Cablegate: Zheleznogorsk: Closed City Opens for Search and Rescue

DE RUEHMO #2927/01 1691421
P 181421Z JUN 07








E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) MOSCOW 01637

B) 06 MOSCOW 02785

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Russian and American delegations met in the closed
city of Zheleznogorsk June 6-8 to discuss simulated and experimental
search-and-rescue (SAR) results from the Russian Global Navigation
Satellite System (GLONASS) and the U.S. GPS system as part of their
efforts to ensure interoperability and prepare for the
implementation of a global Medium-altitude Earth Orbiting Search and
Rescue (MEOSAR) system. The Russians detailed their plans to begin
deploying GLONASS by 2009 and to have a functioning SAR system by
2017. The Americans received a close-up look at the Reshetnev
satellite production facility and two GLONASS M satellites. END


2. (SBU) From June 6-8, Russian and American scientists and
engineers reviewed action items for the annual GPS-GLONASS Working
Group on search and rescue (SAR) satellite systems and the most
recent simulations and experimental results. The U.S. delegation
included representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center
and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The
Russian delegation consisted of representatives of the Science and
Industry Corporation of Applied Mechanics (NPO PM), the Russian
Institute of Space Device Engineering (RIISDE) and the Federal Space
Agency (Roskosmos). (NOTE: NPO PM designs and builds GLONASS
satellites. RIISDE is charged with design and deployment of the
GLONASS system, both for the global navigation aspect and the search
and rescue element. Roskosmos has overall responsibility for
launching the satellite program, but the Ministry of Defense
exercises ultimate control over use of GLONASS. END NOTE)

3. (SBU) Viktor Chebotarev, Chief Design Engineer for NPO PM,
outlined the launch schedule for GLONASS M satellites, the model
which will supplement and replace the approximately 15 GLONASS
satellites currently in orbit.(NOTE: Official claims and media
reports of the number of operational GLONASS satellites vary from 10
to 17. END NOTE) According to Chebotarev, three GLONASS M
satellites will be launched in September and three more in December,
bringing the total deployed--given retirement of obsolete or
non-functioning satellites--to 18, the minimum number for operation
of the global navigation system. In 2008 Roskosmos plans three
launches that will bring the deployment to a minimum of 24 GLONASS
and/or GLONASS M satellites necessary for full configuration of the
system (i.e. worldwide coverage). Starting in 2009, Roskosmos will
have three launches of the GLONASS K satellite, a larger and more
powerful platform with a longer lifespan of 10 years, which
Chebotarev characterized as being in the "final design
documentation" stage. By 2017, the GOR plans that the GLONASS
system will consist entirely of 24 or more GLONASS K satellites with
SAR capabilities. The head of the American delegation, Ajay Mehta
of NOAA, reported that the United States is currently in the
planning phase and could begin to deploy the GPS SAR system in

4. (SBU) Dr. Vladislav Rogalskiy, Head of the RIISDE Department for
Global Navigation Satellite Systems, said that the GLONASS M
satellites planned for 2007 launch did not have search and rescue
(SAR) transponders, but claimed to some disbelief by the American
side that these could be added. He said the SAR components would
have a lifespan of 10 years, matching the GLONASS K, which was
designed to carry a SAR platform. Rogalskiy added that, in
deference to the GPS lead in the field, future GLONASS satellites
would operate on two of the radio frequencies used by the GPS
satellites. He also outlined the program for setting up the initial
ground station, which is located at RIISDE in Moscow, with antennas
to receive satellite signals for the Medium Altitude Earth Orbiting
(MEO) satellite system. The trials will commence with preliminary
tests of one antenna in the third quarter of 2007 and move to final
tests of a two-antenna array by the fourth quarter of 2008. He
expects accuracy to be within 5 kilometers for 95 percent of the
cases. He said the GOR is hoping to obtain support from other
countries, mentioning Canada specifically, for installation of the
antenna array.

Simulation vs. Reality

MOSCOW 00002927 002 OF 003


5. (SBU) The American delegation offered results from "experimental"
data (i.e. actual satellite and ground station observations) for
beacon detection percentage and location accuracy obtained from the
seven currently-deployed GPS satellites in the proof-of-concept
(POC) system. The criterion for "location accuracy" is detection of
one signal burst by four satellites or detection of three signal
bursts by each of three satellites. This data showed a cluster of
accuracy in northeastern North America, which confirmed expectations
based on the angles of inclination and the locations of the ground
stations. The United States analysts emphasized that further tests
will be undertaken to characterize the planned MEOSAR system more

6. (SBU) Both the American and the Russian representatives presented
"simulation" analyses (i.e. computer projections) on expected
location accuracy under varying scenarios using various ground
stations. The key difference was higher detection percentage and
location accuracy from the Russian simulations. The American side
attributed this partially to underlying assumptions by the Russian
analysts. The Russian delegate presenting simulation results
identified wind, waves and ocean current conditions as factors in
their results. The Russian side expressed great interest in
comparing the American experimental results from actual satellite
observations with their simulations.

Closed City Opens Up

7. (SBU) Hidden amidst a green blanket of Siberian pine and birch
forests, the city of Zheleznogorsk is visible from the air to planes
leaving Krasnoyarsk, 60 kilometers away, with tall stacks belching
smoke and steam from the RussAl aluminum factory and the nuclear
power plant that produces weapons-grade plutonium. Zheleznogorsk,
with a population of 100,000, was founded in 1950 as a city closed
to outsiders and devoted to the production of strategic materials
for the Soviet military. In a sign of the importance attached to the
meetings, the American delegation was met at the outlying gates of
Zheleznogorsk by Nikolay Testoyedov, member of the Russian Academy
of Sciences and General Director of NPO PM. The city, graced by
elegant buildings designed by Leningrad architects on their own
city's model, is a showcase of the modern Soviet city. Ironically,
only a very few Russians even knew of its existence, since for a
long time it was identified only by its postal code as "Krasnoyarsk
26." (COMMENT: In one scenic site at Krasnoyarsk, we were
surrounded by a group of Russian schoolchildren, who told us in
English that we were the first Americans they had ever met. We were
told that Krasnoyarsk, a city of one million people, has 100,000
university students in its population. END COMMENT)

8. (SBU) As part of the program for the SARSAT delegation, Vasiliy
Zvonar, Head of the Satellite Design Sector at NPO PM, arranged for
a tour of the satellite production facility. NPO PM is named in
Russian fashion for Academician M.F.Reshetnev (pronounced
"Reh-shet-nyov, with the accent on the final syllable). Reshetnev
is revered in Zheleznogorsk as one of the founders of Soviet space
science. Like his teacher Sergey Korolev, known as the father of
Soviet rocketry, Reshetnev came to this region of Siberia in 1939
during the purges, but was ultimately restored to his position
during World War Two. Zvonar told us that we were the first foreign
group ever allowed inside the satellite facility.

9. (SBU) The deputy head of the Satellite Design Sector and the
deputy head of the Satellite Production Sector took us to the "clean
room" and showed us one of the GLONASS M satellites that underwent
vibration testing a day earlier in preparation for launch in
September. They said it took up to a year to prepare the satellite
for launch. With evident pride in their work, they also allowed us
to examine another GLONASS M satellite and explained the design.
The satellite is enclosed in a pressurized container to protect the
instruments within. The deputy designer noted that the instruments
on the GLONASS M were cheaper than on American GPS satellites but of
less sturdy construction. Zvonar told us that they sold about five
satellite platforms per year to Japanese and French clients, which
were loaded with the client's instruments and returned to Russia for

10. (SBU) Our guides also led us to the design and production

MOSCOW 00002927 003 OF 003

building where the GLONASS K prototypes are under construction.
Using nanotechnology, circuits are precisely imprinted by electronic
devices on a 40-ton granite slab. However, the "honeycomb panel"
aluminum insulation is prepared manually by workers with what
appeared to be awls, poking the material to create minute air
pockets. We were told that there are 6,000 workers at NPO PM, but
there appeared to be very few working in the GLONASS K facility.

The New Space Environment

11. (SBU) Yevgeniy Nesterov, deputy head of the Roskosmos Office of
Navigation of Automatic Spacecraft overseeing GLONASS, spoke warmly
at a farewell dinner of the cooperation between his agency and NASA.
Zvonar toasted GPS and GLONASS as the only two "great" global
navigation systems, which was not so much a disparaging reference to
the European Galileo system and other global navigation programs,
but an acknowledgment of the primacy of Russian-American
cooperation. During the meetings, the Russian conferees repeatedly
urged cooperation with the other satellite navigation programs and
emphasized that ground stations were needed in southern Africa and
South America.

12. (SBU) COMMENT: NPO PM officials, RIISDE and Roskosmos extended
extraordinarily warm welcomes to the U.S. delegation. They were
willing to share their data and details of their plans with little
hesitation, except when it came to budget items. The Russian
delegation expressed strong interest in continuing to work with
their American counterparts. The American delegation would like to
encourage them to begin work on the ground elements of the MEOSAR
system. Despite GLONASS lagging at this point behind GPS, it is the
only other functional global PNT system.

13. (U) NOAA delegation head Ajay Mehta cleared this cable.


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