Dnepr successfully launches cluster of satellites – Bigelow delay

by Chris Bergin

A converted RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile, better known as the SS-18 Satan during the Cold War, has successfully launched a number of foreign satellites, including as cluster of minature cubesats for American university students.

This morning’s launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan also returns the ‘Dnepr’ launch vehicle to flight, following a previous failure. However, another Dnepr launch – this time for Bigelow Aerospace – has been delayed until next month.



In total, seven CubeSats were launched, in addition to seven other small payloads on the mission, including Egypt’s Egyptsat-1 – intended for remote sensing of Earth and scientific research, Saudi Arabia’s Saudisat-3 – designed to take pictures of Earth. and five SaudiComsat communications satellites.

The seven CubeSat mini-satellites have been developed under a project by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Lab. More than 60 universities and high schools are participating in the CubeSat program.

The CubeSats were deployed after the primary spacecraft was deployed into a nearly circular, 700 km, polar orbit. Three P-PODs contained the 6 single CubeSats and 1 triple CubeSat.
Also on board was Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) ‘Multi-Application Survivable Tether’ (MAST) experiment, which will study the dynamics of tethered spacecraft formations and survivability of a new multistrand tether technology in low Earth orbit (LEO).

The MAST experiment consists of three GPS receiver-equipped picosatellites stacked for launch into a volume about the size of a loaf of bread. Once in orbit, two of the satellites will separate and deploy a 1,000 meter long version of the company’s patented Hoytether(TM) structure.

A third picosatellite, dubbed ‘Gadget,’ will then crawl slowly along the tether’s length, recording and transmitting images of the tether to enable detection of any damage to the tether. The MAST picosatellites were developed by TUI in collaboration with Stanford University.

The previous attempt to launch a cluster of CubeSat satellites failed last July when a Dnepr rocket crashed shortly after liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Meanwhile, ISC Kosmotras – who operate the Dnepr launch vehicle – have confirmed a four week delay to the launch of the Genesis II spacecraft for Bigelow Aerospace.

‘During the final testing of the Dnepr launch vehicle in Baikonur, Kosmotras discovered improvements and upgrades that should be made to enhance the system’s efficacy and reliability,’ said Robert Bigelow in a statement. ‘These upgrades are being made to all Dnepr launch vehicles and will increase the chances of achieving our primary goal of mission success. < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

‘However, making these improvements will take time. Bigelow Aerospace now expects that the Genesis II launch will take place in late May.

‘Testing and preparatory work on the Genesis II spacecraft itself will be completed this week at the Yasny Launch Base. We’re proud to report that the spacecraft is in excellent condition and ready for integration with the Dnepr’s Space Head Module as soon as Kosmotras is able to proceed.

‘No one ever wishes for a delay, but discovering problems and making the relevant fixes are a normal part of every launch campaign. Bigelow Aerospace supports ISCK’s prudent decision to take the necessary time to enhance the Dnepr’s systems.’

**NASASpaceflight.com Job Opportunities** 

Related Articles