Why Russia Still Uses Film In Spy Satellites

Moderators: Moderators, Administrator

Why Russia Still Uses Film In Spy Satellites

Joined: November 12th, 2010, 9:19 pm

May 23rd, 2012, 8:27 pm #1

Why Russia Still Uses Film In Spy Satellites

May 23, 2012: On May 17th Russia launched its eighth Kobalt M reconnaissance satellite. The first one was launched eight years ago. The second Kobalt M went up in May, 2006, in a very dramatic fashion. That launch was just in time, as their only operational spy satellite (a naval reconnaissance bird) had died the previous month. By the end of 2006 Russia managed to launch an electronic recon satellite, and another naval recon satellite. At the time, Russia had dozens of military satellites in orbit, but they were all for communications, or everything but photo and electronic reconnaissance. Russia is still using a lot of birds designed with Soviet (Cold War era) technology. This is changing, as a new generation of satellites, built more to Western standards, is going up. But a lot of the older tech will remain in use for the foreseeable future.

Kobalt M satellites weigh 6.7 tons and contain three re-entry vehicles for returning film. Yes, a quarter century after the United States stopped using this method Russian continues to use film, instead of digital photography for some of its recon birds. In the United States, the last generation of film-using spy satellites, the Keyhole 9 (or KH 9), was used in 1984. The KH 1 through 9 series satellites sent film back in canisters (for high resolution pictures), to be developed.

The Keyhole 9, the first of which went up in 1971, was not only the last of the American film satellite designs but the largest and most capable. Its basic layout was used by the subsequent digital camera birds. The KH 9 could cover large areas at high (for the time) resolution of .6 meters (24 inches). This was more than adequate to spot and count tanks, aircraft, and even small warships. The 19th, and last, KH 9 went up in 1984. The KH-9 was a 13 ton satellite with multiple cameras and 4 or 5 reentry vehicles for returning the film for developing and analysis. The KH-9s were nicknamed Big Bird. The first film camera satellite, KH 1, went up in 1959. Thus for 25 years the film-using satellites supplied coverage of hostile nations.

Russia launched its first digital photo recon satellite in 1997. This Arkon model was not very successful. A more reliable Persona satellite (with higher resolution) went up four years ago. This was 22 years after the first American KH-11 went into orbit. The U.S. still uses KH-11s (much upgraded from the original), which have much higher resolution and reliability than Persona.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htspac ... 20523.aspx

<table cellpadding="10"><tr><td align="left"></td><td width="20"></td><td align="center">"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.

It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.

Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."

John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.
</td><td align="right"></td></tr></table>
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: February 5th, 2012, 8:04 pm

May 25th, 2012, 2:36 am #2

"This was more than adequate to spot and count tanks, aircraft, and even small warships."

...you know one would think if you see a tank, seeing a small warship would be sort of a given (as it would be much larger), just a thought...

Anyway, the cool part about the Keyhole series is that they have a rather famous (and perhaps more noble) progeny...that being the Hubble Space Telescope. The body of the Hubble is used in the later KH series and details about making mirrors for high resolution photography were 'released' from the National Reconnaissance Office to NASA to assist in the creation of Hubble.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KH-11_Kennan#Design

Quote
Like
Share

Joined: February 1st, 2005, 10:45 pm

May 26th, 2012, 11:04 pm #3

Why Russia Still Uses Film In Spy Satellites

May 23, 2012: On May 17th Russia launched its eighth Kobalt M reconnaissance satellite. The first one was launched eight years ago. The second Kobalt M went up in May, 2006, in a very dramatic fashion. That launch was just in time, as their only operational spy satellite (a naval reconnaissance bird) had died the previous month. By the end of 2006 Russia managed to launch an electronic recon satellite, and another naval recon satellite. At the time, Russia had dozens of military satellites in orbit, but they were all for communications, or everything but photo and electronic reconnaissance. Russia is still using a lot of birds designed with Soviet (Cold War era) technology. This is changing, as a new generation of satellites, built more to Western standards, is going up. But a lot of the older tech will remain in use for the foreseeable future.

Kobalt M satellites weigh 6.7 tons and contain three re-entry vehicles for returning film. Yes, a quarter century after the United States stopped using this method Russian continues to use film, instead of digital photography for some of its recon birds. In the United States, the last generation of film-using spy satellites, the Keyhole 9 (or KH 9), was used in 1984. The KH 1 through 9 series satellites sent film back in canisters (for high resolution pictures), to be developed.

The Keyhole 9, the first of which went up in 1971, was not only the last of the American film satellite designs but the largest and most capable. Its basic layout was used by the subsequent digital camera birds. The KH 9 could cover large areas at high (for the time) resolution of .6 meters (24 inches). This was more than adequate to spot and count tanks, aircraft, and even small warships. The 19th, and last, KH 9 went up in 1984. The KH-9 was a 13 ton satellite with multiple cameras and 4 or 5 reentry vehicles for returning the film for developing and analysis. The KH-9s were nicknamed Big Bird. The first film camera satellite, KH 1, went up in 1959. Thus for 25 years the film-using satellites supplied coverage of hostile nations.

Russia launched its first digital photo recon satellite in 1997. This Arkon model was not very successful. A more reliable Persona satellite (with higher resolution) went up four years ago. This was 22 years after the first American KH-11 went into orbit. The U.S. still uses KH-11s (much upgraded from the original), which have much higher resolution and reliability than Persona.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htspac ... 20523.aspx

<table cellpadding="10"><tr><td align="left"></td><td width="20"></td><td align="center">"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.

It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.

Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."

John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.
</td><td align="right"></td></tr></table>
The problem with using film is that you can only send so much canisters back to earth and that it takes a long time. Going digital means you can send everything wireless back to earth. Of course this communication can be intercepted etc.



An unavoidable war is called justice.
When brutality is the only option left,
it is holy.
Machiavelli - The Prince 1513.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

I'm not American, I'm from Flanders.
Quote
Like
Share