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Russian communications satellite in trouble

A ten-year old Russian Ekspress geosynchronous communications satellite in early June developed problems that have forced engineers to shut down much of its capabilities.

The problem was similar to issues experienced in 2020 on a second similar Ekspress orbiting geosynchronous communications satellite, suggesting both satellites had the same design flaw.

For Russia the problem is made much more serious because its invasion of the Ukraine has made it impossible to replace this satellite.

The latest impact on Russian satellite communications capacity came at a time when the established production model for the Ekspress satellite family, relying on Western suppliers, had been disrupted by the Kremlin’s escalation of the war against Ukraine in 2022, likely resulting in severe delays if not a complete stop in the development of this type of spacecraft in Russia.

In other words, Russia has lost significant communications capacity, and does not have a way to replace that capacity because of the sanctions against it imposed because of its invasion. Once again, Putin’s idiotic war in the Ukraine has caused nothing but disaster for Russia.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • I believe that they just launched a new Kondor-FKA radar satellite for reconnaissance. I don’t think Russian civilian communication satellites have any real impact on their military.

  • Charlie: I wasn’t specifically implying it would impact their military. It instead impacts ordinary Russians, who will no longer be able to get the same communications services everyone else in the world takes for granted.

    Unless of course they somehow smuggle in a Starlink terminal and can operate it without the Russian authorities finding out.

  • mkent

    This is a fairly big deal. Russia cannot build its own communications satellites. They can build the satellite bus, but they have to import the communications payload from the West, and said payloads fall under the sanctions imposed on Russia by every Western country.

    For the technically curious, modern comsat payloads are built around the Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier (TWTA). There are only two places in the world to get a Ka- or Ku-band TWTA. One is in Europe, and the other is in the USA. India is trying to build their own, but so far they haven’t succeeded yet.

    This is an example where the sanctions are beginning to bite. Some people point to the price of tomatoes* and say that the sanctions are backfiring. But tomatoes will neither win nor lose the war. Computer chips, tank production, drone production, comsats, optical sights, etc. will, however, have a significant effect.

    ”Unless of course they somehow smuggle in a Starlink terminal and can operate it without the Russian authorities finding out.”

    That Starlink terminal would be useless. Starlink satellites use very narrow beams which are geo-fenced to only authorized areas. The entire Russian federation is unauthorized. If you set up a Starlink terminal inside Russia, the Starlink constellation would ignore it.

    *Seriously, I’ve seen that argument made.

  • mkent: I agree about Russia’s situation and the consequences from its foolish invasion. As for Starlink, my comment was not really serious in any way.

  • Jeff Wright

    This week on Gilligan’s Isle…

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