Yantar is a series of Soviet and Russian photo-reconnaissance satellites. Scores of Yantars (their name means "amber") were launched in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the Russian photo-reconnaissance satellite program has been running at a low level in recent years, with only one launch in 1999 and three in 2000.


Currently three types of Yantar are flown. The close-look Yantar-4K2s, codenamed Kometa, have three reentry vehicles: two small film-return capsules that can return data while the main satellite continues to operate in orbit, and a conical main descent module that is recovered with the camera system and remaining film at the end of the mission. Yantar-1KFTs, codenamed Kometa, carry out missions to update topographic and mapping data maintained by the Ministry of Defense. The operational lifetime of satellites like Kometa and Kobalt are limited by the amount of film they can carry. However this limitation is overcome with the Yantar-4KS1 Neman satellites. These return images digitally via radio link, either direct to Russian controllers when passing over Commonwealth of Independent States territory or via data relay satellites in the Potok system which are in geosynchronous orbit. With Neman, the lifetime is limited by the amount of propellant carried for orbital maneuvering. A fourth type of photo-reconnaissance satellite presently used by Russia is the Orlets-2. Unlike the 6.6–7 ton Yantar-class satellites which are launched by Soyuz-Us, the 12-ton Orlets requires the much larger Zenit-2.