Novosti Kosmonavtiki (Spaceflight News)
Subscription: $170 for U.S. residents
Main website: http://www.novosti-kosmonavtiki.ru/
This is, hands-down, the best space magazine in the world. Alas, it is in Russian and there is no English translation.
How do I know it’s the best space magazine in the world? Several colleagues who read Russian sing the magazine’s praises and have explained how NK frequently includes information that appears nowhere else—not only on Russian subjects, but also on American, European, Japanese, Latin American, and commercial space projects. But NK’s quality and breadth is also evident simply from looking at the topics the magazine covers and the illustrations that they run.
The subjects cover a broad range, and NK devotes much attention to Western science and military space projects. Although they obtain some of this information from secondary sources and public websites, there is ample evidence that the magazine has reporters who not only search wide and far for original information, but are able to carefully analyze it. Furthermore, some subjects covered in NK are almost never covered anywhere else—even when they could be. For instance, Novosti Kosmonavtiki has run detailed articles on current American military plans for satellite communications that I have not seen discussed in American publications. They don’t acquire this information through espionage, they get it from surfing websites, attending conferences, and gathering data. Several years ago they even had an article on the calibration targets that the Russian military photographs from orbit to assess the quality of their reconnaissance satellites. They frequently run detailed articles on American and European robotic space science missions.
NK is sponsored by both the Russian space agency Roskosmos and the Russian Space Forces. Not only does this pay for their printing, but it also gives them access to senior officials who often make extremely candid comments about the current state of the Russian space program. Whereas NK will not editorially criticize the Russian space program, they do publish articles by others who do. However, there has been a notable change in some of their coverage in recent years. In the 1990s and early this decade they regularly published insightful articles about current Russian military space projects. They started shying away from those topics about three or four years ago as the journalistic environment in Russia chilled and people started going to jail for writing about military subjects (those were the lucky ones—journalists writing about corruption in Russia have frequently been killed). But NK still publishes articles on historical Soviet/Russian military space programs.
NK’s photographic reproduction and paper quality is top notch. This is a great magazine, and far better than anything produced in the United States. All we need is an English language version, or a really smart robot translator to read it to us.