Russia has successfully launched the Kosmos (Glonass-M) satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, marking the first Soyuz launch since the August failure, which resulted in the loss of Progress M-12M. Launch occurred at 20:15 UTC on Sunday, with spacecraft separation over three hours later.
Glonass is the Russian version to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), which several nations are building for the purpose of independence from the American-controlled system.
Like the US GPS system, Glonass can be used by both military and civilian entities, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. This Glonass satellite was designated as number 42, and a Blok-45S design – which was separated at 23:47 UTC.
The launch was a key step towards Russia’s full return to flight for the Soyuz launch vehicle, after the Progress M-12M – carrying three tons of supplies including food, fuel, and other miscellaneous items, was the first spacecraft to launch to the ISS in the post-Shuttle era, only for the Upper Stage to fail and send the resupply vehicle crashing back to Earth.
“Theory remains that the Progress (M12-M/44P) failure due to contamination in a fuel line to a gas generator for the third stage. Forward plan to clean and re-inspect engines,” added an International Space Station (ISS) memo this past week (L2).
“Near term schedule: Progress 45P SORR (Stage Operations Readiness Review) October 13, FRR (Flight Readiness Review) not currently scheduled, and 45P Launch October 30. 28S SORR October 25 with FRR November 1.”
This next Progress launch – on October 30 – will be the ultimate test of the full vehicle, given Sunday’s launch did not use the same design of Upper Stage, whereas Progress and crewed Soyuz launches have full commonality. A successful launch will pave the way for the next ISS expedition to launch to the orbital outpost.
The Soyuz-2-1 rocket is a descendent of the R-7 Semyorka, the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. The R-7 was designed by Sergei Korolev, and first flew in 1957. A modified version was used to launch the first satellite, Sputnik 1, on 4 October of that year.
The R-7 formed the basis for the Luna, Vostok, Voskhod, Molniya and Soyuz families of rockets, and to date all Soviet and Russian manned spaceflights have been launched using rockets derived from the R-7.
The Soyuz, which first flew in 1966, was a modification of the Voskhod rocket featuring an upgraded and lighter telemetry system, and more fuel efficient engines. It was initially used to launch only Soyuz spacecraft; however with the introduction of the Soyuz-U in 1973 it began to launch other satellites as well.
The Soyuz-U, which remains in service, is the most-flown orbital launch system ever developed, having made around 750 flights to date, plus around 90 more in the Soyuz-U2 configuration optimised to use synthetic propellant.
The Soyuz-2 was developed from the older Soyuz models, and features digital flight control systems and modernised engines. It first flew in 2004, and this is its twelfth launch.
Two variants are currently in service; the Soyuz-2-1a, and the Soyuz-2-1b which features an RD-0124 third stage engine which provides additional thrust. The RD-0124 was declared operational on 3 May 2011.
A third configuration, the Soyuz-2-1v, is currently under development and is expected to make its maiden flight next year. It features an NK-33 engine in place of the RD-108A used on the core stages of the other configurations, and does not include the strapon boosters used by other configurations.
The Soyuz-2 forms the basis for the Soyuz-ST rocket, which is expected to make its maiden flight from Kourou in French Guiana later this year. The Soyuz-ST is optimised to fly from Kourou, and also incorporates a flight termination system and a modified telemetry system.
The first launch of the Soyuz-ST is currently scheduled to occur no earlier than late October, when it will carry two Galileo IOV-M1 satellites into orbit.
The core stage of the Soyuz-2, the Blok-A, is powered by a single RD-108A engine. This is augmented for the first two minutes of flight by four boosters, each of which is powered by an RD-107A engine. The Fregat Upper Stage, is powered by an S5.98M engine, which uses unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as propellant and nitrogen tetroxide as an oxidiser.
The Fregat first flew in 2000, and has been used on Soyuz-U, Soyuz-FG, Soyuz-2 and Zenit rockets.
(Image: Mil.ru and Starsem)