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Bars topographic satellite project

The Soviet Ministry of Defense planned to replace Kometa satellites with a third-generation system dubbed Bars (Leopard). Unlike its predecessors, Bars would be capable of beaming high-resolution digital images back to Earth. The project was a part of a wider effort to replace the bulky and expensive method of returning film from orbit with digital transmission of high-resolution images for all types of space-based reconnaissance, including topography.

The Ministry of Defense awarded its first contract for the development of the Bars satellite to TsSKB Progress on Nov. 22, 1991. The spacecraft received the development designation 17F112. On January 17 of the next year, Progress sub-contracted OAO Peleng based in Minsk, Belarus, to build the satellite's most critical component -- the Yashma imaging system.

Typically for observation satellites developed at TsSKB Progress, Bars was expected to consist of four compartments placed on top of each other in the following order (from bottom to top):

  • Aggregate compartment (containing the propulsion system);
  • Instrument compartment (containing most avionics);
  • Transfer compartment (serving as an interface for the payload);
  • Special (payload) compartment.

Like most post-Soviet space projects of the 1990s, Bars was apparently stalled for more than a decade by severe economic problems, deterioration of infrastructure and brain drain within the space industry.

Developments in 2000s

There was an apparent attempt to revive the program in the first half of the 2000s. In his December 2004 summary of the company's activities for the year, the head of TsSKB Progress Aleksandr Kirilin said that work on the first flight-worthy model of the satellite had finally started. At the time, all key components of the spacecraft were scheduled to be ready for assembly in the first half of 2005.

On March 17, 2005, TsSKB Progress awarded a contract to OAO Peleng based in Minsk, Belarus, to build a flight version of the Yashma-M imaging system for the Bars satellite.

However, the Ministry of Defense canceled the Bars project sometimes before November 25, resulting in a failed lawsuit from OAO Peleng against TsSKB Progress to recover already incurred expenses during the production of the Yashma-M telescopes in 2005 and 2006. (735)

In the meantime, in September 2005, the 21st and final Kometa satellite entered orbit, leaving Russia without any space cartography tool in the pipeline for the next decade.

Next chapter: Bars-M spacecraft



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The article, graphics and animation by Anatoly Zak; Last update: March 1, 2015

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: February 27, 2015

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A scale-model of the imaging spacecraft customized for cartographic imaging with radio transmission of data. It might be related to the original Bars project.


A topographic version of the Resurs-DK satellite proposed in 2000s. Credit: TsSKB Progress