DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
Soviet Comsat Program: Status and Prospects
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8
Soviet Comsat Program: Status and Prospects
The USSR's Molniya communications satellite (comsat) system, first successfully tasted inas emerged from experimental tostatus. Pour Molniya satellites, all placed in highly elliptical orbits, are currently active. In addition, the USSR within the past year hasidely dispersed network of more thano-called "Orbita" ground stations winch are now receiving and distributing Moscow TV programsvia Molniya. The USSR's first seaborneterminal also has been operating7 aboard the newest and largest Soviet space-support ship. In contract to the western-baaed International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat) system, whose satellites are used primarily forof international communications traffic, the Molniya system is now used mainly for TV relaythe USSR. Soviet outlays on launches,and ground stations for the Molniya system5 have now probably passed0 million mark, excluding research, development, andcosts.
In the years ahead the USSR will continue to give high priority to comsat program development and application with the intention of integrating satellite communications fully into tho national long-haul telecommunications system. The number of Orbita ground stations will be increased tor more Concurrently, the USSR probably will
Notej This memorandum aae produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of Economic Research and coordinated with the Office of Strategic Research and the Office of Scientific Intelligence.
rogram to expand the capabilities of selected Orbita stationsnow capable only of TV receptiono include two-way multichannel communications. The USSR will seek to increase the channel capacity of tho Holniyas and to provide thornapability for simultaneous relay of both multichannel communications and TV. Programs also will be undertaken toultiple access capability for Molniya satellites and to further extend their useful lifetime.
Although Moscow announced formation of an independent international comsat system moreear ago, tangible results from this decision have yet to appear. TV test transmissions via Molniya have continued between Moscow and Paris, but France recently rebuffed Soviet proposals forew comsat. The international role of the USSR in satellite communications probably will not crystallize until after the permanent charter of the Intelsat has bean negotiated The new arrangemonts are unlikely to attract direct Soviet membership in Intelsat. They may, however, provide for the establishment of regional comsat systems, opening up opportunities for the USSR to develop firm working arrangements with emerging subsystems, bypassing formal affiliation with Intelsat. In the interim, the USSR will continue efforts to undermine the US conceptingle global system and to propagandize its own comsat achievements, but it will not close the door completely to eventual accommodation with Intelsat.
Current Status of the Molniya Program,
Soviet communications satellitegot offate start but hassince the launching of the first In the past three years the USSRorbited eight Molniya comsats anda network of ground stations. development, and operating costs,on launches, satellites, and groundthe Molniya system5illion. The priority attachedauthorities to development of comsathas become especially evidenthe USSR has successfullyMolniyas into orbit, has installed more than
ew special-purpose ground stations, and has put into operation its first seaborne comsat terminal.
first three Molniya satellites haduseful lifetimesless than six monthsto the degenerative effects of radiationcomponents. (The highlyorbit causes the satellite to passthrough the Van Allen radiation belts.) the fourth Molniya, measures apparentlyto protect components, and the usefulthe satellites was increased to at least athe sixth successful launch in OctoberUSSR has described the Molniya series asrather than experimental. Evidencesince then supports this Soviet claim. launch of the eighth Molniya innow has four active Molniya comsats inthe chart).*
' Not included in the tabulations on the chart is another satellite launched inbout uhich considerable uncertainty exists. Thishas most of the same characteristics ae the Molniya series, but has been identified only as "Kosmos " by Soviet authorities. Kosmos ay be associated with the Soviet space program, but its mission cannot be firmly established.
3. Until late last year, the Molniyas relayed communications traffic between only two ground stations in the USSR, one at Moscow and the other at Vladivostok. Coincident with the Soviet fiftieth anniversary celebrations inhe USSR put intoew network of so-called "Or-bita" qround stations (see the map). As nowthe Orbita stations are capable ofonly one channel of Moscow TV via Molniya and relaying it by microwave radio relay or cable to local TV stations. They cannot receive telephone and telegraph traffic nor do theyound-to-satellite transmission capability. Thehich enables tho USSR to claim the world's first national comsat TV distributionurrently consists ofperational ground stations, most of which are located in remote areas of the USSR that cannot receive TV transmissions from Moscow by conventional means.* It ia currentlyaboutours per week of "live" telecasts from Moscow to areasotal population of aboutillion.
"SSR: Olbita Communlcationi. Satellite. Giound Station and Ctoitup View o$ the. Antenna
An initial appraisal of the Orbita ground station program was presented in KR, New Soviet in Communications Satellites and Television. June c'f
USSR: LAUNCH HISTOM AWO ESTIMATED STATUS OF UOLU1YA COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITESS
SATELLITE NUMBER DATE OF LAUNCH ESTIMATED STATUS
4. Another highlight of the Molniya program7 was the installation of the first Soviet shipborne comsat terminal aboard the USSR's newest and largest space event support ship, the Koamonaut Vladimir Komarov. Tho Komarov can use this terminal to communicate via Molniya with the USSR from almost any point on the seas of the northern hemisphere. It is likely that the Komarov can also relay signals between the USSR and noar-carth and lunar The Komarov thus represents not only the first Soviet comsat terminal operating outside the borders of the USSR butaluable addition to the Soviet space program command and control network.
USSR: Communication* Satellite. Tluminal Aboaxd tht Support Ship Koemonaut Vladimir Komarov
Future Directions of Soviet Comsat Technology
The USSR will continue to give high priority to the development and exploitation of comsatin the years ahead. Over the next two years or so the USSR probably will focus primarily on improving and expanding the use of Molniyabut it undoubtedly also will pursue the developmentew and considerably more advanced comsat system likely to become operational in the earlys.
The USSR almost certainly will launch at least one, and possibly up to three, Molniyain each of the next soveral years. will be requirod am existing Molniyas becomo inactive, and others may be orbited in order to increase the amount of transmission tine available for multichannel telephone communications between
Moscow and Vladivostok. The number of Molniyas orbited in the next few years could alsooviet decision to assign special-purpose missions to particular satellites inof the space program or military communications.
7. Current Soviet construction and planning indicate thatr more Orbita stations will be in operation Concurrently, the performance capabilities of the network will be Improved and expanded. Soviet authorities cor.codG that the quality of the audio portion of the TV signal relayed by Orbita stations is substandard, but add that modifications are under development. There also are plans to equip the Orbita stations within the next two ynars to receive other types of one-waysuch as radio broadcasts and photofacslmlle.
B. rn the future the Orbita network will evolve far beyond the distribution ot central TV and other types of one-way transmissions. It is clearly the intention of the USSR to integrate satellltointo the national long-haulsystem. To achieve this goal the USSR will expand the capabilities of selected Orbita stations during the earlys to include two-way telephone and telegraph service. erious lack of high-capacity transmission routes still exists outsido the western regions of the USSR, and creationround station network capable of providing the full range of communications services will ropresent a long step toward overcoming this deficiency.
9. Soviet authorities do not, however, view tho Orbita networkubstitute for further expansion of terrestrial cable and microwave radio relay lines. They recognize that tor maximum utilization of the Orbita network the groundmust be linked by new terrestrial routes to other population centers and other trunklines. Several Orbita stations are collocatedew troposphoric scatter network being installed in the northern and eastern regions of the USSR (see the up). Others either are now or will be connected with high-capacity microwave radio relay and cable lines currently under construction. Completion of these programsrobably by the earlys will ajor advance toward the Soviet
goal odern and diversified system of national te leconununi cations.
USSR undoubtedly will continueextend the useful lifetime of Molniyathe operating lifetime of Molniyaslengthened toear, this very unfavorably with tho performance of
US communications satellites. The Early Birdfor example, was launched in5 (as was the first Molniya) and is still relayingbetween Europe and the United States. Cost considerations alone provide adequate incentive for the USSR to improve in this area, inasmuch as Soviet authorities have stated that an operating lifetime of at least one-and-one-half years is necessary to make their comsats competitive with other transmission media.
It also appears likely that the USSR will attempt to increase the channel capacity of Molniyas and to provide themapability forrelay ot both TV and multichannel olniya satellites up to now have only relayed eitheruplex telephone channels or one TV progiam.) There is evidence, for example, that the USSR intends within the next two years to change Molniya system transmission frequencies from the current range of BOO egahertz toegahertz bands. The additional bandwidth that would be made available byhift would permit simultaneous transmission of TV and multichannel telephone and telegraph service. Orbita stations are believed to be capable of operating in the higher frequency range, and the shift probably would improve the image and sound quality of satellite-relayed telecasts.
The bandwidth provided by higher frequencies also would facilitate the developmentultiple access capability for Molniya satellites. At present, the Molniya satellite allows simultaneous communications between only two ground stations. (Full multiple access would permit any number of appropriately equipped ground stations towith each other simultaneously by sharing the bandwidths of orbiting satellites.) The USSR has stated its intention to develop ground station equipment formall number of channels (possiblynd this equipment could be usedultiple access network of limited scope. It is doubtful, however, that the USSR will be able to achieve an operational multiple access capability before the earlys.
the next year or two theeostationary comsathat is,in orbit over the equator and programmedsynchronously with the earth. TheMolniya orbit provides excellenttho USSK but scant coverage cf most ofLatin America and none of the South AtlanticOceans where Soviet ships are deployedspace activities. eostationaryserve these areas but would reduceof the far northern USSR. Thetoatellite of useful sizeorbit from the Soviet Union wouldthe use of the largest and mostthe USSR currently has in operational,the USSR may launch one or morecomsats by thes butto emphasize elliptical orbits for theyears.
The USSR's International Comsat Pole
USSR is well aware of the economicadvantages of participation insystems. However, the only systematictho USSR into the international comsat field
havo been with France as partroader program of Franco-Soviet space cooperation. Sinceolor television test transmissions have been relayed via Molniya satellite between Moscow and the French ground station at Pleumeur-Bodou near Paris. These experimental Molniya transmissions have been more frequent in tho past year but do not appear to be the forerunnerruly international Franco-Soviet comsat system. France recentlyan initiative by the USSRointly developed Franco-Soviet comsat and has reiterated its commitment to Intelsat.
USSR mayighlyinternational comsat system, butbe unlikely to pose seriousembor Intelsat. oscowon space cooperation attended by thecountries, Cuba, and Mongolia in AprilUSSR announced formation of an independentcomsat system and invited thenon-socialist countries. Tangible resultsdecision, however, have yet to appear.
has yet to begin on apromised to Cuba by theear andago. Mongolia announced about six monthsthe USSR was going to provide it with anbut there are no indications thathas begun. Similarly, there is no sign ofcommitment to build comsat ground stations
in Eastern Europe. This may be explained by the absence of any real economic justification to do so, as existing networks are capable of handling Soviet communications with Eastern Europe and will continue to be adequate for the foreseeable future.
There is the possibility that the USSR may seek to further internationalize the operating area of the Molniya system by offering ground stations to certain of the less developed countries. Ground stations initially offered probably would be of the Orbita type, rather than full-range stations capable of handling multichannel communications as well as TV, owing to several practical advantages. First, Orbita stations ore much less expensive and are simpler to operate. Second, they aro nearing the status of "off-the-shelf" production items for tho USSR. Third, Soviet'telephone and telegraph requirements with the less developed countries are far too small to warrant installation of costly full-range stations. The most likely candidates for such stations would be countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa* which are alienated from the West and uncommitted to participation in Intelsat. From the standpoint of live telecasting, these areas would be more desirable because time zone differences with Moscow would be minimal. Despite the possibility that the USSR could move in this direction, however, there is no evidence that Moscow currently has such an initiative under serious consideration.
Direct Soviet membership in Intelsat isbecause the USSR regards the Consortiumody firmly under the thumb of the United States. Nevertheless, over the past year or ao the USSR has modified its previous adamant rejection of any cooperation with Intelsat. In7 the USSR permitted live telecasting via Intelsat of Moscow
*Africa ia beyond the reception range of the Molniya orbit-
ceremonies celebrating the inauguration of direct air service between the USSR and Japan. The USSR also agreed to participate in the first global telecast in7 that was to haveolniya satellite in conjunction with three Intelsat The USSR rescinded this agreement because of the Middle East crisis, but the initialto cooperate provided further evidenceore flexible attitude toward working with Intelsat facilities. Soviet leaders have reinforced this impression with numerous (albeit vague) statements over the past year calling for internationalin the comsat field. Moreover, the USSRwill again make indirect use of Intelsat facilities to obtain TV coverage of8 Olympic Games in Mexico.
The ultimate role of the USSR in thecomsat arena probably will remain ambiguous until after the permanent charter of Intelsat has been negotiated It is unlikely that control and management arrangements within Intelsat will be altered sufficiently to attract formal Soviet membership in the Consortium, but theretrong possibility that the new arrangements will make provision for regional comsat systems in one form or another. (Intelsat members that hope to benefit from such systems include France, West Germany, Canada, Japan, India, andhould this be the case, the USSR could be expected to seek establishment of firm working arrangements with the emerging regional subsystems, thusformal affiliation with Intelsat.
In the interimespecially between now and the Intelsat negotiations9he USSR almost certainly will continue efforts to undermine the conceptingle US-dominated global system and will play up its own international comsat potential. The USSR probably will stress in public forums that international comsat systems should be controlled by the UN and will underscore the theme of US domination of Intelsat to European countries in an effort to maximize the changes introducedthe new permanent arrangements. The USSR also will seek to reap the greatest possible propaganda value from any future Soviet comsat achievements. Over the next several years, these might include successful orbiting by the USSR ofeostationary satellite; completion of Molniya-served ground
stations in Cuba and possibly other countries; and establishment of regular TV, telephone, andservice via satellite between Moscow and Paris. Simultaneously with these challenges to Intelsat, however, the USSR probably will continue to speak of international comsat cooperation, and the door to eventual accommodation with Intelsat will be kept open.Original document.