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Russia scrubs launch of Resurs-P3 Earth-observing satellite

Soyuz U rocket at Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Soyuz rocket. Archive Photo Credit: NASA

The Roscosmos State Corporation has scrubbed the launch of the Resurs-P No.3 Earth observation satellite, scheduled for Saturday, March 12, at 1:56 p.m. EST (18:56 GMT). The spacecraft was scheduled to lift off atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but the booster suffered a rare on-pad abort just about ten seconds prior to launch.

The launch window was only ten seconds long, so any hold or abort results in an immediate scrub for the day. The cause of the abort is currently being investigated.

“The automatic engine cutoff occurred during the lift-off of the Soyuz 2-1B carrier rocket with the Resurs-P No.3 remote-sensing satellite. The launch has been cancelled, the causes are being investigated,” a source at Roscosmos told RIA Novosti.

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

Artist’s depiction of Resurs satellite in orbit above Earth. Image Credit: Roscosmos

The space agency announced that the next attempt of the launch will take place tomorrow, on Sunday, March 13, at 2:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT).

Due to today’s abort, the next Soyuz launches from Baikonur are likely to be suspended before pending the investigation of today’s incident. Thus, the planned launch of the manned Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 18 and the Progress MS-2 cargo mission on March 31 are currently on hold.

The Soyuz-2.1b has a 20-second ignition sequence leading up to liftoff. A pad abort during ignition is very rare for Russian rockets. This was the first on-pad abort for the Soyuz-2.1b and the first for any Soyuz rocket in more than a decade.

The Resurs-P No.3 – 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. Weighing about 6.4 metric tons, the spacecraft is based on the Yantar-4KS1 bus and is three-axis stabilized. Resurs P3 measures some 26 feet (7.9 meters) long, 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter and is expected to be operational for up to seven years.

The satellite consists of three sections: a payload section containing the imaging payload; a service section consisting of avionics, electrical systems, and other support equipment; and a propulsion section that facilitates the main propulsion system and the high-fidelity attitude control system. The satellite’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 spacecraft 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.

The launch was initially scheduled for late 2015 but was postponed to March 2016. The launch campaign started in December of last year (2015) with the arrival of the satellite at Baikonur.

The Soyuz-2.1b rocket is an upgraded version of a three-stage carrier Soyuz-2 booster. The 151 feet (46.1 meters) tall launch vehicle has a total mass of 672,000 lbs. (304,814 kg) and is designed to put satellites into a variety of orbits.

The Soyuz-2.1b is capable of putting up to 18,100 lbs. (8,210 kg) into a low-Earth orbit (LEO), 10,800 lbs. (4,899 kg) into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and 7,170 lbs. (3,252 kg) into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The first launch of this version of the rocket took place from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on July 26, 2008, with a classified military payload.

This launch vehicle uses four RD-107A engines for liftoff, which burn for about 2 minutes. The first stage, 88.9 feet (27.1 meters) long and 9.7 feet (2.95 meters) in diameter, is equipped with one RD-108A engine. The rocket’s second stage has a length of 22 feet (6.7 meters) and is 8.7 feet (2.66 meters) in diameter. The 2.1b version has an upgraded RD-0124 engine with improved performance in its second stage.

Video courtesy of Sci News


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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