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Kupol (EKS/Tundra) satellite

The 14F142 Kupol spacecraft, also known as Tundra, was developed at RKK Energia, while its observation payload and the overall design of the EKS system was overseen by TsNII Kometa.

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silo

According to available information, Tundra satellites could carry sensors designed to simultaneously detect the launch of the missile and track its progress toward the target.

exploded

An exploded view of a satellite released by TsNII Kometa in August 2019.

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The satellite design

It has been known for a number of years that RKK Energia had won a contract for the development of the Tundra satellite based on its successful development in the 1990s of the Yamal communications satellites. In the following decade, the company used the architecture of the Yamal satellite to propose a standard platform called Viktoria as a basis for its future projects. (566)

If the information about the Tundra satellite being based on the Yamal platform still holds true, a number of assumptions about its design can be based on the known specifications of the latter. For example, Tundra could be equipped with four pairs of ion thrusters for attitude control and heat-pipe driven radiators. Like Yamal, the Tundra would be fully unpressurized, with all its systems designed to function in the vacuum of space.

TsNII Kometa seemingly confirmed the modular design of the EKS satellite inherited from RKK Energia's Viktoria and Yamal projects. The company also said that the satellite would be capable of transmitting high volumes of information via special communications channels protected from interference. The satellite itself would also take over a great deal of data processing, which previously had to be conducted on the ground. Finally, the spacecraft would also carry an additional "informational" or communications function, apparently with the primary purpose of sending firing orders to the Russian strategic missile forces. (422)

In 2015, RKK Energia also described a three-section solar panel, which had been in active development but had not been associated with the company's previously known spacecraft. The single three-section panel had a total length of more than 9.5 meters, a total area of 13.25 square meters and a mass of 58.5 kilograms. Not coincidently, the company's presentation from the same period showed a concept of a generic observation satellite equipped with a pair of similar panels. According to the available description, the panel would power a satellite with a projected life span from 12 to 15 years. (763)

In 2014, RKK Energia published proposals for a multipurpose round-the-clock global observation system, which likely derived from the company's experience in the development of the Tundra. Four satellites in geostationary orbit would be enough to provide almost global coverage.

According to RKK Energia, its satellites could detect targets climbing as high as 1,000 kilometers above the Earth surface (i.e. considerably higher than most ballistic missiles would normally fly). Detectable targets included hypersonic vehicles, strategic bombers, maneuvering low-orbital satellites and space junk orbiting as high as 36,000 kilometers above the Earth surface. A fire on Earth could be detected in 25 seconds, the company stressed. The satellite would sport sensors operating in five spectral ranges: ultraviolet, optical, and three types of infra-red light. They would reach a resolution of one meter.

Possible contractors in the Tundra spacecraft development:

TsNPO Kometa Prime developer, optical systems
RKK Energia Spacecraft developer
LOMO Optical payload
NPO Orion Infrared sensors
NPP Pulsar Optical sensors
RNII Elektrostandart Optical sensors
Spetsstroi Pre-launch processing facilities in Plesetsk

Geostationary version of the Tundra early warning satellite to be developed

In its annual report published in June 2018, RKK Energia announced that during 2017 it had been working on determining the design concept of a spacecraft for the geostationary orbit. Although, it was identified in the text as a "communications" satellite, the context of the document, mentioning launches of other such "communications" satellites in May 2017 and at the end of 2015 (exactly when the previous EKS missions lifted off), left no doubt that the information actually referred to the EKS/Tundra project.

The wording in the report seemingly confirmed that the geostationary version of the EKS/Tundra satellite was still in the early stage of development.

In the meantime, in June 2017, ISS Reshetnev announced that it had manufactured mechanical hardware for the solar panel rotation mechanism for the spacecraft built by RKK Energia. Reshetnev said that it had been the fifth copy of the system designed to point solar panels toward the Sun. Because the host spacecraft had not been identified, the announcement likely referred to the EKS/Tundra satellite as well.

 

Launches of EKS/Tundra satellites*:

 
Spacecraft designation
Launch date
Launch time
Launch vehicle
Status
1
2015 Nov. 17
09:33:41 Moscow Time
Success
2
Kosmos-2518
2017 May 25
09:34 Moscow Time
Success
3
2019 Sept. 26
10:46 Moscow Time
Success
4
2020 May 22
10:31:17 Moscow Time
Success

*All launches from Pad 4 at Site 43 in Plesetsk

 

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Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 22, 2020

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Edits: November 16, 2015; July 3, 2018

All rights reserved

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tundra

Artist rendering of the EKS (Tundra) satellite in orbit. Copyright © 2015 Anatoly Zak


erdu

Key components of the Viktoria platform, which believed to be a basis for the EKS (Tundra) satellites. Credit: RKK Energia


sat

concept

Satellite concepts presented by RKK Energia around 2014 might give clues about the architecture of the EKS (Tundra) satellite.


aperture

An optical system for the EKS satellite. Credit: GOI


structure

A base structure of the payload module for the EKS satellite possibly shows an opening for the main telescope and secondary sensors designed to track missiles on their way to their targets.


assembly

eks

A possible EKS/Tundra satellite during assembly (top) and testing. Credit: OAO Kometa