Russia to launch Blagovest 12L military comsat April 18
Russia is in the final stage of preparations to launch its Proton-M rocket with the Blagovest 12L military communications satellite. Liftoff is scheduled to take place at 6:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 GMT) April 18, 2018, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The mission was originally planned to take place on Dec. 25, 2017, but was delayed several times by Russia, which has not disclosed what was behind these reschedules.
Little is known about the launch and pre-launch preparations due to the military nature of the mission. ISS Reshetnev, the manufacturer of the Blagovest satellite, only noted that the spacecraft had been shipped to Baikonur in early March.
“The Blagovest No.12 satellite, accompanied by ISS Reshetnev specialists, made its journey to the cosmodrome to begin final preparations for launch,” the company wrote in a press release. “All the necessary operations and check-outs are due to begin soon.”
Blagovest 12L is described as a high-capacity telecommunications satellite and is designed to provide high-speed data transmission. It is based on the ISS Reshetnev’s Express 2000 satellite platform, which is capable of hosting payloads of up to one metric ton. The bus offers three-axis stabilization, precise station-keeping capabilities and can combine chemical and electric propulsion systems.
Equipped with two deployable solar arrays, Blagovest 12L hosts a high-throughput payload provided by Thales Alenia Space. The spacecraft operates in the Ka-Band frequency and the Q-Band Extremely High-Frequency Range. This makes it one of the first satellites to operationally use Q-Band communications supporting higher bandwidths.
Blagovest 12L is intended to deliver high-speed internet access, communications services, television and radio broadcasting, as well as telephony and video conferencing, for a designed lifetime of some 15 years. If everything goes as it is planned, it will reside in a geosynchronous orbit.
The spacecraft is one of four satellites that are slated to comprise the series planned to be operated by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The first Blagovest spacecraft, 11L, was launched on Aug. 17, 2017. According to the TASS news agency, Russia’s Defense Ministry plans orbit the remaining two satellites, 13L and 14L, by 2020.
The 190-foot tall (58-meter) Proton-M booster, which has been tapped to deliver Blagovest 12L into orbit, measures some 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) in diameter along its second and third stages. It’s first stage has a diameter of 24.3 feet (7.4 meters).
In order to deploy Blagovest 12L, the Proton-M rocket will fly in configuration that includes a Briz-M upper stage, which is powered by a pump-fed gimbaled main engine. This stage is composed of a central core and an auxiliary propellant tank that is jettisoned in-flight after the depletion of the stage’s fuel. The Briz-M control system includes an onboard computer, a three-axis gyro stabilized platform, and a navigation system.
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.