Russia is developing a new laser system in the Greater Caucasus mountain range that will disable foreign satellites passing over Russian territory, an open-source investigation published last week by The Space Review found.
Construction of the Kalina project, which started in 2011, is underway in the Krona space surveillance complex located at the Chapal mountain peak, the report found by analyzing recent satellite imagery from Google Earth and documents from Russian industrial contractors.
Kalina's goal, as written in a bank guarantee document from January 2014, is "creating a system for the functional suppression of electro-optical systems of satellites" using lasers.
The "space security complex," as it is described in a 2017 document, is a "special quantum-optical system" to be used for "electro-optical warfare," according to Precision Instrument Systems (NPK SPP), a Russian scientific and industrial corporation, who was given the contract for the project by the Russian Defense Ministry.
The project has been delayed several times and progress has been extremely slow, the report noted, citing a newsletter published by the contractors in 2016. One possible setback came in the form of the liquidation of NPTs Femto, the company tasked with developing an adaptive optics system for the project, in 2021.
Kalina was also likely delayed by the economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the more-recent wave of sanctions imposed by the West due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Russia's new space toy
Kalina features a new telescope used to accurately aim laser beams at satellites, housed in a specially-constructed building built to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude seven.
The laser beams are routed via mirrors and enter and the telescope through an opening on its side, after which they are reflected back, causing them to form an image of the targeted object in a detector.
While the telescope, along with a tunnel connecting it to the laser optical locator (LOL) located in Krona, is already in place, it is impossible to tell how much much internal hardware is installed, the investigation admitted.
Kalina is the latest of a new generation of Russian laser systems developed in recent years, including Peresvet, a mobile laser system first announced by President Vladimir Putin in 2018 which Moscow said had advanced so far it could blind orbiting satellites and destroy drones.