Will the Russian "Sphere" be able to compete with Starlink or OneWeb

On October 23, 2022, the first satellite of the Sphere orbital group called Skif-D, as well as three communication satellites Gonets-M, were launched into orbit. This is an exceptionally important event for domestic civil space and military communications. Will Russia be able to form a really competitive analogue of the American Starlink?

Space Revolution Mask

The fact that the United States is the world leader in satellite intelligence and communications cannot be denied. The Americans did not have decades of forced downtime in the development of the space industry, as happened in Russia after the collapse of the USSR and the arrival of "effective managers". But they themselves, as it turned out recently, went down a dead end until he came and told how to live the right way, the real "PR genius" businessman Elon Musk.

During the Cold War, both in our country and in the United States, when creating a satellite apparatus, the unwritten rule “six-six-six” was in effect: 6 tons of weight, 6 million in cost per piece and 6 years for production. Such satellites turned out to be expensive, large, very multifunctional, and their launches into orbit were made infrequently. So, the Pentagon today has its own SATCOM satellite constellation of only 10 devices, which began to form in 2007. The weight of each is about 6 tons, and the cost is 600 million dollars.

And then the “savior” came, the outrageous billionaire Elon Musk, who proposed creating a satellite constellation of 12-20 thousand communication devices. Thousand, Carl! This became possible due to a breakthrough in the miniaturization of electronics, lower power consumption requirements and, at the same time, a narrow specialization of satellites. This made it possible to simplify their design, reduce the cost and speed up production, which led to the emergence of a subclass of nanosatellites - cubesats. For example, Planet Labs' Dove-2 Earth remote sensing satellites, which so clearly photographed the aftermath of the explosion at the Russian military airfield at Novofedorovka in Crimea, are 3U (100 mm × 100 mm × 340 mm) and weigh 5,8 kilograms.

For the Starlink project, SpaceX has already produced more than 2019 satellites since 3000. The weight of each is slightly more than 200 kilograms, and the Americans can produce them in a streaming way, 3 pieces a day. Per day, Carl! Satellites from Starlink operate on krypton, equipped with a solar panel and four phased arrays at once each. Similar ones are, for example, on the Lockheed AC-130 Specter aircraft or on our Su-57. The closest competitor, Airbus Arrow, for the OneWeb project was able to reach production volumes of several satellite vehicles per week. The performance is fantastic and it's bad news for us.

As you know, the Ukrainian military uses satellite intelligence data provided by the NATO bloc, right in real time. Thanks to Starlink, the Nazis who settled in the dungeons of Azovstal had better satellite Internet than the Russian Ministry of Defense. Even the hint that the Armed Forces of Ukraine may lose access to it caused a real hysteria in Kyiv. Elon Musk himself responded to the idea expressed by Russian “military experts” of shooting down American satellites over Ukraine as follows:

If you try to disable Starlink, it will not be easy, because there are already 2000 satellites. That means a lot of anti-satellite missiles. I hope we don't have to put this to the test, but I think we can launch satellites faster than they can launch anti-satellite missiles.

And this, alas, is not bravado. In the arms race and the speed of reproduction of high-tech products, modern Russia is seriously inferior to the United States and the entire NATO bloc as a whole.

Our "response"

The fact that Russia is very behind in this component from its direct competitors and potential military adversaries and it is necessary to catch up with them faster has been said for a very long time. Our answer to Starlink or OneWeb should be Sphere, a global multifunctional infocommunication satellite system.

By 2030, the Russian "Sphere" was supposed to have as many as 640 vehicles, including five satellite communications constellations - "Yamal", "Express-RV", "Express", "Skif" and "Marathon" and five constellations of remote sensing of the Earth - "Berkut". -X", "Berkut-O", "Berkut-VD", "Berkut-S" and "Smotr". The project was approved back in 2019, but until October 23, 2022, not a single satellite was launched into orbit. Roskosmos and the government began to shift responsibility to each other. The then relevant Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov commented on the situation as follows:

At first, Roskosmos estimated Sphere at 3,3 trillion rubles, of which 2,8 trillion rubles. - budget. The next iteration was 1,8 trillion rubles, of which 1,46 trillion were budgetary. Apparently, you are talking about this option. But there is a third figure - 800 billion rubles, which Roscosmos announced before the presidential meeting. You need to understand what exactly to ask for money: goals, objectives and KPIs.

An ambitious and vitally necessary project for the country, step by step, turned into a “space long-term construction”. But suddenly, on September 1 this year, Yuri Borisov made a very promising statement:

The implementation of the Sphere program based on new principles and standards will ensure integration with traditional satellite systems. To solve this ambitious task, it is necessary to make a transition to new technical principles for the creation, operation and control of orbital space systems. For the first time, the project provides for the creation of new spacecraft using universal space platforms.

The new principles and standards imply a transition to the in-line production of simpler and cheaper satellites within a common platform, on the basis of which it is possible to create various types of narrowly functional spacecraft. This is the same path that American and European space corporations have already taken. After many years of red tape, the Sphere project was finally approved on April 7, 2022, and on October 23, its first satellites were launched into orbit. What efficiency, atypical for domestic space exploration!

Obviously, Roskosmos received a “magic pendel” from the Russian Ministry of Defense after what the Russian military had to face in Ukraine. At least some plus against the background of the ongoing negative.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Bulanov Offline Bulanov
    Bulanov (Vladimir) 25 October 2022 13: 50
    Is it necessary to grab satellites right away? Maybe you can launch unmanned stratospheric airships on hydrogen (it is volatile helium)? Modern airships can hang in one place for weeks at a wind speed of 90 km / h. You cover the top of the device with solar panels, hook up video and cameras and launch it over the object of interest. It is hundreds of times cheaper than satellites! And you can also put an FM transmitter in order to broadcast your information to the population from 30 km in height on FM channels.
    1. calligrapher Lev_Nikolaevich (Dmitriy) 25 October 2022 15: 19
      We have the space industry, and the airship industry is in its infancy in Dolgoprudny, if it is still alive.
      For the sake of one project, with an unknown perspective, no one will develop it from scratch.
      And a simple calculation - from a height of 30 km you can effectively cover only a small area, which means you need a network of airships.
      A satellite in one span can cover strip several times wider.
      1. Bulanov Offline Bulanov
        Bulanov (Vladimir) 25 October 2022 16: 50
        From a height of 30 km, you can observe the regional city. and you can also broadcast your propaganda on its inhabitants.
        And again, the cheapness of the product compared to satellites. Such an airship does not have to be huge. Enough to lift the weight of the engine, the motor charger and the equipment it carries.
        As for the airship network, Musk has a network of Starlink satellites, which are much more expensive.
        1. Vladimir Tuzakov (Vladimir Tuzakov) 25 October 2022 17: 48
          Airships to the stratosphere and only on their territory. Satellites around the world and cheaper operation. According to Starlink, it is not necessary to disable each one with a rocket, to burn small Starlink satellites with laser weapons, moving them in orbits with a space tug. Laser pumping, from solar to chemical, possibly with a mini nuclear unit. It's time to produce such products, because it was necessary to cut down Starlink yesterday, and tomorrow what other satellites will have to be cut down ...
      2. Vdars Offline Vdars
        Vdars (Victor) 4 November 2022 14: 39
        At an altitude of 30 km, the airship is already subject to enemy air defense in terms of international laws. So broadcasting to a foreign country is not possible!
    2. boriz Offline boriz
      boriz (boriz) 26 October 2022 01: 32
      At an altitude of 30 km, any country has every right to shoot down this airship even in peacetime. Not to mention the fighting. "Common" outer space begins above 100 km.
      You don't need a rocket to shoot down an airship. Enough laser. The object is large, static. You won't miss. Perhaps Peresvet will cope.
      1. Bulanov Offline Bulanov
        Bulanov (Vladimir) 26 October 2022 10: 23
        And what, does the current enemy of Russia have Peresvet? How much will a NATO missile launched from a neighboring state at a height of 30 km cost? And where will it be launched from? An unmanned airship can be made at any decent enterprise in a stream, 1 piece a day without straining and at a price ridiculous compared to the price of a rocket knocking it down. The whole question is the cheapness and effectiveness of the product.
        And the unmanned object may not be too big.
        1. Vladimir Tuzakov (Vladimir Tuzakov) 26 October 2022 16: 05
          Replica. At altitudes, the air is rarefied, the lifting force of 1m3 drops (by many times), which means that the dimensions will increase by so many times, so the attraction is almost the same. By definition, there will be no high-altitude small airships ... At altitudes, the winds are large, how to keep from demolition, and so on. There are many problems ... Therefore, the United States, having issued hundreds of billions of dollars, has nothing that can be exploited for a long time ...
    3. Piramidon Offline Piramidon
      Piramidon (Stepan) 26 October 2022 11: 39
      Quote: Bulanov
      Maybe you can launch unmanned stratospheric airships on hydrogen (it is volatile helium)?

      And where to get them? With airships in Russia, things are much worse than with satellites.
  2. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) 25 October 2022 18: 25
    The main thing, in fact - "it has been said for a very long time"
    And the rest is already clear to everyone - a satisfied trampoline-implementer in the photo in the media is a witness.
  3. Vox_Populi Offline Vox_Populi
    Vox_Populi (vox populi) 25 October 2022 21: 34
    Will the Russian "Sphere" be able to compete with Starlink or OneWeb

    Taking into account all the "cash" circumstances, real competition is unlikely ...
  4. vlad127490 Offline vlad127490
    vlad127490 (Vlad Gor) 25 October 2022 21: 42
    Satellites, airplanes, airships, I would like to have everything, but consider them not. About airships. A stationary airship for early warning and control (AWACS) hovering at an altitude of 12 km has an optically visible horizon at a distance of 415 km. The airship is connected to the ground by a cable-cable, through which electricity and information are transmitted, the cable-cable is not load-bearing, its load is only the weight of the cable-cable itself (1m = 0,2-0,5kg). The positioning system keeps the airship at a given point. Once a year, preventive maintenance, repair. Hang 3 airships on the border with Poland and you will see all of Poland.
  5. ont65 Offline ont65
    ont65 (Oleg) 25 October 2022 21: 54
    Musk has a calculation for the survivability of the network as a whole from unreliable, but numerous components for a certain payback period. It is known that the survivability of cubesats is scanty, others will die before reaching orbit, while others live until the next solar flare. Its commercial criteria do not fit well with the requirements of the military, but as a parallel structure it is quite the place to be. This is to the fact that Musk cannot offer anything reference to the military, he has his own interests. The sphere is built differently, the question is not in the competition who is bigger. Do we have masks in the country? No. There are several large potential customers, but whether their commercial projects will coincide is still a big question. So far, the money has been allocated for a small fraction of the total funding. It is not difficult to imagine how events will develop. Long-term construction for decades with unfinished business. A familiar scheme for Roskosmos in the face of underfunding and meager reserves.
    1. boriz Offline boriz
      boriz (boriz) 26 October 2022 01: 48
      There are masks. And not only with us. There is no solution to use this scheme.
      In the US, corruption is such that our nervously smoke on the sidelines. The mask is used in order to bypass corrupt structures in vital cases. For corruption is introduced into the rank of law (lobbying). In order not to focus on the fantastic corruption of the military-industrial complex, it is customary to talk about the extraordinary genius of Musk. Although behind his projects are the money of the Pentagon, NASA and other government agencies. As well as specialists from the same structures.
      Mishustin is currently engaged in the creation of bypass structures. This is CS.
      If in the US Musk is involved in rare, vital cases, while maintaining a system of corruption, then the Constitutional Court will create a system that completely bypasses the state. apparatus. So that later it replaced the liberal state. apparatus completely.
  6. Muscool Offline Muscool
    Muscool (Glory) 27 October 2022 08: 38
    So can it or not? Not understood.
  7. DO Offline DO
    DO (Dmitriy) 3 November 2022 21: 58
    Will the Russian "Sphere" be able to compete with Starlink or OneWeb

    As a SYMMETRIC answer, of course it can't.
    First, there is no time for this. Road spoon to dinner.
    Secondly, it is doubtful that there will be sufficient resources for the rapid development, production and launch of thousands of small satellites into orbit.
    There are ASYMMETRIC answers. First, the production and launch into the required orbits of controlled jamming satellites, primarily for territorial-selective jamming of GPS and other Western positioning systems, and secondly for real-time communications and military intelligence systems.
    And with further escalation, when the enemy destroys Russian jamming satellites, it will be the turn of indiscriminate destruction systems (such as "buckets of bolts" and orbital nuclear explosions), which, alas, will make earthly orbits extremely dangerous for satellites and impossible for habitable orbital stations.