Impact in orbit: How Moscow developed the satellite defense


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An Interceptor starts on December 3, 1971 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The flight time to the finish is 105 minutes – then hits "Kosmos-462". The target decays into two dozen debris, which gradually burns into the earth's atmosphere. Another test in the satellite defense program of the USSR has succeeded.

By and large, the government commission watching the orbiting from Earth was satisfied with the outcome of the test. The Cosmic Interceptor – "Cosmos" – should only be reworked a little: readjust the guidance devices, and the system could be introduced into use. This was the space defense system that developed the USSR as the first country in the world. Since 1962 the program has been running.

It started with a technical committee in the General Staff of the Soviet Union, who evaluated the joint flight of the spaceships "Vostok-3" and "Vostok-4" at a working session. Advice was given on the possibilities to use manned spaceships militarily. The "Wostok" class is used for reconnaissance missions, it said in a lecture. But to intercept satellites new, technically optimized space systems are needed.
What emerged was a 2.4-tonne heavy interceptor – unmanned, of course. A powerful engine with a large fuel supply ensured the maneuverability of the satellite hunter. In the bow: A radar antenna, which led the projectile to the finish. Behind it: A device container with all kinds of communication and navigation equipment. To combat the target, two warheads of cumulative effect were present.
On October 19, 1968, a target drone flew into Earth orbit, where it was attacked and destroyed by "Cosmos-249" and "Cosmos-252". In 1971, the tests were successfully continued. Some "satellite hunters" were even stationed in launch silos near Baikonur. But then the big politics intervened.

From May 1972, there was a rapprochement in Soviet-US relations: the Soviet space defense program was shut down. The last test took place during the exercise "Schild-82", referred to in the West as "Seven-day nuclear war", In May 1982, "Cosmos-1379" captured a target drone that simulated an American navigation satellite.

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