Part 4 of a series on communications satellites. The Soviet Union had a big advantage in launch vehicle capability, but, while the US had adapted the Delta to launch small satellites into Geostationary orbits the R7 which had carried spacecraft to the Moon and Venus was not capable of doing the equivalent without significant redesign. Instead, the Soviet Union’s scientists came up with their own solution which had some advantages for covering the massive territory of the USSR.
The Molniya satellites would be in a highly eccentric orbit that spent about 6 hours per day over the USSR, this orbit was easier to reach and this let them launch spacecraft 40 times the mass of the American satellites. but as communications platforms they were no more capable.
Most of this information comes from Boris Chertok’s Memoir – Rockets and People, specifically volume 3 “Hot Days Of The Cold War” – NASA has translated this and I highly recommend it.
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