Spaceflight Insider

Russian Resurs-P3 satellite encounters solar array deployment problems

Soyuz-2.1b launch of the Resurs-P3 satellite.

The Soyuz-2.1b launch of the Resurs-P3 satellite. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

The recently launched Russian Earth-observing satellite Resurs-P3 encountered problems during the deployment of one of its two solar arrays, according to the Roscosmos State Corporation.

“The third Resurs-P satellite was successfully delivered into orbit on March 13. After its delivery into orbit, an incomplete unfolding of one of the spacecraft’s solar panels was registered. The spacecraft’s systems are receiving power supply in a sufficient volume for normal operation,” Roscosmos said.

resurs-p satellite in orbit above Earth Roscosmos image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

An artist’s depiction of a Resurs satellite in orbit above Earth. Image Credit: Roscosmos

Roscosmos has stated that, despite the failure, the satellite has enough power for normal operations, but it will not permit the satellite to function at full capacity for a long time. The agency is now trying to assess the situation and solve the problem.

Weighing about 7.1 tons (6.4 metric tons), the spacecraft is based on the Yantar-4KS1 bus and is three-axis stabilized. It has two deployable solar arrays and is 26 feet (7.9 meters) long and 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter. Resurs-P3 was expected to be operational for up to seven years. Now, due to the problem with deployment of one solar panel, its orbital lifetime could be shortened.

The satellite thundered into the sky atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff occurred at 2:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT) on March 13. The launch was initially scheduled for late 2015.

Sunday’s liftoff was the second attempt to launch the satellite. The first attempt took place at 1:56 p.m. EST (18:56 GMT) on March 12, but the booster suffered a rare on-pad abort just about ten seconds prior to taking flight—a first for the Soyuz-2.1b and the first for any Soyuz rocket in more than a decade.

The satellite, developed by the Progress State Research and Production Space Centre (also known as TsSKB-Progress) in Samara, Russia, is an Earth observation satellite for the Russian Resurs observation and remote sensing program. It is expected to update maps, aid the work of Russia’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Emergency Ministry, and the agricultural, fishery and hydro-meteorological agencies.

Resurs-P3 consists of three sections: a payload section containing the imaging systems; a service section consisting of avionics, electrical systems, and other support equipment; and a section that facilitates the main propulsion system and the high-fidelity attitude control system. The spacecraft’s design is modular. It includes the assembly compartment with the power package module and two photovoltaic solar arrays mounted on the compartment’s outer surface, the instrumentation bay, and the purpose equipment bay.

The Resurs program began in 1979 with the launch of the first satellite. These reconnaissance satellites, designed for ecological studies and natural resource analysis, have operated for more than 40 years. The first Resurs-P satellite was launched in June of 2013, with the second being orbited in December 2014. Russian plans two more launches of satellites in the Resurs-P series, currently scheduled for 2018 and 2019.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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