Molniya (, "Lightning") was a military communications satellite system used by the Soviet Union. The satellites were placed into highly eccentric elliptical orbits known as Molniya orbits, characterised by an inclination of +63.4 degrees and a period of around 12 hours. Such orbits allowed them to remain visible to sites in polar regions for extended periods, unlike geostationary satellites in geosynchronous orbits with a 24-hour orbital period.
The Molniya program was authorized by a government decree in late 1960. After some initial failures in 1964, the first operational satellite, Molniya 1-01, was successfully launched on April 23, 1965.
Since October 1967, Molniya satellites have been used by Russia to broadcast their national Orbita television network.
The Molniya 8K78 ( Russian: Молния, meaning "lightning") was a modification of the well-known R-7 Semyorka rocket and had four stages.
The 8K78 resulted from a crash program by the Korolev Bureau to develop a booster for launching planetary probes. A larger third stage was added along with a fourth stage (Blok L) that was designed to fire in-orbit to send the payload out of LEO. The basic R-7 core was also structurally strengthened and given more powerful engines. A rushed development produced multiple malfunctions of the upper stages, which led to its being replaced by the improved Molniya M in 1964.
Molniya (Russian молния for lightning) may refer to:
- The Molniya (satellite), the Soviet military communications satellite.
- Molniya orbit, distinctive orbit associated with the satellite.
- The Molniya (rocket), a four-stage variation of the Soyuz launch vehicle
- The Molniya-L, a rare variant of the Molniya rocket
- The Molniya-M, a modernised derivative of the Molniya rocket.
- OKB-4 Molniya, experimental design bureau responsible for the Molniya R-60 and Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles
- NPO Molniya, Soviet design bureau responsible for the Shuttle Buran programme
- Molniya (explosive trap), a KGB explosive device used to prevent cached materials from falling into enemy hands.
- Molnija, Russian watch and clockmaker
- Tarantul class corvette
Certain buried or otherwise concealed containers used by the KGB to cache items, such as shortwave radio receivers, cryptographic materials, and allegedly even suitcase nuclear devices, were booby-trapped with an explosive device known as Molniya ("lightning" in Russian). A sequence of specific actions had to be taken in the correct order to render the device safe prior to moving or opening the container, or the device would automatically detonate. This detonation was designed to be lethal to anyone in its immediate proximity, as well as being sufficient to destroy all materials in the cache.
From at least 1955 to the 1970s, such caches were allegedly pre-positioned in many countries — including confirmed locations in the United States and Switzerland — for planned terrorism acts during the Cold War. At least some were booby-trapped with "Molniya". One such cache, identified by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin, exploded when Swiss authorities fired upon it using a water cannon. The device was found in the woods near Bern. Although the explosion resulted in no casualties, the Swiss federal prosecutor at the time remarked, "Anyone who tried to move the KGB container uncovered in December of 1998 would have been killed."