Soyuz 2-1B successfully launches new Glonass-M satellite into orbit

by Chris Bergin and William Graham

Russia has successfully launched another Kosmos (Glonass-M) class satellite into orbit, following lift-off of their Soyuz 2-1B launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Launch occurred at 08:25 UTC on Monday, with a successful spacecraft separation confirmed just over three hours later.

Successful Launch:

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 46, and a Block-46 design – which was separated from the Upper Stage three hours into the mission.

The recent Soyuz-based successes are vitally important for the under-pressure Roscosmos, following the Progress M-12M failure, which grounded the Soyuz fleet.

Russia has since enjoyed a successful Progress mission (M-13M), safely launched and landed their Soyuz TMA spacecraft (TMA-22 – up, TMA-02M down).

However, hope has been lost for Fobos-Grunt’s mission to the Martian moon of Phobos, despite last week’s positive news relating to a level of communications with the spacecraft via ESA’s Perth-based assets. Even if the spacecraft can be restored – pending successful translations of encrypted telemetry – the window is now closed on its primary mission.

Updates on this week’s communication efforts with the spacecraft are pending – *refer to this live update thread for the latest*.

Soyuz 2-1B:

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 made its maiden flight from Kourou in French Guiana this year. The Soyuz-ST is optimised to fly from Kourou, and also incorporates a flight termination system and a modified telemetry system.

The launch of the Soyuz-ST carried 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: and Starsem)

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