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Russia Appears To Be Behind Both U.S. And China In Terms Of Reconnaissance Satellites: Report

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Russia Appears To Be Behind Both U.S. And China In Terms Of Reconnaissance Satellites: Report

ILLUSTRATIVE. Click to see full-size image

Russia needs to upgrade its fleet of optical reconnaissance satellites, as it appears to currently be falling behind, according to expert Bart Hendrickx.

“Russia currently has only two operational optical reconnaissance satellites in orbit, both of which may already have exceeded their design lifetime. They are to be replaced by more capable satellites carrying a primary mirror about the same size as of those believed to be flown aboard American reconnaissance satellites, but it is unclear when these will be ready to fly. An experimental satellite launched in 2018 likely is the precursor of a constellation of much smaller spy satellites that will augment the imagery provided by the big satellites,” Hendrickx said in his piece, published on The Space Review back in August 2020.

During the Soviet era, reconnaissance satellites used to return film back to Earth through a capsule, and such old equipment was still in use up until 2015 in Russia, when the last such satellite was taken down.

Drawbacks of film-return satellites were the limited supply of film they could carry (and, hence, their limited lifetimes) and, more importantly, their inability to return images in timely fashion.

In 1976, the United States orbited its first KH-11/KENNEN digital reconnaissance satellite using CCD technology to send back images to Earth in real time.

The satellites send images to Earth via data relay satellites in highly elliptical and geostationary orbits. Sixteen of the type were launched in total.

The Soviet Union did not launch its first electro-optical reconnaissance satellite until December 1982.

The first-generation satellites (Yantar-4KS1 or Terilen), having an estimated resolution of 1 meter from an altitude of 200 kilometers, were launched nine times between 1982 and 1989.

An improved second-generation satellite (Yantar-4KS1M or Neman) with sub-meter resolution saw 15 launches between 1986 and 2000.

The satellites were capable of sending images to Earth via military data relay satellites called Geyzer.

It would appear that Russia was, somewhat, catching up, but initially Soviet satellites would have a lifetime of 6 months, which was gradually increased to approximately 1 year, but that was still much less than the US multi-year capable satellites.

In 1983, the Soviet Union decided to develop a satellite that could compete more adequately with the US-made ones, but ultimately, they were unsuccessful.

The LOMO optical institute in Leningrad was ordered to build an optical system called 17V317 featuring a telescope with a mirror 1.5 meters in diameter. It was supposed to fly on two types of satellites.

One, called Sapfir, was to be built by TsSKB-Progress and placed into low orbits for close-look missions while the other, dubbed Araks, would be manufactured by NPO Lavochkin and fly in much higher orbits for area survey missions.

The Spafir never made it off the ground, while Lavochkin launched one satellite in 1997 and then another in 2002, but they both failed long before their expected end of lifetime date.

From 2003 onwards, Russia was left, for a while, without any digital reconnaissance satellites and had to actually occasionally launch the film-return ones.

A downsized version of the failed digital satellite was suggested in 2001, and the contract was awarded for work to be carried out on the “Persona.”

After several years of delays, the first Persona satellite was launched as Kosmos-2441 on July 26, 2008, but Russian press reports at the time said it was lost barely two months later because memory boards in its on-board computer had been rendered useless by charged particles.

The next satellite, Kosmos-2486, fitted with hardened electronic components, went into orbit on June 7, 2013.

Speculation in the Russian press that this satellite soon ran into trouble as well was confirmed by court documents published in 2017.

Persona #3 was launched on June 23, 2015, into an orbit synchronized with that of the second satellite to provide maximum coverage of areas of interest on Earth. According to the same court documents, it also encountered technical problems during initial in-orbit testing and was not declared operational until November 2016.

“Despite the trouble-plagued start of the Kosmos-2486 and Kosmos-2506 missions, both satellites seem to have been operating normally ever since. However, if their design lifetime is indeed five years, both have exceeded it by now. While they may well continue to operate for several more years, Russia cannot afford the risk of losing the high-resolution imaging capability offered by these satellites and is busily working on an upgrade of its spy satellite fleet.”

Then, in August 2016, the Russian newspaper Kommersant revealed the existence of a replacement for Persona called Razdan.

Publicly accessible procurement documents show that the project officially began on June 19, 2014, with the signing of a contract between the Ministry of Defense and RKTs Progress. A second contract for the project was concluded by the same two parties on September 26, 2016.

Procurement documentation suggests that two Razdan satellites are currently under construction. Documentation released in September 2017 pointed to possible launch dates in late 2020 and late 2021, but these dates are likely to have been delayed since then.

On March 29, 2018, Russia launched a small military satellite from Plesetsk using the Soyuz-2-1v, a lightweight version of the Soyuz rocket without the four strap-on boosters. Announced as Kosmos-2525, it was placed into an orbit of roughly 320 by 350 kilometers with an inclination of 96.64°.

Online tenders for the transportation of the satellite to Plesetsk identified it as EMKA and linked it to the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Electromechanics (VNIIEM). It was also identified as Zvezda, according to separate documentation.

Zvezda is also mentioned on the website of a company called SKTB Plastik, which has drawings of a camera housing that it built for the satellite.

Kosmos-2525 is still operational, continuing to perform regular burns to protect its orbit from decay. One of the objectives of the mission has been to observe ground-based optical calibration targets developed at the Moscow Polytechnic University.

In conclusion, it turns out that Russia is relying on two aging Persona satellites to provide high-resolution imagery in the interests of the Ministry of Defense. Both seem to be functioning normally after having overcome significant problems during initial in-orbit testing. However, there is no guarantee they will continue to operate until the next-generation Razdan satellites are ready to take over.

Complicating matters further, Russia currently has no radar imaging satellites (neither civilian nor military) capable of seeing through cloud cover and making observations at night.

“In short, it is safe to say that Russia’s current space reconnaissance capabilities are far inferior to those of the United States and China. In a worst-case scenario, the Russian Ministry of Defense may even find itself depending solely on lower resolution imagery from Russian civilian Earth remote sensing satellites until its new fleet of reconnaissance satellites is ready to take to the skies.”


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Tommy Jensen

Exactly as I said. America is showing leadership, leading from behind, while Russia is bragging day and night about being the biggest, the best, the greatest nation on the planet among equal partners, which they are not! We are, because we keep it stealth classified as professionals.


A real American would know that USA is not the best nation on the planet but in the Milky Way.

Lone Ranger

Or in a CIA funded Disney movie…


Orwel’s Animal Farm was better than any Disney movie and was funded by CIA

Lone Ranger

Was it? CIA didn’t exist in 1945 and Orwell was British.


As you can’t compare apples to oranges, you can’t compare books with movies and we were speaking about Disney movies, though Animal Farm is the notorious animation movie made in 1954 with money from CIA. And there are more animation movies funded by CIA but this is the best by far.

Lone Ranger

Too bad they took it as an instruction manual instead of a warning.


I think you refer to 1984 not the Animal Farm :)

Lone Ranger

To both actually. Orwell was an insider, he tried to warn us with his work. They killed him for it with a bio weapon mimicking lung disease.


To both and none since Putin is the leader of the free workd.

Lone Ranger

Indeed he is. If not for Russia or Putin, globalists would have already succeeded at a enslaving us. Resistance is Victory.


Indeed that’s a role he plays for peasants.

Lone Ranger

Putin is real, sorry to dissapoint you. Action speak louder than words.


Yeah, begging the West to lift the sanctions is the action that evidentiate both his stature and status.

Lone Ranger

Never happened.


Still happens.

Lone Ranger

In CIA funded Disney movies…


On the contary insolent,yet again the opposite proved to be what you said=Fact! Fact,russian economy has never been stronger since illegit/puny sanctions arisen.

Fact,Russia akso built the longest bridge in europe and anything usa coukd muster, ever since=Fact!


That bridge is not finished yet. And they coyldn’t finish even the water suply. In 2019 Russia gdp grew with 1%. Russia is a shithole, Fact!

Lone Ranger

Sarcasm detected…

Black Waters

Listen, whether is sarcasm what you just said or not, i’ll clarify you something… I’m sure that the U.S may have some toys hidden (there are still some warhawks in washington) but leadership is something that USA lost since 2009 (international rights, influence trough words, that’s why they are going wild with the coups in the balkans) and Russia it’s still catching up in some areas, but as always, claiming that you know what they have at the moment when most of the cool toys are always classified from the eye of the public, it’s pretty naive.

It’s also pretty apparent that the “feminist” agenda that the U.S is following it’s just a fictional breach to create a division between different cultures, to maintain the EU under U.S control, at the same time, they trie continuously to look weak at the public eye. Even after all that crap, it doesn’t deceive most of the people but it does creates division and unrest, and as you may have seen it affecting the U.S too, it’s like wilding a weapon to fight an enemy that it does also heart you at the same time, which shows the desesperation of the U.S in such difficult times, you know… with the collapse of the fiat currency and the decline of influence in the west.

Harry Smith

Please pardon me, but I think that turning point was 2008. When Russia kicked Georgia’s ass and USA did nothing. That was the moment when doubts in USA world domination started to appear.


USA did nothing???!! No :

They huffed and puffed lot sent few ships to black sea, asked for their equipment to be returned….and than nothing.

Tommy Jensen

Come on. Georgia had a lousy case. Murdering a quantity of Russian peacekeepers and then run to US asking them to nuke Russia.

It was not a case starting a heavy war with Russia because of a little snitch shithole like Georgia.

Harry Smith

Just imagine this situation in 1994. We both understand it was impossible, I think. Not the shithole is the end of hegemony but the reaction by USA.

Black Waters

I know that, but the effects as always took a time to take effect, that’s why i said 2009.

Tommy Jensen

Sorry but if you notice money MSM, they have been crying decline and collapse since 2009. There is no recession, but speculation and manipulation.

Harry Smith

Eff! Tommy you’re the best! ROFL. https://media2.giphy.com/media/3cHdNFajtLxPG/giphy.gif

Lone Ranger

Key word appears… During the cold war the U.S. also underestimated the number of Russian nuclear subs, SAM systems and ICBMs.


too expensive

Lazy Gamer

So these explains how the terrorists in Syria can hide in deserts, mountains, and cross borders. Why Russian bombs seem to have a greater margin of error than US counterparts. The only defense in massive false flag operations is this, yet there has been little augmentation of this area. Russian military doctrine seems to lack initiative as reconaissance seems less important.

rightiswrong rightiswrong

And yet the US knew nothing of Russian military shift into Syria 2015, until they were there.

The US still cannot give data on where the Russians are in Ukraine, even though they say they are there.

The US never saw T14 or Su57 in Syria, until Russia said they are there.

Nothing the US does surprises Russia, maybe the Russians are better at keeping secrets, than the bluffers who run the US.

johnny rotten

Sure, the USA is the only indispensable nation and Russia is just a gas station, when the americunts stop believing their lies it will be too late, asking Napoleon and Hitler would be the minimum, but the americunts despise History and Culture and prefer TV and junk food.

Traiano Welcome

No need. Americans are so loud you can pick them up on google maps.

Band Itkoitko

Interesting. However, believing that we may have sufficiently reliable information on reconnaissance satellites of any nation is quite naive, or that such information is to be found in court documents… It’s traditional for Russia to be very closed and secretive as far as their security is concerned.

Not to mention that the article assumes that the US is necessarily leading in the field. Now, this can be true and is likely true, but still it sounds a bit presumptive.


Agree 100%

That kind of equipment is top secret for every country let alone Russia. All “expert” articles are also based on old second rate intel and some guessing at the best. The rest is pure propaganda and manipulation with different objectives.

AM Hants

Especially when the US needs Russian assistance to get their satellites into space.

chris chuba

Any new satellites better be armed w/at least one small gatling gun even if it can only fire 200 rounds to counter U.S. anti-satellite weapons. It looks like the first generation U.S. warfare will be to adapt repair vehicles to clamp down on and damage foreign satellites. This is a rather crude method but why put something up that the other guys will knock down with a feather duster.

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