Russian Soyuz-FG successfully launches five satellites

by Chris Bergin

A Russian Government Soyuz-FG launch vehicle has lofted five spacecraft – the Russian satellites KANOPUS-V1 (Canopus-B) and MKA-PN1, a Belarusian BKA satellite, the Canadian ADS-1B (ExactView-1) and German TET-1 – into orbit on Sunday. Launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan occurred at 6:41am UTC.
Soyuz-FG Mission:

The launch was scheduled for earlier in the year – itself a delay from 2011 – prior to several additional delays, pushing the launch into late July.

The vehicle used was a Soyuz-FG, with the Fregat Upper Stage tasked with deploying its family of passengers nine minutes into the mission, at 6:50am UTC.

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-FG itself – an improved descendent of the Soyuz U – has performed 23 flights without issue. The vehicle has an analog control system, but it will eventually be replaced by the Soyuz-2.

The Soyuz-2 was developed from the older Soyuz models, and features digital flight control systems and modernised engines. 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. (Click here for an array of documentation on this vehicle in the L2 Russian section).

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The German Space Agency (DLR) TET-1 is a 70 kg satellite, built by Astrofein under contract of Kayser-Threde GmbH, who are the prime contractor for the mission. The satellite is part of DLR’s On-Orbit-Verification (OOV) program.

The TET-1 will be operated as part of the OOV program for 14 months under contract of the German space agency and will be handed over then to DLR Research and Development department to be used as one part of the FIREBIRD constellation, together with the BIROS satellite which is just under integration.

ADS-1b – also known as ExactView-1 – was built under contract for exactEarth, becoming the fifth deployed satellite in exactEarth’s advanced vessel monitoring satellite constellation.

The UK’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) acted as the launch agent for the 100kg satellite, in collaboration with Commercial Space Technologies (CST) of Russia.  SSTL will also oversee a two-month in-orbit commissioning campaign from its ground station in collaboration with exactEarth and COM DEV engineers.

Other passengers riding on the Soyuz, namely KANOPUS-V1 (Canopus-B) and BKA, are both classed as remote sensing satellites.

The former has been documented as weighing 400 kg, while the BKA is believed to be a sister of KANOPUS V1, launched on behalf of Belarus.

The other Russian bird that rode into orbit was the Russian MKA-PN1 satellite, which was was developed by Russia’s NPO Lavochkin aerospace company to study ocean circulation and climate data along the Russian coastline.

(Images vai Roscosmos, DLR and Tsenki Webcast).

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