Space: June 11, 2001

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Russia now has a space based photo-satellite in orbit again. After several weeks with no such capability, a Kobalt class bird was launched at the end of May. The Kobalt satellites are a twenty year old design that still sends film canisters back to earth. But rather than waste an entire satellite when the film runs out, the Kobalts are designed to leave orbit and make a soft landing on earth, where they are refurbished and used again. The Kobalts have undergone continuous upgrades over the years and current models can last about 120 days in orbit (less, if a lot of pictures are taken.) Russia also has a class of satellites with digital cameras (which the U.S. has used for over twenty years), the Nemans. These birds last about a year before they run out of fuel (used for changing orbit to get above areas to be photographed.) Russia never developed the digital photography technology that the United States has, and thus still needs the film based photography is still needed for high resolution work. In the past, Russia tried to keep at least one Kobalt bird in orbit at all times. But as their space program ran short of money, this became impossible. In the past few years, they had a hard time just keeping one Neman up at all times. While other nations are launching photo-satellites, the United States still possesses the most formidable array of recon satellites, and the ability to keep them up there.

 


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