At a distance of 30 million km. How Russia plans to control outer space

There are currently about 7,000 tonnes of space debris and 3,000 tonnes of active vehicles, including the International Space Station (ISS), in orbit near Earth. Objects are tracked by the Russian automated system for warning of dangerous situations in space near the earth (ASPOS OKP). In the updated version, it will be called the Milky Way. Grigory Stupak, general designer for ASPOS OKP, talked about its tasks, composition, benefits and possibilities in an interview with TASS.

From satellites to space weather

For the first time, the name of the Milky Way’s system was heard within the framework of XLIV Academic Lectures on Cosmonautics in memory of SP Drottning. Then the first Deputy Director General of Roscosmos for the development of the orbital constellation and promising project, Yuri Urlichich, announced his intention to change the name of ASPOS. According to him, the updated system will need to include both ground and space segments. Last year it became known that the specialists from JSC “TsNIIMash”, together with a potential developer, had previously examined the appearance and technical characteristics of the equipment for the system’s spacecraft.

ASPOS OKP General Designer Grigory Stupak

© Press service for JSC “TsNIIMash”

Grigory Stupak, general designer for ASPOS OKP, told TASS that at the moment the concept of creating the Milky Way’s system has already been developed and approved. The provisions of the developed and approved concept for the creation of a system of information and analytical support for the security of space activities in the near Earth’s outer space “Milky Way” for the period 2020-2025 and for the period up to 2035 form the basis for the ongoing work to form the scientific and technical reserve for the creation systems, “he said.

According to the general designer, draft technical specifications are being prepared for important research and development work, as well as the composition of the collaboration between contractor organizations. The Milky Way will include four types of near-Earth space surveillance: tracking of artificial space objects (satellites and space debris), space weather, surveillance of space radio links, and surveillance of small celestial bodies – asteroids and comets.

Each of the near – Earth space monitoring subsystems will have its own information and analysis center and a specialized set of technical aids to monitor the NES.

Grigory Stupak

general designer ASPOS OKP

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In Russia and abroad

The current configuration of ASPOS, the general designer specified, consists only of terrestrial optoelectronic means (telescopes), there are no radar stations in its composition. “As part of the Milky Way project, it is planned to create and distribute specialized radar stations, not only in Russia but also abroad,” he said.

In the future, not only Roskosmos organizations but also partners may be involved in the operation of the system. “Variants are being considered to attract funding from the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in particular the observatory at the Institute of Applied Astronomy at the Russian Academy of Sciences (IPA RAS),” said Stupak.

In general, according to him, the ground segment will include optoelectronic, radar and radio equipment. At the same time, vehicles equipped with optoelectronic systems on board for monitoring space close to the ground will be launched into orbit. “The orbital structure for the constellation of NES monitoring spacecraft, their number, orbital parameters, requirements for onboard and ground systems will be determined as part of the planned research work,” added the system’s general designer. The location of the satellites will depend on the tasks they solve.

Over 30 million km

At the moment, ASPOS OKP monitors 11 thousand space objects, the size of which is from 25–30 cm. 15-20 cm, which is due to the absence of radar monitoring tools in its composition, “Stupak explained.

According to him, with the development of the system, it will be possible to monitor even smaller objects.

The Milky Way, taking into account the development and creation of promising optoelectronic radar systems and the improvement of the scientific and methodological apparatus, will make it possible to detect artificial space objects in near-Earth outer space with a size of 5-7 cm or more at heights up to 2 500 km, with a size of 10–15 cm and more – at altitudes of 2,500–45,000 km, from 0.5–1 m in size – at altitudes over 45,000 km

Grigory Stupak

general designer ASPOS OKP

In addition, the Milky Way will also observe asteroids and comets. He will be able to detect dangerous celestial bodies at a distance of about 30 million km. “The plans for the creation of the promising Milky Way system provide for the development and implementation of specialized means for detecting and monitoring dangerous celestial bodies at a distance of about 30 million km from Earth, including the early detection of asteroids approaching Earth from the Sun,” he said. Stupak. .

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The asteroid comet risk, the general designer explained, is a global problem for all of humanity. As an example, he mentioned the “unnoticed” approach and bypass of the asteroid 2020 VT4 at a distance of less than 400 km from the earth’s surface on November 13, 2020. According to Stupak, “this indicates the shortcomings of existing systems and means of detecting dangerous celestial bodies in the world, observe them, determine their characteristics and assess possible threats. “

Line of products and services

Vintergatan’s general designer said that the data that could be obtained with the help of Vintergatan would form the basis for a number of products and services.

“Based on the information generated by the system, a range of products and services will be created. The system’s open information service will significantly increase the efficiency of the implementation of space-oriented training programs,” he is convinced.

In the material from the main scientific institute in Roscosmos, which is available to TASS, it has previously been reported that access to the system’s information will be provided via an open internet platform. At the same time, it is planned that revenues from services for monitoring near-Earth space and protection of spacecraft from foreign partners by 2035 could amount to 1.2 billion rubles.

Ekaterina Moskvich

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