Surveillance and Communication

Intelligence Site

Intelligence Observation Post

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre

Full name of site:

Ventspils Starptautiskais Radioastronomijas centrs

Location:

Inženieru iela 110, Ventspils, Letland

Operational period:

1967

to

1993

Primary user:

Soviet Army

Description:

Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre, also known as the Irbene Radio Telescope, is located in the former Soviet Army town of Irbene. The Space Intelligence Station ‘Zvaigznīte’ (Little Star) was once the army unit No. 51429. The total area of the object was 200 ha, but information about the object became publicly available only in 1993. Initially there were three antennas here, which the army used to intercept and listen-in on phone calls of the “hostile West”.

The radio astronomy centre in Irbene is currently the eighth largest in the world. It has a 32 m rotating parabolic antenna RT-32, which is the largest in Northern Europe and the eighth largest in the world, as well as a second 16 m antenna RTs-16. The centre studies space signals, and it has received a signal from as far as the Cygnus constellation. The tour includes a walk around the territory of the former army town of Irbene and a visit to an underground tunnel and the memorial place of the rocket designer Friedrich Zander in the building called ‘Kristāls’ (Cristal).

Ownership:

Publicly owned by Local Municipality, some areas are private

Valuation of authenticity and integrity:

Baseline 1991. Main buildings are in good condition, while most military equipment has been removed by the Soviet army, some of equipment is restored and displayed.

Status and access:

Access: Partial. In operational in civilian use.