Site: KOMETA (also spelled "COMETA")
Central Scientific Industrial Enterprise
KOMETA, 5 Velozavodskaya
Moscow 109280, Russia
Date Visited: October 20, 1992
Report Author: N. Helm
Academician Anatoli I. Savin
For a number of years, the satellite communication industry has heard that the former Soviet space program had designed large unfurlable antennas (approx. 30 meters) that could be used for communications. Such an antenna was indeed developed circa 1988 at KOMETA, the design center for large antennas, under the direction of General Director and General Designer of the organization, Academician Savin. KOMETA has been developing large antennas for almost 20 years and has already successfully launched the KRT-10 space radio telescope with its 10 m diameter antenna.
Plans are underway to integrate the 30 meter space antenna into a telecommunications satellite that will be used for domestic communication and may also be used in international ventures. This new design is discussed in a number of western journals, including Space News (11/30/92). The Space Newsarticle describes a "Globis" spacecraft weighing 19,000 kg, launched by an Energia launch vehicle, with communications links in the L-, C-, and Ku-bands and an estimated orbital life of 10 years. The following R&D description is based on the KOMETA site visit and subsequent correspondence with Academician Savin -- not the Globis article. KOMETA is working on a communications project as part of a technical and commercial association called KOSMOSVIAZ, which also includes the Khrunichev plant (a leading rocket enterprise), RADIO (a scientific and research institute), a communications prime contractor, and others. (It is not unusual in the new commercialism that is evident in Russia these days to see more than one joint venture propose to use the same government assets.)
As noted above, KOMETA has been developing very large diameter reflector antennas for space for more than 20 years. In addition to the already-orbited 10 m KRT-10 Space Radio Telescope, a 30 m "erectable" antenna has been built and tested in a simulated weightless environment with video tapes of the tests on record.
The KOSMOSVIAZ team is currently working on a domestic satellite design for PCS, MSS and FSS that uses the 30 m unfoldable reflector antenna. The space segment consists of two spacecraft, each with a mass of 4.3 tons, power consumption of 4 kW, launched by a Proton vehicle into a high inclined orbit (apogee 50,000 km; perigee 21,000 km). It would operate at L- and C-bands, and provide coverage over a 4,000 x 4,000 km service area. Table KOMETA.1 contains system specifics.
KOMETA has also entered into joint venture discussions with two large U.S. corporations for a spacecraft design that would use the 30 meter unfurlable space antenna in a large geosynchronous communications satellite configuration. This satellite would be orbited by an Energia launcher later in this decade. This design begins to approach the space platform concept set forth by Edelson and Morgan at COMSAT Laboratories in the 1970s. One current version of the design calls for the large space antenna to work with a feed system that will produce 84 beams, most of them fixed spot beams, but one or more moving or scanning. This is still in the design stage, but a number of the major space technologies found in the large satellite program already exist. The Energia launcher can put approximately 19,000 kg (42,000 lbs) in GEO. The 30 m antenna exists, along with the orbital control equipment to keep it stable in space. With nearly 10,000 kg allotted to communications equipment, it is feasible to design and build a multifrequency spot-beam system that would provide large numbers of fixed or mobile communications channels. One proposed design using the KOMETA 30 m antenna produces 5 million 32 kbits/sec communications channels connecting with hand-held telephones on the ground.
A final piece of technology that begins to make this space platform even more realistic was mentioned in a statement made at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI). MAI is working with a French company to study and design a "space tug" that will take repair crews from LEO to GEO to repair or replace old power or stabilization systems on space platforms that could be built around a 30 m antenna.
Technical Characteristics of the KOSMOSVIAZ System
KOMETA is a former Soviet space entity that did not have a communications mission. Nevertheless, with the present expansion of joint ventures to better use technologies and systems developed by its space program, KOMETA is in an excellent position to assist in developing the satellite communications program, as well as attracting foreign currency. The 30 m antenna is an advanced technology that if used efficiently with other communications parameters -- such as a good feed array/BFN to produce multiple spot beams -- has the opportunity to greatly expand the capabilities of satellite communications for personal, mobile broadcast and fixed satellite services.