Rockot places three more Gonets-M satellites into orbit (plus one other payload)

Last Tuesday, Russia’s Rockot launcher out of Plestesk Cosmodrome placed three more Gonets-M telecommunications satellites into orbit.  Based on the military Strela commsat platform but operated privately, the Gonets constellation relays data between remote users in regions of the world ill-served by traditional geosynchronous satellites — i.e. the Arctic regions that comprise so much of the Russian Federation.

The Rockot launcher is a derivative of the SS-19 ICBM intended for civilian use and sold on the international commercial launch market.  The name is sort of a multilingual pun — in English, of course it sounds like “rocket”, but in Russian it means “rumble”.  It is operated by Eurockot Launch Services, which is jointly owned and operated by EADS Astrium and Khrunichev State Research Center; EADS has the controlling interest, while Khrunichev manufactures the vehicle.  This was Rockot’s 23rd flight.  The system as a whole has had two failures and one partial success.

There was reportedly also a fourth satellite riding on Rockot, and Russia is being very tight-lipped about it.  All we know is that it’s military.  Given the payload limits on Rockot with three other payloads already on board, it can’t be an optical spy satellite.  My guess is a military technology demonstrator.


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