Russian Tsyklon-3 bows out with CORONAS launch

Russia has launched its third satellite on a program for the study of the Sun and solar-terrestrial physics. The launch of Koronas-Foton took place at 13:30 UTC from the GIK-1 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, in Arkhangelsk Oblast, about 800 km North of Moscow. This was the last launch of the venerable 11K68 Tsyklon-3 rocket.

CORONAS (Complex ORbital Observations Near-Earth of Activity of the Sun) is the Russian program for study of the Sun and solar-terrestrial connections physics by series of spacecrafts, which provided the launch of three solar-oriented satellites onto the near-Earth orbit.

Koronas-Foton was the third satellite in this series. Two previous missions of the project are Koronas-I / Intercosmos-26 (23019 1994-14A), launched on March 2, 1994, and Koronas-F (26873 2001-032A), launched on July 31, 2001. Koronas-Foton is a part of International Living With a Star Program (ILWS).

The Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (State University) – MEPhI – is the main organization responsible for the scientific payload complex of the Koronas-Foton mission and the Research Institute for Electromechanics (Moscow region, Istra). NIIEM is the main organization in charge of the Koronas-Foton spacecraft.

The main goal of the project are the investigation of energy accumulation and its transformation into energy of accelerated particles processes during solar flares; the study of the acceleration mechanisms, propagation and interaction of fast particles in the solar atmosphere; the study of the solar activity correlation with physical-chemical processes in the Earth upper atmosphere.

There are three main objectives for the Koronas-Foton mission: the study of the Physics of the Sun, the Solar-terrestrial connections physics and the research in Astrophysics.

In the study of the Physics of the Sun, Koronas-Foton will try to determine the distribution functions of accelerated electrons, protons and nuclei and their dynamics with a high time resolution; will research for difference in acceleration dynamics of electrons and protons (nuclei).

It will also research the distribution function variations for high energy particles (up to a few GeV) and research the interacting particle angular anisotropy by statistical analysis of radiation spectra and linear polarization parameters of hard X-rays, and the directional effects in the region of high energy gamma radiation and try to determine the mechanisms and requirements of electrons and protons acceleration in different flare phases, and parameters of propagation region of accelerated particles.

The spacecraft will also be used to determine the elemental abundance in the region of gamma-ray production by gamma spectroscopy and capture of low energy neutrons in the solar atmosphere; determine the radiation generation altitudes by observation of deuteron line weakening from limb flares, and determine the energy spectra view of accelerated protons and nuclei and dynamics of these spectra according to nuclear gamma-line ratio.

Finally it will study the light elements generation (D, 3He, Li, Be) during flares.

On the Solar-terrestrial connections physics field the satellite will research the chemical and isotopic compositions of nuclei accelerated in flare on the Earth orbit, and also energy and temporal parameters of flare electrons and protons. It will also monitor the Earth upper atmosphere by absorption of extreme ultraviolet of the quiet Sun.
The research in Astrophysics will concentrate on the study of hard X-ray and gamma radiation from gamma-ray bursts and the study of X-ray radiation from the bright local sources along Ecliptic plane.

The satellite carries several instruments. For the study of Electromagnetic radiation and neutrons: NATALYA-2M, a high energy spectrometer; RT-2, a low-energy gamma-ray telescope; PENGUIN-M, a hard X-ray polarimeter-spectrometer; and KONUS-RF, a X-ray and gamma-ray spectrometer. For the study of X-rays: BRM, a fast X-ray monitor; PHOKA, a multi-channel ultraviolet monitor; and TESIS, a solar telescope/imaging spectrometer.

For the study of cosmic rays: ELECTRON-M-PESCA, a charged particle analyzer; and STEP-F, a telescope of electrons and protons. It is also equipped with several scientific supply systems: SM-8M, a magnetometer, SSRNI, a system for scientific data acquisition and registration; and BUS-FM, the control and communications block.

The data sent by Koronas-Foton is transmitted to the ground station in the frequency range of 8.2 GHz (X-band), output power 8 W; that includes transmitters, feeders and antenna.

Koronas-Foton has a launch mass of 1920 kg and it will operate for three years on a circular orbit 500 km high with an inclination of 82.5 degrees.

The Tsyklon 3 was developed in 1970-1977 as a part of a program to reduce the number of Soviet booster types. The first two stages were derived from the 8K68 version of the R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile, while the restartable third stage was derived from that of the R-36-O.

Compared to the 11K69 Tsyklon 2, the launch vehicle increased payload to 4 metric tons, provided for completely automated launch operations, and had increased orbital injection accuracy.

Development work for the Tsyklon-3 was authorized by a government decree of issued on January 1970. The booster was a modification of the R-36 8K68 with an S5M third stage. The S5M stage was a development of the R-36-O deorbit stage and capable of a single restart for orbital trim or circularization prior to release of the payload. Later in its life Tsyklon 3 was also used for launch of Ukrainian-built AUOS scientific and Okean-O radar satellites.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian manufacturer ended up in a different country, inappropriate for a launcher used for Russian national security payloads. Existing stocks of the vehicle were used to launch Strela satellites.

In 1998 it was reported that only four remained. Launches of Strela or Ukrainian satellite payloads were made in 2000, 2001, and 2004. However as of 2007 the manufacturer was still marketing the booster.

In total there were 122 launches of the 11K68 Tsyklon-3, with 10 failures. The rocket had a liftoff thrust of 2,713.000 kN, and a total mass of 189,000 kg. Its total length was 39.2 meters, with a core diameter of 3.00 meters.

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