The institute can be traced back to a production plant for electric equipment established in Moscow in 1941. In 1944 NII-627 (Scientific Research Institute) was established on premises of the plant. In 1946 NII-627 was given engineering responsibility for electric functional equipment for the R-1, the Soviet copy of the V-2. They then developed further such equipment for later Korolev and Yangel missiles. In 1953 NII-627 was renamed the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Electromechanics (VNIIEM).
On 30 October 1960 development of the Soviet Union's first weather satellite was begun by Yangel's bureau. VNIIEM had developed an innovative electromechanical satellite stabilization system and was a principle subcontractor. Overburdened with higher priority missile and military spacecraft work, Yangel agreed to transfer complete responsibility for the spacecraft to VNIIEM in 1962. VNIIEM thereafter began a sometimes not-too-successful forty year run of building the Soviet Union's meteorological and remote sensing satellites.
In addition to its remote sensing equipment, the satellite carried the Belgian LLMS (Little LEO Messaging System) communications payload for the IRIS system. The launch was critical in restoring confidence in the Zenit vehicle prior to planned commercial launches of Globalstar satellites from Baikonur and the first Sea Launch flights using a three-stage Zenit from a California-based floating launch platform. Expected life 3 to 5 years.
Meteorology satellite. Launch postponed from late 2000, then delayed from November 30. The Meteor-3M weather satellite carried visible and IR sensors as well as NASA's SAGE III instrument which studied aerosols and the ozone layer. This was the first launched of a modernised version of the spacecraft. Launch be Zenit launch vehicle from Baikonur rather than Tsyklon 3 from Plesetsk allowed the spacecraft to be 350 kg heavier, carrying additional sensors and various piggy-back payloads.