Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 137

The second of two missile early-warning satellites failed recently, seriously degrading Russia’s ability to detect a missile attack. (Kommersant-daily, July 15) The Kosmos-2350 satellite was launched into geostationary orbit on April 29, carrying one of Russia’s second generation early warning spacecraft–the 3,000-kilogram “Prognoz” satellite, which was equipped with a telescope to scan for the hot exhaust from a launching missile. The Prognoz system, inaugurated in 1988, has had a troubled history. The paper reported that the latest in the series had stopped responding to commands from its ground control station on July 6. A government commission had concluded that there was no hope of reactivating the satellite. The only other Prognoz in orbit had been launched in August 1997 but failed later in the year.

The Russians still deploy an older early-warning system called “Oko.” These smaller satellites are placed in a high elliptical orbit and can only monitor potential missile launch sites when directly over them. The system requires nine satellites to be effective. Only five are currently in orbit. The military was far more enthusiastic about the Prognoz geostationary system and hoped to keep seven satellites in orbit in order to provide continuous global coverage. Money problems–to procure the satellites and the Proton-K boosters which put them in orbit–forced them to settle for just two satellites. Both of these are now dead. (Kommersant-daily, July 15)

The failure of these early-warning satellites came at a time when the military was beginning to improve its posture in space. In June, two reconnaissance satellites were successfully put into orbit–the first such missions launched this year. Russia had been without space reconnaissance capability since April, when a previous satellite was brought back to earth. (Aviation Week and Space Technology, July 13)