Vladimir Putin mobilises Russia's space industry too

The director general of the Space Agency finalises an ambitious project for the reconversion of the sector

PHOTO/Kremlin  -   The partial mobilisation decree of 21 September hands over to Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu the legal instrument to mobilise a first contingent of several hundred thousand reservists

President Vladimir Putin's decree of 21 September has placed in the hands of the Minister of Defence, General Sergei Shoigu, the legal tool to mobilise some 300,000 reservists from the Russian Armed Forces. 

With such a large pool of personnel, Russia's Chief of Defence Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, and the newly appointed - on 24 September - Deputy Minister for Logistics Affairs, General Mikhail Mizintsev, will reinforce the logistical units supporting the army battalions fighting in Ukraine, as well as increase the second echelon of troops tasked with maintaining security in the occupied territories. 

But Putin has also given the green light for the conversion of the huge space machine that powers his strategic military forces and the satellite-based communications, navigation and observation sector that serves both civilian and military purposes.  

PHOTO/Khrunichev - Since his appointment in mid-July, the new director general of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Borisov, has been touring Russia to see the main facilities and enterprises under his responsibility.

The person charged with carrying out the major reorganisation of Moscow's vast space fabric is the new executive director of the state corporation Roscosmos, General Yuri Borisov, who until his appointment in mid-July was responsible for overseeing the defence technology base, including nuclear. 

Since taking up his post just over two months ago, Yuri Borisov has been on a veritable marathon of meetings and trips across Russia. He has visited the Baikonur, Plesetsk and Vostochny cosmodromes, met with the heads of major companies and devoured progress reports from the heads of design bureaus and generals of strategic forces.

PHOTO/Olga Balashova-TASS - The vast majority of the mobilised reservists are to reinforce logistical units. Their assignments are in the hands of General Mikhail Mizintsev (pictured), deputy minister for logistics since 24 September
Towards commercialisation of products and services

Borisov concluded that the Russian space ecosystem "must be reformed on the basis of seven major priorities". The main one is to "initiate the process of transforming space institutions" so that a "new system of industrial production and management" is established on principles of unification and standardisation that will make it possible to "reorient the sector towards the commercialisation of products and services". 

In order to maintain Moscow's civilian and military presence in outer space, industrial restructuring will be accompanied by a policy to reinforce the ageing staff of engineers, technicians and qualified personnel that make up the more than fifty state institutions and companies in the national space sector. Also the hundreds of companies located throughout Russia that supply them with the components they need.  

At a recent meeting in St. Petersburg, the head of Roscosmos emphasised that the strategic challenges facing the world require the Kremlin to make the decision to transform its space industry. "We need to learn to react quickly and flexibly in order to be more efficient in solving problems and managing change," Borisov said. 

PHOTO/Khrunichev - Yuri Borisov has spent more than half of the summer meeting with the heads of Russia's leading space companies and receiving briefings on their situation and future plans

Borisov's analysis and knowledge of the industry has shown that Roscosmos' work is "hampered" by a number of "bottlenecks" that have accumulated over the years. To break the bottleneck, Borisov said it needs "sufficient investment, deployment of new orbital constellations and penetration of new markets". 

One such new market is space data. The Roscosmos chief is in possession of reports that there is a "great demand" for Earth remote sensing information globally in the optical, infrared and radar spectra, for which Roscosmos relies on the Smotr and Berkut family of satellites.

PHOTO/Vitali Nebar-TASS - The 300,000 compulsorily drafted reservists will also be attached to military units dedicated to maintaining security in the occupied Ukrainian territories
The Sfera mega-constellation

The major project that Yuri Borisov inherited from his predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, and on which the veteran general, now head of the Russian Space Agency, also relies, is the Sfera mega-constellation. With it, Moscow intends to give a simultaneous boost to the mass production of satellites and the deployment of networks in space.  

Sfera will also serve to provide commercial services in the high latitudes of vast Russia, where population density is very low and icy terrain conditions prevent the deployment of fibre-optic communications networks. In such areas, the satellites will help provide a full range of telecommunications services for homes and mobility. 

PHOTO/Roscosmos - Under the leadership of Yuri Borisov, Russia will reform its space institutions and implement a new system of industrial production and management reoriented towards the commercialisation of products and services

The large Sfera constellation will consist of different models of remote sensing and communications satellites. Among the latter are the Skifs, the minimum number of which will be around a dozen. They will be positioned at an altitude of 8,070 kilometres to provide broadband Internet access. 

The first of the "demonstrator" Skifs - called Skif-D - is scheduled for launch on 22 October from the Siberian Vostochny Cosmodrome. Others are the Marafon-IoTs, 264 in number, which will be placed in low orbits at an altitude of 750 kilometres. The latter will be dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and will start flying in 2024. 

PHOTO/Roscosmos - Official presentation of the large Sfera constellation, which brings together communications (Skif and Marafon-IoT) and observation satellites to bring broadband Internet, data and imagery to Siberia, the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route

Russia has a strong geostrategic interest in the Arctic area and the North Sea route. Yuri Borisov wants to create the necessary space and ground infrastructure to ensure data collection, communications and weather forecasts relevant to international maritime traffic. Sfera will provide images and information on the ice situation and iceberg movements along the entire route, regardless of cloud cover or polar night.