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30 Jun, 2007 01:45

Russia's secret eye on the sky

One of Russia's most secret military installations is located hundreds of kilometres beyond the country's borders. It's a satellite tracking station perched high on a mountain in the middle of central Asia. RT has been granted access to the base.

Eleven silver balls not far from Afghanistan's border are key to Russia's space shield – an optical-electronic unit called “The Window”.

Each one is a powerful telescope. They see every object up to 40,000 KM above the Earth. “The Window” is run by Russia, but positioned far outside its territory.

The station's whereabouts has been kept secret for years. Few reporters have been here, and there are still plenty of details hidden from cameras.

Colonel Oleg Zvezdin has been working at “The Window” for seventeen years. He knows nearly everything about the magic devices.

“The telescopes work at night only. The way to locate space objects is to detect their movement against the background of stars,” says Colonel Zvezdin.

The United States and France are the only other countries with similar units. But Russian officers are confident their station is more powerful. Its software is being permanently upgraded, so the spheres are always on alert.  The installation contributes to the country's defence shield and prevents possible attacks from the air.  But unlike radars, it relies on optical technology first and foremost.

It is an extremely accurate space intelligence, focused primarily on objects in orbit. If a country fails to declare the launch of a satellite, it will be spotted by the Russian telescopes within minutes. The information is then sent to the Space forces headquarters immediately.

About 500 highly skilled officers are responsible for the accuracy of space data at “The Window”.

The lease of the station has cost Moscow $US 240 MLN.

According to the rental treaty, the Window unit will serve Russia's interests for another four decades.