Moscow reportedly plans to launch three of the new Hrazdan satellites—one each in 2019, 2022, and 2024. Essentially orbital telescopes that point down toward Earth, the Hrazdans will replace Russia’s two existing Persona spy satellites.
Moscow has come to rely heavily on its military spacecraft to support long-distance deployments. Spy satellites, including the Personas, have played a central role in the Russian intervention in Syria, helping to spot targets for Russian bombers and cruise missiles.
The Hrazdans are built around huge, finely-crafted lenses. Where the Personas feature 1.5-meter-diameter lenses, the Hrazdans boast lenses with a diameter greater than two meters, according to Kommersant, a Russian newspaper.
The Personas maintain circular orbits around Earth at an altitude of 700 kilometers. At that altitude, the older sats’ lenses afford them a 31-centimeter resolution, Ted Molczan, an independent satellite-tracker and space expert, told The Daily Beast. In other words, when a Persona takes a snapshot of the Earth’s surface, each pixel in the image represents an area 31 centimeters by 31 centimeters.
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