Military expert on “space surveillance” of Armenia: “Even the Belarus budget is not enough”

Read: 1100     10:23     15 January 2018    
by Seymur Mamedov

Interview with the Belorussian military and political analyst Alexander Tihanskij for

- How would you evaluate the capabilities of Armenia in researching and benefiting from space, particularly space surveillance of territories of neighboring countries?

- My evaluation is quite unassuming. I would say that the goals that Armenia has set for itself, particularly in space research, are achievable for almost every country in the region which is able to allocate the necessary funds. It does not necessarily mean owning satellite vehicles: there are the good old optical telescopes, or radio-electronic ones for those, who can afford a more expensive option.

But this has nothing to do with the so-called space surveillance, namely surveillance carried out through satellite vehicles, which are equipped with radio-radar and optoelectronic devices, including those of infrared spectrum. There are only a handful of countries, who have their own vehicles on the low orbit and they are the only ones, who can do anything in relation to space surveillance.

Moreover, these low orbit satellites (and they are the only ones that can produce quality surveillance in all ranges) have certain observation zones, which depend on the orbit tilt. That is exactly what influences the range of countries that fall into that line on the entire orbit where the satellite roams. These zones may include Europe, Asia, Africa and America, but all some parts and only during the flight, which is quite limited. In other words, Armenian space surveillance is nothing but a tale.

- Do you think Armenia can build their own surveillance satellite or satellite constellation?

- I do not foresee any prospects in that direction, all the more so for satellite constellation, at present and for the next five years, as it takes five years only to build the satellite. It is a very costly field when it comes to both vehicles and lifespan of low orbit satellites. As I already mentioned, only few states own satellites, and these are mainly communication vehicles and they are either on the elevated or geostationary orbit. Even Belarus’ budget will not be enough for that and we already have one satellite and plan to increase the number only within ten years.

This is why, no technical aid from Belarus and Russia (which Azerbaijan, by the way, can also benefit from) will not help.

- How much does building one surveillance satellite cost?

- The Americans have recently lost one such satellite, which did not settle into orbit, but fell into the ocean. They talked of losses which reached up to a billion dollars. Even if they included the price for the carrier rocket and the launch itself, one can still see that it is one handsome amount. They have already developed the small-sized “nano satellites”, which can be launched into the orbit by external carriers for a relatively smaller amount (depending on the weight and orbit height), but they are for research and cannot be up to (maybe not yet) deal with the spectrum of tasks that are put before space surveillance.

Space surveillance countermeasures have been developed back at the times of “cold war”: camouflage (optical, counter radar, building decoy installations in different ranges); knowing the time of flight of surveillance satellites over objects that are of interest for the opponent.

There is one logical conclusion: While speaking of Armenia building “space surveillance” for the funds allocated from the budget, it is important to note that they have built a double-purposed company, which is even reflected in its name – “GeoKosmos” (geo space – editor’s note). This means that they will be buying panoramic shots of difference spaces and decoding them (within the interests of interested entities). It does not have any other capacities at the moment and is not foreseen to have in the upcoming ten years.

- How developed is Belarus’ space surveillance system and what can Minks offer Baku in this field?

- We do not have space surveillance as a separate military field. What we have is the federal state military organization. Minks can offer Baku cooperation in the field of space, which it already does – over 25 countries purchase shots made from our satellite.

When it comes to how much they cost, it is usually a commercial secret. Their price can depend on numerous factors: the resolution, density of the surveyed land, the spectrum the filming has taken under, etc. They usually cost over a 100 dollars, but it is not certain.

Leyla Orujova
Sabina Hasanova

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