The Military Aspects of the Soviet Cosmonautics: A Side View

This book is the first effort in an unclassified Soviet publications to provide a comprehensive overview of the Soviet military space program.

Presented here are the classification of the military space systems by functions performed (Chapter 1), the analysis of the organizational evolution of the Soviet space program (Chapter 2) and the description of all observable satellite systems of military or double destination (Chapter 3). The incorporated annexes contain the list of space program-related enterprises and the description of the Soviet space launchers with the pertinent launch statistics.

The analysis made shows that the military aspects constantly dominated in the space activity of the former USSR. Their predominance was determined first by the governing principle of the state policy to achieve an all-round parity with the US. Being non-realistic as a whole, it was first of all implemented in the military field. Moreover, the state space program, which had emerged in 50-s from an ICBM developments, continues to be implemented through the Armed Forces, what creates preconditions for an infringement of civil programs in favor of military ones.

Decades of the space activity in the USSR resulted in creating dozens of space systems, covering all the spectrum of military applications, from a reconnaissance, communications, command and control to a negation of an adversary's satellites.

The orbiting nuclear weapons, caused fears between 1950-s and 1960-s, lost to ICBMs and failed to emerge. However, the USSR had developed "global" missiles, which entered an orbit for less than one full rotation. With the orbital interceptor system commissioned for operation in 1977, the USSR had become the only state to posses an operational antisatellite weapon.

Until recently the most group of the Soviet spacecraft was formed by optical reconnaissance satellites. The prolongation of latter's lifetime enabled cutting their annual number during the second half of 1980-s from 30-35 by half without observable harm to coverage.

The support military space systems, securing troops positioning, communication, command and control, are kept operational with the remarkable stability despite political and economical shocks.

Before 1990-91 the diminishing of annual rate of military space launches was mainly due to the prolongation of satellite's active lifetime and, partially, to the gradual retiring of obsolete systems, nor to the lowering of military space activity's priority.

The destruction of the USSR in 1991 does not itself mean changing space priorities too. Despite tensions between former Union republics, military programs will apparently remain the centerpiece of the joint space activity due to the particular role of the military services in all space activities and probable unwilling of other republics to leave military space systems under the sole control of Russia.