Credit: © Mark Wade
AKA: 11F664;Araks. Status: Operational 1997. First Launch: 1997-06-06. Last Launch: 2002-07-25. Number: 2 . Gross mass: 6,000 kg (13,200 lb).
Following the failure of the Kozlov Yantar-4KS2 to meet the requirement of matching the performance of the United States KH-11 satellite, a 'clean sheet of paper' approach was taken. Studies were begun in 1980 during the eleventh Five Year Plan (1981-1985). By June 1983 a decree was issued by the Soviet Ministers for a constellation of new-design third generation electro-optical military reconnaissance satellites. These would be orbited in two groups of ten satellites at varying altitudes. This swarm would provide almost complete coverage of the earth's surface at a range of photographic resolutions. Competitive designs were undertaken by NPO Lavochkin and Kozlov's TsSKB. Flight trials were to begin in 1986 to 1987.
LOMO (Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Enterprise) was to build the telescope optics for both designs. Satellite communications data link for the satellites were developed by NPO Vega. But work was slow, and the telescope had weight problems, delaying the start of flight trials. The mid-1980's put huge demands on the spacecraft design bureaus. They were attempting to test and put into production third generation systems while at the same time responding to government crash programs for 'star wars' systems. The Twelfth Five Year Plan had to be revised twice to accommodate these changes. Work at TsSKB was further delayed by priority given to the Buran space shuttle. By January 1989 a new government resolution set 1991 as the date for the start of flight trials. But this was almost immediately followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the attendant financial crisis. Trials were again delayed to 1996-1997 and TsSKB finally dropped out of the competition and turned to continued production of the proven Yantar-4KS1 system.
The new satellite was finally launched in 1997 into an unusually high (1510-2747 km )orbit for a photo-reconnaissance satellite. This evidently was to take full advantage of the single satellite available, even at the sacrifice of ground resolution. Moscow newspapers said that it should not have been launched at the time because its customer, the GRU, was not ready to use the information it provided. The press claimed that the launch had been timed to promote interest in Russian products in the following week's Paris Air Show.
The satellite had been described in Lavochkin OKB promotional brochures years before the launch. Called Arkon, it was stated to have a resolution of 2 to 5 m, depending on the orbital altitude. To achieve this the satellite had a reflecting telescope system with the very long focal length of 27 m. The satellite's CCD sensor operated in 8 bands in the optical and near infra-red region of the spectrum from 0.4 to 1.1 microns. The 30 km swath width indicated a field of view of 0.5 degrees.
The satellite could be rolled 20 degrees from nadir, and the slant range for the system was 3000 km. This suggested that the satellite could image at least 1,000 km from the sub-satellite point, and hence could rapidly revisit locations. The satellite's mission was described as "highly regular observation" and this would be achievable with its 11 revolution per day orbit.
Credit: Manufacturer Image
A decree was issued by the Soviet Ministers for a constellation of new-design third generation electro-optical military reconnaissance satellites. These would be orbited in two groups of ten satellites at varying altitudes. This swarm would provide almost complete coverage of the earth's surface at a range of photographic resolutions.
The project was delayed by higher-priority test and production of third generation systems while at the same time responding to government crash programs for 'star wars' systems. But the revised schedule was almost immediately followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the attendant financial crisis.
This was the second launch of the Arkon-1 electro-optical reconnaissance. The 17S40 Blok DM5 upper stage and satellite were placed by the Proton into a parking orbit. The DM then made two burns to place the satellite in its 1500 x 1836 km x 64.4 deg operational orbit.