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Defence Notes

Russia researches stealth satellites but US example indicates inherent difficulties

23rd September 2020 - 09:41 GMT | by Leonid Nersisyan in Yerevan


Russian researchers have investigated the application of radio-absorbent coating for spacecraft which should reduce the visibility of satellites for radar, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal Space Studies.

The article abstract referred to ‘the results of experimental research of properties resistant to abnormally high and abnormally low temperatures of samples of radio-absorbing material VTMV-1S’.

The paper concluded that the application of VTMV-1S on the surface of the satellite can also shield onboard electronic systems.

The authors of the study were specialists from the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Moscow Experimental Design Bureau Mars (part of Rosatom) and the research and production company Radiostream. The Radiostream website states that radio-absorbent materials are used to counter foreign technical intelligence and guidance systems for high-precision weapons.

Stealth satellites were discussed by the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War. Perhaps the best known development was the Misty R&D programme initiated by the US in the 1980s; at least two Misty satellites were launched to the orbit, but they were soon detected by amateur astronomers. In 2007, the project was cancelled due to its ineffectiveness and very high cost.

The US experience shows that development of stealth satellites can be ineffectual and expensive. One major problem is that it is impossible to mask the launch process, so adversaries can try to track the satellite orbit just after launch.

On the other hand, militaries with space-based C4ISR capabilities anticipate the arrival of effective anti-satellite weapons, prompting pressure to develop effective countermeasures.

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