General Information

Znamya experiments: SRC - Space Regatta Consortium - was formed in 1990 by RSC Energia as a leader and by some other Russian space organizations and   headed by  Yu. Semenov, N. Sevastyanov and V. Syromiatnikov. SRC-Space Regatta Consortium with RSC Energia as a leader is carrying out an experimental program under the name Znamya (Banner). The main goal is to test large thin film deployable structures as well as some applications.

Background: This activity and SR Consortium itself originated from worldwide competition announced in 1988 to commemorate 500 Jubilee of America discovery. The project failed because no fund was raised but the Russian team continued.

RSC Energia is a leading space and rocket enterprize which designs, develops and accomplishes launches of orbital stations, cargo and manned spacecraft, ensures flight control, trains cosmonauts. Enormous potential gained, skilled personnel, the modern experimental and production base permits the firm to tackle the most complicated and promising space programs (one of such programs is the performance of the Znamya experiment).

Space Regatta Consortium: The main goal of SR Consortium is to develop, produce and promote spacecraft basing on large thin film deployable structures.

Currently SR Consortium is the only organization in the world working practically on solarcraft, solar mirrors and space illumination system.

This activity of the Consortium is licensed by Russian Space Agency.

Znamya-2: The first practical step was a demonstration experiment carried out 4.2.93. when the 20-meter solar sail was deployed onboard Progress M-15 cargo s/c. Then "Novey Svet" (New Light) experiment to illuminate Earth from space was conducted.

Further steps: During last 5 years experts of SRC conceptually designed a solarcraft and a few models. A principal step was a 70-meter reflector named Znamya-3.

Znamya-2.5: In order to verify improvements of the models and new control modes, a decision was made to run intermediate experiment. Hence, the name.  It was planned that due to enlarged size and film tailoring improvements the reflected light would be 5-10 times brighter, the tele-operator attitude control from Mir o/s would make it possible to point a reflected beam to a few cities after sunset. Onboard Progress M-40 the new reflector  flied in space at October 26 1998.  The reflector deployment was carried out February 4, 1999. The experiment was failure to carry out completely.

Near future: According to long term plan SR Consortium developed a proposal to design 70- and 200-meter reflectors. Eventually the last one should become the basic component of the future systems: solar sailing and illumination from space.

Open structure: SR Consortium is open to other companies to participate in the field. A good opportunity is to join efforts in carrying out Znamya experiments. One of the options is to order experimental data of Znamya-2.5. The other is a joint venture in future projects.

Contact person: V.Syromiatnikov, General director, SR Consortium

Fax: 7 095 516 6715 E-mail:

Znamya-2 demonstration flight experiment


Demonstration space experiment Znamya-2 carried out February 4, 1993 was the first to deploy a model of a solar sail. The 20-meter thin film structure was successfully deployed using centrifugal forces onboard of Progress M-15 spacecraft.

The main goals of the experiment were:

  • to verify the concept of the system,
  • to test stability and other characteristic of the structure,
  • to control the large thin film structure in space environment,
  • to run "Novey Svet" (New Light) experiment to illuminate night side of Earth.

The following principles were used to implement the task:

  • unique opportunities  of Mir (OC) including cosmonauts presence, instrumentation and telemetry systems, ground control network, etc were used;
  • a special deploying device was installed in a unique place of the whole station - the transfer tunnel leading to a docked Progress spacecraft,
  • existing and flight proved s/c equipment  prototypes was used as much as possible,
  • unique abilities of Progress s/c with all its systems (power, control, communication, etc) available after completion of main mission goal were exploied,
  • great experience in conducting complex experiments in space was also a base.

The deployment device accommodated thin film divided into 8 sectors and wound on 8 reels. The device incorporated a drive to rotate the film structure and 2 additional drives to pivot it for testing stability. The device was installed by the Mir crew (G. Manakov, A. Polischuk) in place of the docking mechanism then they hooked of up to control system and run preliminary test.

The following operations were performed after Progress s/c undocking:

  • maneuvering to form a trajectory desired,
  • deployment of the thin film structure,
  • dynamic stability test of the rotating flexible structure with the reflector,
  • attitude control of the spacecraft,
  • "Novey Svet" experiment,
  • jettisoning of the film structure after completing of the experiment.

Znamya-2 demonstration experiment was monitored using telemetry and visual devices.The Mir crew took still pictures and shot video clips. All experimental data confirmed principal decisions used for Znamya-2. Progress spacecraft with the large thin film structure proved to be stable and controllable.

The first illumination from space took place in early hours before sunrise above West Europe. A reflected spot of light of about 5 km in diameter traveled at a speed of 8 km/hour from southern France through Switzerland, Germany, Chehoslovakia, Poland and disappeared in early sunlight in Byelorussia. The weather was not favorable in Europe that morning, it was covered by heavy clouds. Still many people reported seeing a flash of light. A report came from the meteostation in German Alps.  After jettisoning, the film structure still was well seen in clear sky above Canada. Many people reported to TV discovery channel watching it and still pictures were taken. Due to not perfect the estimated brightness was rather low (approximely 1 lunette).

The illumination system in future would be comprised of several reflector clusters. A single cluster could provide service to a few big cities. It seems that most effectively the illumination from space would be in polar regions of Earth in winter time. Of  great value and help it could occur in ares of natural disasters.

Massmedia covered Znamya-2 very actively in February 93, later video clips were widely demonstrated by many TV-companies around the world. Thus, in general Znamya demonstration experiment was a great success. A new branch of space technology was well demonstrated.

Znamya-2.5 intermediate experiment in space

Znamya-2.5 experiment is an intermediate phase of the flight program. As well as Znamya-2 it is based on Mir Orbital Complex and the reflector itself is integrated onboard Progress spacecraft.

The main goals of the experiment are:

  • to verify the principal improvements of the film structure,
  • to run "Novey Svet" illumination experiment,
  • to operate the new manual attitude control mode,
  • to further test operational ability of the system and the film structure.

Schedule: The launch carried out October 26, 98 onboard Progress M-40 spacecraft. The deployment itself was carried out February 4, 99 just after undocking. Experiment program. Principal characteristics. Light spot watching trajectories. Scheduled nominal duration of the experiment was 24 hours. Mir and Progress would complete 16 revolutions around the globe and cover all the world continents. The experiment was failure to carry out completely.

Scheduled experiment profile: While still in docked configuration onboard Mir the crew should install the reflector equipment in the transfer tunnel, hook it up and test the system. After undocking Progress would perform maneuvers to fly at a certain distance from the station and ensure safety. Then deployment of the reflector should be performed. During next two revolutions the spacecraft automatic maneuvers would be performed to brake the spot of light on Earth.  After testing of the "teleoperator "(manual remote) control mode the Mir crew would set a desired attitude of the spacecraft in preparation for "Novey Svet" experiment. During next few revolutions the reflector would illuminate Earth in evening hours after sunset. The spot of reflected light would pass the cities in Central and West Europe, North America along the spacecraft Progress flight trajectory.

Watching the spot of light on Earth, the crew should control spacecraft's attitude so that to keep it on regions desired. On completing the experiment the reflector should be jettisoned from the spacecraft.

Principal characteristics:

  • reflector diameter – 25 meters,
  • light spot diameter on Earth – 5-7 kilometers,
  • estimated brightness on Earth – 5-10 full moon (lunettes).

Funding of the Znamya experimental program was done through SRC. RSC Energia carries the largest part of expenses. At early phases the program were also sponsored by some Russian enterprises, by "Yamburg-Gas" ("Gasprom") first of all. NASA also supported research and scientific part of Znamya-2.5 project through NASA science program.

Experiment results Znamya-2.5 experiment was carried out February 4, 1999. In spite of the fact that the main goal to illuminate the local regions earth’s surface has not been achieved some valuable results derived during Progress M-40 spacecraft flight are planning to be used during the further space projects with Znamya program experiments.

After undocking at the very beginning of the Znamya-2.5 experiment a spacecraft fly-around MIR trajectory was built in accordance with the tested ballistics scheme as well as automatic and manual spacecraft and orbital station control modes were provided. Unfortunately, the spacecraft control program transferred onboard from Earth had no command to close the antenna opened before. So the reflector failed to deploy properly engaging with the opened antenna.

The o/s crew and the ground support personnel tried an attempt to redeploy the reflector. They managed to release the reflector film by closing the antenna and generating two axial impulses on the Progress spacecraft. However, the second activation of the deploying device couldn’t help to form the requested reflector configuration. A decision to stop the experiment and to waterlog the Progress spacecraft mission with the reflector was taken.

Looking forward to the space reflector experiment a lot of people all over the world and the participants interested in technical progress and investigation of the universe for peaceful goals were greatly sorry about failure to carry out the experiment completely. Space Regatta Consortium has got a number of letters during the experiment preparation stage and after its carrying out. People in Russia, USA, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Spain, Denmark, India, Czech, Malta took a great interest in the Znamya project and questioned about it. Space Regatta Consortium appreciates their support, offers of assistance and showing interest in Znamya experiment. We have read each of the letters with great attention but unfortunately couldn’t answer each letter only because of our limited capabilities. After completing the experiment we were requested to continue the project, not to be disappointed, not lose our hearts. The way into unexploredness is a challenge.

Working out the project a team of like-minded specialists devoted and full of enthusiasm for doing the work up to the end was organized in the frame of Space Regatta Consortium. Actually we are considering the possibilities to repeat the Znamya-2.5 experiment, and as well as prepare and carry out the Znamya-3 experiment with the 70-meter reflector within the framework of the scheduled experimental program.

But only enthusiasm is not enough. The funding of the Znamya-2.5 experiment was extremely tight. A new thin film reflector is needed to be manufactured to begin a new stage of preparation. 5-micron film manufacturing and metallization is a complex process requiring the financing. For lack of government finances to support scientific researches we hope to find home and foreign sponsors. This is one of the way the development process of solar sail spacecraft, space illumination system and as well as other high technologies could be speeded up.

We are ready to co-operate with all organizations and individuals interested in our project and its future applications using different forms of cooperation: financial assistance, program participation, joint developments of the future projects, experimental data procurement.

Taking joint efforts we are sure to achieve progress and make the world lighter.

Znamya-3 experiment – the principal step

experiment is a principal phase of the whole program. It requires substantial modification of Progress spacecraft. Additional thin film reflector of much bigger size (60-70 meter) should be incorporated to the spacecraft structure. Also a new control device will be introduced. This will allow the spacecraft of much bigger moment of inertia to be controlled without fuel consumption of reaction control engines.

The main goal of the experiment is to test a new concept and design in flight and verify major characteristics. Experts of SR Consortium are also working to design an integrated (not devided into sectors) reflector.

Schedule: The experiment is planned to be ready for flight by 2000. It could be conducted as a part of the scientific program of International Space Station.

Solarcraft – a basic component for the future system

is a spacecraft equipped with a solar sail or solar reflector. The first solarcraft was conceptually designed during Columbus-500 project.

The future work will be based on the concept developed and using results of Znamya experimental program.

The future solarcraft will have a thin film reflector of 200 meters and should be of very low mass (about 500 kg). For attitude control a concept of coupled gyroscope is used, the gyroscope is formed by the main reflector and additional (so called controll) reflector of a smaller size. The concept of this solarcraft as a whole would make it possible to perform all maneuvers (rotation and translation) without any fuel consumption.

This solarcraft would be a basic component of the future illumination system from space. Also it would eventually fly to other planets of the solar system. This thin film space technology might also find its way for other applications, for example, as a solar power spacecraft, a passive reflectors, wake shields, for space debris protection and others.

Illumination from space – "Tretie svetilo" (Third light)

Solar light from space
: This program has been also developed during Columbus-500 project. Much early illumination by space mirrors was proposed by great scholars of the past:  F. Tzander, H. Obert. Conceptually it was developed by Kraft Ericke.

Using the solarcraft as a basic component the whole system could be configured.

The following parameters are considered to be suitable for near future.

  • size of reflector – 200 m,
  • curricular orbits of 1,5 – 4,5*103 km of attitude,
  • size of light spot - 15 – 45 km,
  • brightness 10-100 lunettes (full moon),
  • number of reflectors in a cluster ~ 12,
  • one cluster could provide illumination to 5 large cities.

Cost and schedule estimation (preliminary):

  • Znamya-3 – $20M (2002),
  • solarcraft cost:
    • D&D – $80 M,
    • manufacture – $20M,
    • launch – $10M,
    • operations – $1M,
    • schedule – 2002
  • experimental cluster of reflectors (12):
    • preparation – $20M,
    • manufacture – $180M,
    • launch – $120M,
    • operations – $20M,
    • schedule – 2003-2015.

Profit estimation. Preliminary estimations show that an experimental illumination system from space could bring profit in 2 – 3 years. The estimation is based on a few presumptions, first of all, that expenses on conventional illumination in big cities in service could be reduces by half. Future expenses could be also covered if the future system would be used to illuminate areas of disaster.

Solar sailing

Solar sailing was a dream of celebrated scholar of astronautics since decades, such as F. Tzander, K. Tsiolkovsky, H. Obert. A solar sail of a proper size (rather large) and mass (very low) is able to accelerate from an Earth orbit so that it would eventually escape its gravitation. Thus, it could fly to the moon and further to other planets and comets.

Solarcraft would be a vehicle, which is almost ready to fly around Solar system without any fuel consumption.

Additional testing would be required to complete a set of equipment and systems which will carry out all operations to navigate and control a solarcraft to fly it through the solar system and perform scientific program.

Cost: Solar sailing could be a byproduct of space illumination system development. The opposite statement is also true. Thus, direct expenses to built, to launch in near Earth orbit, and to operate solar sail should be estimated preliminary by a figure which is less than $100 M .

Schedule The flight of the first real solar sail to escape Earth gravity could be realized in 2003-2005. Of course, it depends on funding, commitment and cooperation of all space shooting nations, Russia and USA first of all. In general: it could be cheaper, faster, better.


An open letter to astronomers professional and amateur

Dear learned colleagues! In reply to your letters, the most part of them being too emotional, some containing groundless accusations and even (what a shame!) offensive language aimed at us, we deemed it necessary to inform you of the following:

  • The main purpose of the Znamya Space Research Experimental Program is to test in open space a new series of large thin-film structures formed by centrifugal forces, as well as to conduct other applied space experiments (e.g. flight trajectory generation, remote attitude control, illumination of the Earth surface, surface surveillance, etc.). In the future, we plan to use large thin-film structures for various purposes, such as:

    • solar sails;
    • power satellites;
    • wake shields;
    • anti-micrometeorite shields;
    • solar reflectors;
    • orbit-based antennas;
    • on-orbit telescopes;
    • other experiments.
  • Regarding the Earth illumination experiment, we would like to supply the following details:
    • the primary goal of this experiment is to assess the reflective capabilities of the mirror, the possibility to control the reflected light beam and other parameters, as well as to perform monitoring and control of the light spot by the Mir Space station crew;
    • the illumination will be carried out for a very short period of time (appr. 3 – 5 min.), and only during the predawn hours, thus posing no threat whatsoever either to the environment, to the population, or, more especially, to those involved in celestial observation or those having concerns about our project;
    • the experiment realizes one of the many possibilities of space utilization. It increases our awareness of our capabilities, and existing constraints and hazards.
  • As to the space-based global illumination system – a brainchild of many scientific luminaries of the departing 20th century, Russian, American, German and French, – we would like to tell you that:
    • without doubt a decision to utilize such illumination should be taken only after very careful and comprehensive consideration, completion of a series of experiments, consideration of any damage to the interests of astronomy and astronomers, and freedom from any hysteria and ignorance;
    • most probably, illumination from space might be utilized, first of all, in the polar and sub-polar regions during the winter season for minimal impact on the environment, and during the polar night ‘day-hours’, which are normally almost useless to the astronomers;
    • illumination during 2—3 hours after sunset and before sunrise, the period of high outdoor activity of the population, should not pose any threat to the true nocturnal sky observation;
    • such a discreet approach should not upset the normal course of human biorhythms or other events;
    • a system of artificial illumination may prove invaluable for the support of rescue operations during industrial and natural disasters ;
    • the illumination might be helpful during law-enforcement and anti-terrorist campaigns;
    • the light from space can also help during special construction projects and other industrial activities;
    • the problem of illumination when the sky is heavily overcast is a very serious one, but in principle it can be solved;
    • the temperature rise within the illuminated area (as compared with that caused by the moonlight) is nominal, since the cumulative size of the illuminated areas is infinitesimally small on the global scale (the Moon contributes to an appr. 0.1°C increase in the Earth’s temperature).

We, as developers of large space-based structures, hope that in the future we will not only vex astronomers with our extremist experiments but we will also be able to provide scientists with unique tools for real exploration of the farthest corners of the Universe, as well as serve our civilization here on Earth in need and through the hard times.