Tag Archives: Soyuz 2

A success from Vostochny: 11 satellites into space aboard Soyuz

And there was another launch on January 31!  In Russia, at Vostochny Cosmodrome, on a beautiful, clear winter day, a Soyuz 2 began the climb to orbit:


The Vostochny Cosmodrome was long plagued with delays and corruption, and even after finally being completed after the personal intervention of Vladimir Putin, has struggled to ramp up to where it can start actually relieving Baikonur Cosmodrome.  The Angara rocket that was planned to fly from there has been plagued by its own delays, and so it was inaugurated with Soyuz 2.  That inaugural flight, on April 28, 2016, successfully carried a gamma-ray space telescope dubbed Mikhailo Lomonosov, while the dropped boosters from the Soyuz fell on Russian territory and were retrieved for engineering analysis.  But there were no further flights until November 28 of last year, and that one ended in an embarrassing failure: a Meteor-M weather satellite was lost because the Fregat upper stage had been programmed with a course that would have made sense from Baikonur Cosmodrome, but which left it fatally short of velocity when climbing from Vostochny, which is higher latitude.

But Vostochny this week made an important step past that with the successful launch of eleven satellites aboard a Soyuz 2 rocket with a correctly programmed Fregat upper stage.  The primary payloads were Kanopus-V3 and Kanopus-V4, disaster monitoring satellites for the Russian government, and there were also 9 nanosatellites from Germany and the US.  These include four more Lemurs for Spire Global, which saw two other launches on completely different vehicles over the last three weeks (including the Electron launch), four experimental inter-satellite communications satellites from the University of Berlin, and D-Star One Phoenix from German Orbital Systems (Berlin) and iSky Technology (Czechia).  D-Star One Phoenix replaces the original D-Star One, which was lost aboard the last launch out of Vostochny.  This illustrates one of the great advantages of nanosatellites — they are so small and relatively inexpensive that replacements can often be obtained quickly.


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Tragic accident in conjunction with Progress MS-06

Yesterday’s Progress launch went smoothly, but unfortunately the recovery of the spent boosters did not.  Russian rockets have always launched over land (the sole exception being the Soyuz rockets launched from Kourou in French Guiana, in partnership with Arianespace), and this means they drop their lower stages onto land.  This has caused problems before, from property damage to at least one recorded incident of a cow being killed by falling debris, but for the most part, the spent stages are manna from heaven to the scrap dealers, as they contain valuable materials like titanium.  Before the scavengers are allowed to access the stages, a team hired by Roscosmos goes in and removes any salvageable electronics and other components, and it was one of those teams that suffered a tragic loss.

The stage one drop site this week has been suffering unusually dry conditions (even for this semi-arid part of the world).  This is where the distinctive conical strap-on boosters impact, and it is always cleared of personnel before the flight.  But on this occasion, one of the boosters, still hot so soon after burnout, started a grass fire.  The fire ultimately burned 15 km of grassland before being extinguished, but two contractors with NPO Mashinostroenia were driving along the road, heading to the scene to help fight the fire, when a sudden gust of wind blew fire right across their truck.  One man was killed; the other was airlifted to a hospital with burns over 45% of his body.

It’s a sobering reminder that even when everything with the vehicle appears to go exactly right, spaceflight remains a dangerous endeavor.

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Soyuz ROCKETCAM!!!!!

Russia almost never does rocketcams; I never saw a Soyuz rocketcam until Arianespace started operating them out of Kourou.  But not any more!  Roscomos has released this lovely video of the inaugural Soyuz 2 launch from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome.  Feast your eyes:

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Vostochny is in business! Also, India’s IRNSS is complete

Two launches this morning on the other side of the world!

First, in Russia’s remote Amur region in eastern Siberia, their new Vostochny Cosmodrome has beaten the scandals and delays and the many years of debate about where to put it and how to fund it, and has received its first baptism of fire, placing a trio of civilian satellites into orbit aboard a Soyuz 2.1a.  The three payloads include Mikhailo Lomonosov, a gamma-ray observatory operated by the Lomonosov Moscow State University; Aist-2D, an earth-observing satellite operated by Samara State Aerospace University, and a CubeSat named SamSat 218 built and operated by Samara State Aerospace University students.

Then, to the southeast of Vostochny, at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, the workhorse PSLV rocket racked up another success by placing the final element of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) into orbit.  With this final element in place, the constellation has been officially named “Navic”.  IRNSS-1G is not yet in service; like all satellites, it will undergo a period of on-orbit testing before commissioning.  Navic is only a seven-element constellation, but as India only aims to supply regional navigation services, this is sufficient.  By contrast, systems such as GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo are intended to be used globally.

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China, US, and Russia launch navigation satellites, North Korea launches . . . something

It’s been a noteworthy week in rocket launches.  First, last Monday, China placed another element of their Beidou satellite navigation constellation into orbit.  I found some nice amateur footage of it on YouTube — note the duration of time before you begin to hear the roar, and also note the characteristic red clouds at launch.  The entire Long March family uses hypergolic propellants, hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, and before the mix evens out at ignition, the exhaust contains a lot of nitrogen tetroxide, a highly corrosive chemical still widely used in spacecraft engines, but phased out of American and European launch vehicles some time ago.  Still, this launch went off without a hitch, and it is fun to hear the palpable excitement and joy in the voiced of the onlookers.

Then, on Friday, the USAF placed the twelfth and final GPS 2F spacecraft into orbit.  This is the last of the Block II GPS spacecraft; the next launch will be the first of the Block III.  Launched aboard an Atlas V rocket with Centaur upper stage, the spacecraft was successfully delivered into the correct orbit.  The first stage is infamously powered by the RD-180 built by NPO Energomash in Russia.  It is a closed-cycle kerosene-LOX engine and among the most sophisticated kerolox engines ever designed.  The upper stage is powered by the venerable RL-10 by Rocketdyne, an expander-cycle cryogenic rocket engine powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

And then, somewhat ambiguously, North Korea made a second satellite launch early this morning.  They gave few details on the payload, but an object was indeed placed into orbit and is being tracked, so the launch appears to have been successful.  Unlike the last launch, I have not heard any reports of the payload tumbling, so this time the payload must have separated properly from the upper stage.  (Disclaimer: I don’t speak Korean, so I have no idea what the commentary in this video is, though I think it may be a North Korean release.)

Lastly, and almost as if to show the North Koreans how it’s really done, the Russians <i>also</i> enhanced their navigation satellite constellation, placing a GLONASS satellite into orbit by a Soyuz 2 rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome:

The skies got a bit busier this week.

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Merry Christmas! Full moon, and some more rockets!

Merry Christmas, everybody!  Last evening was a full moon, the first Christmas full moon since 1977, and the last one until 2034.  (So naturally it was completely overcast here.)  Did you enjoy the bright Christmas night?

It was actually a white one after all here, even if just barely — the blades of grass are still peeking through the top of the snow.  Green grass, at that.  It’s been ridiculously warm for Minnesota.  But with the temperatures dropping at last, I’m sure the ski areas will be happy, and soon so will the ice fishermen.

We all watched the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch and landing, but that wasn’t the only interesting thing happening in spaceflight this week!  There was also a Progress spacecraft launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome.  It’s a new model of Progress, the Progress MS-1, launched aboard the newest variant of Soyuz, Soyuz 2-1A, which features new roll control capabilities (previously, the entire vehicle was rotated on its launch table prior to launch to select the correct azimuth) and improved engines.  Progress MS, meanwhile, adds use of the GLONASS navigation system, communication via Russian relay satellites (instead of relying always on ground stations), and the ability to carry nanosatellites to be carried on the Progress’ exterior and then launched while it is en route to Station.

And the Progress then docked on Wednesday:

And then on Christmas Eve, Proton made a spectacular night launch to place the Express AMU1/Eutelsat 36C geosynchronous commsat onto its transfer orbit:

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Busy launch week: Vega, Soyuz and Long March, with Falcon 9 on deck

Well, this is shaping up to be a busy week for rocketry!

First, on Tuesday, the fifth Vega rocket from Arianespace blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana, placing ESA’s Sentinel 2a Earth observation satellite into orbit.  The spacecraft is designed to monitor optically in conjunction with Sentinel 1a, which monitors via radar, and the data will be made publicly available for the benefit of agriculture, civil planning, environmental studies, and so forth.

Later the same day, Russia launched its latest Persona-1/Kvant reconnaissance satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz 2-1B rocket.  It’s probably a photoreconnaissance satellite, but of course very little has been acknowledged about the vehicle or its mission.  Note: I’m not sure where the audio for this video came from; it may just be generic

And today China unexpectedly launched Gaofen-8, the last in a series of high-resolution (“gao fen” means “high resolution”) Earth observing satellites for the China National Space Administration.  I don’t yet have a video of this launch from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Next on deck is Falcon 9, set to deliver the CRS7 Dragon flight to the ISS.  Liftoff is presently set for Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Station, weather permitting, and will include a flyback booster landing test.

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