Google Earth reveals Russian laser weapon project to “blind” satellites

Google Earth reveals Russian laser weapon project to “blind” satellites

Image: Geminy Observatory/Disclosure

Russia may be developing a sophisticated new laser system that will be able to obfuscate optical sensors on spy satellites. Named “Kalina”, the project would be a new military offensive by the Russians to prevent foreign satellites from spying on their territory from Earth orbit.

According to information revealed by the website The Space Review, the project has been in existence since 2011, but has suffered from several delays in recent years. However, there is now strong evidence that construction of a military complex to use the laser is underway.

Recent images from Google Earth revealed that the work is taking place in the vicinity of Krona, a space surveillance complex in the extreme southwest of Russia, which is under the responsibility of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The base is a few kilometers from Zelenchukskaya, a place known to astronomers for housing an astronomical observatory and the RATAN-600 radio telescope. When comparing satellite images from Google Earth, it is possible to see that the site has gained telescope domes, as seen in the photo below:

Where Russia may be developing laser weapon

In addition, online contracts, court documents and patent information bring some technical details related to the project. According to the leaked information, the idea behind the new weapon is to flood the sensors of spy satellites with pulses of lasers brighter than they can capture. This glare could cause permanent damage to the satellite sensors.

To work, the system relies on two telescopes: one with a diameter of 1.3 meters, to take high-resolution images of satellites in low orbits, and another 40-centimeter wide-angle, to detect satellites in high orbits. The laser is attached to the larger telescope.

When working together, the telescopes can not only illuminate the satellites at any time of day, but also accurately measure the distance to the satellites. On-site radar systems also assist in the process of identifying and tracking targets for these telescopes.

This type of weapon is not easy to develop, as it requires high precision, in addition to creating a laser strong enough to be able to cross the Earth’s atmosphere and reach the satellite’s sensor. However, as pointed out by the spacethis type of technology could evolve in the future to the point of being able to permanently disable satellites.

Laser gun is not the only one

Since late 2019, Russia has been using the Peresvet, a mobile anti-satellite laser – mounted on a truck – that can prevent foreign reconnaissance satellites from tracking its movements.

At the time of the start of operations of this system, Yuri Borisov, then Russian deputy prime minister and now director general of the Roscomos space agency, even claimed that the mobile system can temporarily “blind” all reconnaissance satellites passing over the territory. Russian, up to an altitude of 1,500 km. However, there are still no confirmations that the system has been successfully used.

In addition to the Kalina and the Peresvet, there are also suspicions that an aerial version of the laser – called Sokol-Eshelon – is also in development by the Russians.

However, it is worth noting that the permanent destruction of a space sensor by a nation can be considered an act of aggression, leading to a rapid escalation of military tensions. Furthermore, this type of laser weapon would be ineffective for spy satellites that work through radar.

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