A Russian Rokot launch vehicle – with a Briz-KM Upper Stage – has launched the Geo-IK-2 (No.12L) spacecraft on Saturday. The launch took place from the Eurockot Pad LC133 at the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, with T-0 marked at 14:00 UTC. The launch gained additional attention due to environmentalists protesting at the potential of hydrazine contamination from the spent second stage.
This Russian launch system is tailored to payloads requiring a performance of at least 1,950 kg for launches into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The three-stage liquid fuelled rocket has dedicated launch facilities at Plesetsk Cosmodrome under the control of Eurockot.
Rokot – also referred to as “Rockot” – is a fully operational, three stage, liquid propellant Russian launch vehicle which is being offered commercially by Eurockot Launch Services for launches into low earth orbit. The German-Russian joint venture company was formed specifically to offer this vehicle commercially.
The Rokot launch vehicle uses the SS-19/(RS-18) Stiletto ICBM for its first two stages.
The SS-19, which was originally developed as the Russian UR-100N ICBM series, was designed between 1964 and 1975. Over 360 SS-19 ICBMs were manufactured during the 70s and 80s.
The Breeze-KM third stage uses a re-startable storable liquid propellant engine that has been used in many other Soviet space projects.
The booster unit – which provides the first and second stages of Rokot – is taken from existing SS-19 missiles and is accommodated within an existing transportation/launch container.
It’s the return of the expended second stage that has concerned Greenpeace officials, speaking to Canadian media ahead of the launch.
Although their concerns weren’t noted for all of the previous launches, this mission was classed as a threat to the biodiversity of the Canadian Arctic region.
The third stage – which provides the orbital capability of the launcher – is newly manufactured.
This upper stage contains a modern, autonomous control/guidance system which controls all three stages. The upper stage multiple engine ignition capability allows implementation of various payload injection profiles.
The Rokot second stage has an external diameter of 2.5 meters and a length of 3.9 meters. It contains a closed-cycle, turbopump-fed, fixed main engine designated RD-0235 and verniers designated RD-0236 for directional control – as listed in the 200-page vehicle overview presentation (L2).
Separation of the first and second stages is a “hot separation” – due to the fact that the vernier engines are ignited just before the separation. The exhaust gasses are diverted by special hatches within the first stage.
After separation, the first stage is braked by retro rockets, then the second stage main engine is ignited. Like the first stage, it contains a common bulkhead and a hot gas pressurization system.
The Breeze-KM stage – which has now been adopted as the standard version of the third stage for the commercial version of Rokot – is a close derivative of the original Breeze-K stage flown during the first three Rokot flights.
It comprises three main compartments which include the propulsion compartment, the hermetically sealed equipment compartment and the interstage compartment. To allow larger satellites to be accommodated and to reduce dynamic loads, structural changes to the Breeze-K stage were introduced.
The structure of the equipment bay of the original Breeze-K stage has been widened and flattened by redistribution of the control equipment.
Geo-IK-2 No.12L was developed by ISS Reshetnev and will work to investigate Earth’s gravitational field.
It will also gain data on the global displacement of the Earth’s crust, along with the study of sea surface heights and tidal movements.
With a mass of 900 kilograms and an EPS capacity of 1000 W, the spacecraft has a designed lifetime of five years. It will conduct its work in a sun-synchronous orbit occupied at an altitude of 1000 kilometers.
It will be joined by another spacecraft in the future, which was originally the plan for this mission.
In February 2011, a Rokot/Briz-KM rocket placed the Geo-IK-2 No.11 spacecraft, redesignated Kosmos 2470, into a useless orbit which resulted in its eventual demise in 2013.
(Images via ISS Reshetnev and L2)