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Russia will orbit an entire constellation of high-resolution space radars in the next few years
Several enterprises and laboratories are busy developing these spacecraft, but the Arkon-2 multi-role satellite will probably eclipse everything else in its class. The overwhelming majority of remote-sensing satellites are optical-electronic surveillance systems. Optical systems capture images and relay digital versions to Earth via radio channels for processing. Radar information is indispensable in emergencies. Russia lost its last satellite with a high-resolution radar when the Almaz-1 spacecraft, a former manned military station that had been launched to work automatically, stopped operating in 1991. Ocean (Sich)-class satellites (the latest launch took place on December 24, 2004) are not high-resolution spacecraft because they have side-view radars. Eight space powers, i.e., Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, Great Britain, India, Israel and China, plan to orbit 10-14 high-resolution radar satellites between 2005 and 2007. Russian experts have simultaneously developed several high-resolution radar satellites in the last few years. The Almaz space station was developed by a firm that is now working on the Kondor-E spacecraft. Unlike similar foreign satellites that weigh two or three tons, the Kondor-E tips the scales at just 800kg. Moreover, it costs four to five times less than Western equivalents, but has comparable specifications. Its multi-role radar provides high-resolution images along two 500km sectors left and right of the Kondor-E orbit. As distinct from Western spacecraft, the Russian satellite features a collapsible six-meter parabolic antenna rather than a heavy-duty phased-array structure. Mission-control experts can target this parabolic antenna and rapidly scan different areas. The satellite's onboard radar will also provide 3D images for digital terrain models. The Khrunichev Center has announced plans for launching Monitor-R radar satellites. Gazcom, a Gazprom subsidiary, is financing the long-term Strelka (Arrow) satellite project that will help monitor oil and gas facilities. This $400 million system will comprise six satellites, including three radar satellites. Finally, the Lavochkin Science and Production Association has announced it will build the Arkon-2 multi-role radar satellite for the Federal Space Agency. This satellite will take high-resolution and medium-resolution photos for federal and commercial clients. There are also plans to use it in the interests of national defense and for international-cooperation programs. The Arkon-2 satellite's developers have used the successful experience of mapping the Venusian surface with the Venera-15 and Venera-16 automatic probes. This spacecraft has a unique three-band radar. Its decimeter-band observation system (23cm) can locate objects in undergrowth. The radar's 70cm wavelength will allow it to scan surfaces beneath dry ground. The Arkon-2 spacecraft will provide detailed top-quality photos of areas measuring 10 by 10 kilometers (resolution, up to one meter), as well as panoramic photos (resolution, up to 50 meters) in a 450km sector. Moreover, it can film sectors measuring from 400 to 4,000 km in length. The implementation of the Arkon-2 project in the next three years will not only mean that a Russian-made radar satellite will be returned to orbit. It will also mean that the country will be able to gain a foothold on the radar-satellite information market
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