North Korea’s


of ballistic missiles in July and the reaction of Russian generals – who appeared confused and uninformed about the details of their neighbor’s exercise – raises


concerns about

Russia’s early warning system.

According to the experts, at least four Russian satellites are needed to constantly watch North Korea. Russia has none to carry out that task, nor does it have a geo-synchronous

satellite that can monitor

the Asia-Pacific region 24 hours a day. Other regions of the world also seem to be

as well.

Fifty-eight Russian military satellites (of which


are dedicated

for pure military tasks and 18

are for dual-use) are currently in orbit and they are capable of monitoring

only one-third of the Earth’s surface.

Only one Russian satellite is currently over the continental United States compared to 12

or 13

U.S. spy satellites, which are constantly monitoring Russia


. Gen. Oleg Gromov, d


commander of Russia’s Space Forces, said during the “The Space Industry Within the Russian Federation National Security System: Current Status and Legislative Problems” conference held in Moscow November 11, 2005.

It is

fair to say that Russia’s satellite industry – both military and civilian

– has been in a non-stop crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the Russian orbital grouping shrunk from 186 satellites to 137, as

aged Soviet satellites were removed at a time when the country lacked


ability to replace them with new ones.

In 1999, the Defense Ministry announced that the number of satellites would be reduced by another 30 percent within the following two to three years. At that time, the “minimum permissible level” was assumed to be 100 satellites.

Throughout this decade

the total number of Russian satellites has

remained even less than that, fluctuating from 94 to 97, which generated the new term currently used by Russian space officials – “level of minimum sufficiency.” That level

is presently 96 satellites. Out of 96 spacecraft, according to Anatoly Perminov, the

head of the Russian Space Agency,

62 are well past their service-age limits – that is to say, they are not effectively performing all of their functions.

The situation with the military satellite group is even worse with 32 of 40 orbiting spacecraft being used beyond their life spans. These aging satellites are used for navigation, communications, early warnings of ballistic missile launches, electronic and photographic reconnaissance


of the oceans.

The Russian government approved a

Federal Space Program Oct. 25, 2005, for the 2006-2015 time frame that

prioritizes the country’s space projects based on domestic and international accomplishments and future needs. Naturally, launching a new generation of satellites to replace the ag

ing spacecraft was listed as one of the priorities. In addition to replacing the current fleet, a number of communication, remote sensing

and weather forecast satellites are to be orbited in order to accommodate the growing needs.

Altogether, the Russian Space Agency plans in the next

10 years to bring the total number of civilian satellites in orbit to 78. However, with respect to military and dual-use satellites, the No. 1

priority is the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).

GLONASS, which is a competitor to the U.S. Defense Department

‘s Global Positioning System (GPS), is supposed to provide navigational support for ships and aircraft en route and during docking and landing. It ensures high-precision air strikes, air support operations, all-weather assault landings, mid-air and high-seas linkups

and accurate target acquisition.

In January 2006

Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed that the

GLONASS orbital system would be brought to the full complement condition

proceeding to

global use in 2009. GLONASS, with a total price tag of $150 million required to complete the system by 2007,

currently consists of 19 satellites, with

a total of 24 satellites once


In an attempt to boost the satellite production in the country,

President Putin signed June 9 a decree titled “On Open Stock Holding ‘

Informational Satellite Systems.’”

The Russian government announced its decision to create one unified satellite-producing holding at the Moscow airspace exhibition MAKS-2005

in August 2005. However, i

t took the government, Ministry of Defense, the Russian Space Agency and individual companies almost a year to reconcile their different approaches to creating a

new holding company and its potential participants.

The new integrated company will be headed by the Scientific Production Association of Applied Mechanics named after Academician Mikhail Reshetnev (Reshetnev NPO in Russian abbreviation). Reshetnev NPO is located in the Siberian city of Zheleznogorsk and is

the country’s leading producer of telecommunication, navigation


television broadcasting satellites,


for 70 percent

of the satellites produced in Russia.

Besides the Reshetnev NPO, four other major contracting companies have become the partners of the new holding. The purpose of


one integrated entity is to consolidate the satellite-manufacturing businesses under one unified command with centralized budget.

It remains to be seen how the centralization of the management and budget will help the Russian satellite industry overcome their current crisis.

The Russian government has not demonstrated a significant funding increase for

space activities funding, nor has it shown improved punctuality in appropriating already allocated funds. The budget of the Federal Space Program for 2006-2015 amounts to 305 billion rubles (about $11.2 billion), which is definitely not sufficient to accomplish all the earmarked tasks.

In 2006, only 20 billion rubles

will be provided as compared with the earmarked 24.42 billion rubles

. Some Russian experts skeptically note that if funding arrears continue, the Russians will receive satellite data from the U.S. GPS, as many Russian companies and local regional governments are currently doing, or from China, which plans to develop its own


military satellite navigation system.


may not be that far away from reality, considering that the Russian space industry receives 30-times less funding than U.S. space industry and two-and-a-half-times less than China’s.

Victor Zaborskiy is the founder of Special Trade Operations Consulting in Atlanta.