In 1975, the Soviet Union announced the launch of the country's first geostationary satellite. Designated Raduga, (Rainbow) it was described as the new step in the developing satellite TV networks in USSR. Many years later, it was revealed that Raduga had also a military role and even had a secret name -- Gran, Russian for Edge.
During the Soviet period, the dual purpose of Raduga satellites could've been guessed from somewhat muted descriptions of the system, when compared to the information available on other primarily civilian communications satellites, such as Gorizont and Ekran.
According to the official Soviet sources, the Raduga was designed to support the Orbita ground TV network, as well as provide telephone and telegraph communications across the entire Eastern hemisphere except for polar regions. A post-Soviet source revealed that Raduga carried two three-channel transponders designated Delta-1 and developed under leadership of chief designer V. I. Moguchev and Delta-2 developed by a team under chief-designer M. V. Brodskiy. Delta-1 was designed specifically for military communications, Delta-2 for civilian applications. (70)
Traditionally for Soviet communications satellite projects, the Raduga's overall development was led by NPO PM center in the Siberian town of Zheleznogorsk. The satellite's basic platform, or bus, designated KAUR-3, featured three-axis attitude control system, employing a gyroscope and micro-thrusters. Solar panels could independently track the Sun, eliminating the need to change the orientation of the spacecraft in orbit. (2) In the following years, the KAUR-3 platform became a base for the Gorizont family of satellites.
The development of the Raduga spacecraft initiated at the end of the 1960s, outpaced the construction of the launch facilities in Baikonur necessary to support its missions. When the new family of satellites was ready for delivery to the launch site, the construction of a new large processing building 92A-50 on the left flank of the cosmodrome designed to service Proton's payloads, was at its infancy and would not be completed until 1981. The only available room on the left flank was inside a 120-meter long building, occupied by the processing facilities for anti-satellite weapons. The program was run by space defense units, PKO, who resisted the new arrivals. After long wrangling between Chief Directorate of Space Assets, GUKOS, and NIIP-5 officials, Radugas were finally accommodated at the processing hall formerly occupied by one of the Vladimir Chelomei's ballistic missiles. Some auxiliary services had to be "squeezed" to accommodate testing and measuring hardware. The 4th Test Directorate of NIIP-5 took responsibility for the processing of the satellites.
The Raduga was preceded to the geostationary orbit by a test version of the Molniya-1 No. 10 satellite, aka Molniya-S, where "S" stood for "stationary." It was successfully launched on July 29, 1974, becoming the first Soviet payload in the geostationary orbit.
For the Raduga network, the USSR reserved two initial locations in the geostationary orbit at 35 and 85 East longitude.
A single State Commission led by General A. A. Maksimov and from 1978 by General N. F. Shlykov oversaw flight testing of both Molniya-3 and Raduga spacecraft. (70) The system was declared operational in December 1979, along with Molniya-3 system. (76)
A complete list of Raduga launches:
(All launches from Baikonur onboard Proton-K rocket. The 11S86 version of the Block D upper stage was used until the launch of Raduga (21), when the 11S861 modification was introduced. During the last Raduga launch, the Breeze-M (14S43) upper stage was to be tested in flight for the first time, however the mission failed during burn of the second stage.)
*Moscow Decree Time
This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak. All rights reserved. Last update: January 29, 2010
An official depiction of the Raduga satellite. Credit: ISS Reshetnev