Molniya (Russian: Молния, meaning "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.
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