickx, a longtime observer of Russia’s space program. “The minimum constellation they need for round-the-clock coverage is four. But it’s always good to have some redundancy, not only to safeguard against satellite malfunctions but also to reduce the chance of false alarms.”

Following the launch of the fourth Tundra satellite in May 2020, the general director of local aerospace company Energia announced the EKS constellation had reached “the minimum standard strength.”

While development of the EKS system began in 2000, it wasn’t until seven years later that the government signed a contract with Energia to supply the system. But repeated changes by the ministry to tactical and technical requirements caused production delays, according to the company.

Hendrickx said the main reason for delays “must be production issues.”

“And one can be fairly sure that these have to do largely with the sanctions,” he told Defense News, referring to economic restrictions placed on Russia as a result of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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