Today, indispensable tools for studying and continuously monitoring our planet, helping to efficiently use and manage its resources, are Earth remote sensing (ERS) technologies from space. These technologies find applications in virtually all spheres of life.

Images transmitted by Earth remote sensing satellites are used in agriculture, geological and hydrological research, forestry, environmental protection, land planning; for educational, reconnaissance, and military purposes. Space ERS systems allow for the rapid acquisition of necessary data from large areas, including hard-to-reach and dangerous regions.

Not so long ago, 5-7 years ago, specialists shared opinions that the development of ERS space devices would lead to a decrease in the need for new imaging - no more than 2-3% of the total volume, that by 2020 there would be constellations covering the entire globe daily, and that increased competition in providing ERS data would lead to cost reduction. Some believed that the provision of free data would destroy the Earth remote sensing market. The "Roskosmos" Corporation had grand plans for developing the domestic ERS satellite constellation. Which of these plans came to fruition, and which remained just bold statements? Here are a few remarks from official representatives of the state corporation.

September 16, 2014. Deputy Chief Designer of JSC "Russian Space Systems" Viktor Selin at the opening of the IV International School on Satellite Navigation: "In 2015, Russia will have at its disposal an orbital constellation of eleven ERS satellites of various purposes. Today, the constellation consists of six ERS spacecraft. By the end of the year, there will already be eight satellites, and next year - eleven. These are not just words, but the actual state of affairs. New spacecraft are already on the assembly lines, so a significant increase in the Russian ERS satellite constellation is to be expected." Source:

November 13, 2014. "Roskosmos" representative Valery Zaichko at a conference on ERS issues at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences: "In 2017, we plan to have two radar observation spacecraft with a resolution of about 1 meter." Source:

It was also mentioned that the radar observation satellite constellation is planned to be based on the "Kondor" spacecraft, which is currently undergoing flight tests.

September 5, 2015. Viktor Selin at the International School on Satellite Navigation in Moscow: "The Russian ERS satellite constellation will increase almost sevenfold to 48 units by 2025." Source:

He also clarified that there are seven Russian ERS satellites in orbit, although a constellation of eleven spacecraft should have been created. According to him, the launch of the "Resurs-P" No.3 satellite is planned for December, and the "Meteor-M2-1" satellite in 2016.

November 20, 2015. Off-site plenary session of the XIII All-Russian Open Conference "Modern Problems of Remote Sensing of the Earth from Space": "The Russian ERS orbital constellation will grow to fifteen spacecraft by 2020. Today, the Russian ERS orbital constellation consists of seven spacecraft providing imaging in the visible and infrared ranges: 'Resurs-DK1', 'Resurs-P' No.1, 2, 'Kanopus-V' No.1, 'Electro-L' No.1 and 'Meteor-M' No.1, 2. The launch of another hydrometeorological satellite, 'Electro-L' No.2, is scheduled for December 11, 2015." Source:

Thus, there is no longer any talk of eleven spacecraft.

January 28, 2016. Deputy Head of the Directorate of Automatic Space Complexes and Systems of "Roskosmos" Valery Zaichko at a meeting on the practical use of space activity results for the socio-economic development of Russia: "We continue to improve information products and increase the ERS spacecraft orbital constellation. This year, we plan to launch four more ERS spacecraft. These include 'Resurs-P' No.3, 'Kanopus-V-IK', 'Meteor-M' No.2-1, and 'Electro-L' No.3. The launch of 'Resurs-P' No.3 is scheduled for March 12. Taking this into account, the ERS system will consist of eleven spacecraft in 2016." Source:

In reality, only 'Resurs-P' No.3 was launched.

January 31, 2018. Deputy Director of the Department of Navigation Space Systems (GLONASS) of "Roskosmos" Valery Zaichko in an interview with "Moskovsky Komsomolets" about the development of the Russian ERS constellation: "Currently, there are eight ERS spacecraft in orbit, five of which are for high-resolution detailed observation: three 'Resurs-P' type with a resolution better than 1 meter, and two 'Kanopus' type with a resolution of 2-2.5 meters, as well as three hydrometeorological spacecraft." Source:

In the interview, Valery Zaichko did not specify that 'Resurs-P' No.2 failed prematurely in 2017, and 'Resurs-P' No.3 stopped functioning on May 19, 2017, after only five months of operation.

Thus, in May 2020, the Russian ERS constellation consisted of only ten spacecraft:

One could add the small satellite "Aist-2D", which surpasses "Kanopus" in its characteristics, but this satellite was developed with funds from RKC "Progress" and is not part of the "Roskosmos" constellation. Moreover, not a single ERS radar observation spacecraft was launched.

Thus, there is no talk of doubling the Russian ERS satellite constellation by 2020.

On May 22, 2017, Vladimir Putin held a meeting on the development of the country's space industry. "According to expert estimates, in the coming years, the demand for services providing data obtained through Earth remote sensing will significantly increase. Russia, as is known, has undeniable competitive advantages in this field, and we need to use them to the maximum," said the president. "First of all, we need to increase the orbital constellation providing remote sensing. By 2020, it should consist of at least fifteen spacecraft. This will allow for the imaging of the territory of Russia and the entire globe," noted V.V. Putin. Source:  

Judging by the situation, "Roskosmos" will not be able to fulfill the president's directive by the end of 2020. There were no planned launches of Russian-made ERS spacecraft for 2020, and the launch of "Resurs-P" No.4, initially scheduled for 2020, has been postponed to the first quarter of 2021 or even to November 2021. The launch of "Resurs-P" No.5 is scheduled for an even later date.

Despite the unmet previous promises, "Roskosmos" continues to announce grandiose plans for the future.

Speaking at the VIII International Conference Satellite Russia & CIS 2016, the head of the Department of Automatic Space Complexes and Systems Management of "Roskosmos" Vladimir Shvedov said: "One of the tasks of the Federal Space Program 2016‒2025 is to expand the ERS satellite orbital constellation and eliminate dependence on foreign ERS data. As the Russian ERS satellite constellation develops, it will provide data to all Russian consumers. Thus, we can minimize the use of foreign ERS data. No legislative acts will be adopted to push foreign companies out of the market. Everything will be purely competitive: if there is good Russian ERS data, less foreign data will be used. We strive for this and have achieved decent results," he emphasized.

October 10, 2019. Deputy Director of the Department of Navigation Space Systems (GLONASS) of "Roskosmos" Valery Zaichko: "Based on the existing emergency monitoring system 'Kanopus-V', we have started implementing the new generation 'Kanopus-VO' system, which will provide wide-scope and infrared imaging of Russian territory. The first of at least six spacecraft of the new system is planned to be put into operation in 2024‒2025," said Zaichko. "The satellite constellation will be used for continuous monitoring of man-made and natural emergencies, rapid detection of forest fires, and major pollutant releases. The next-generation 'Kanopus-VO' satellites will have an increased swath width from 20 to 100 km. The infrared equipment on the satellites will allow the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations to promptly detect fires at an early stage." Source: TASS.

January 24, 2020. "Roskosmos" plans to add two more spacecraft to the orbital constellation designed for rapid monitoring of man-made and natural emergencies, according to materials posted on the public procurement website. The materials note that in 2022, "Roskosmos" intends to order a Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle for 1.5 billion rubles to launch "Kanopus-V" No.7 and 8 satellites. Recently, the general director of JSC "Peleng" (Republic of Belarus) Vladimir Pokryshkin stated that their resolution will be "better than half a meter." Later, materials on the public procurement website reported that "Roskosmos" plans to allocate 8.7 billion rubles for these purposes by 2025. Source: RIA Novosti.

In short, there are many plans. But judging by the experience of past years, their implementation is in serious doubt. We will be able to assess the real situation and the successes of "Roskosmos" in expanding the domestic ERS satellite constellation in the same 5‒7 years, that is, not before 2025. Meanwhile, what is happening in the world? To be continued...