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Soyuz rocket sends 73 satellites into 3 different orbits

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome on a sunny July day was a Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying Kanopus-V-IK and 72 other small satellites. Liftoff took place at 12:36 p.m. Kazakh time (2:36 a.m. EDT / 06:36 GMT) on July 14, 2017.

The primary payload, Kanopus-V-IK, is a Russian government Earth-imaging satellite. The 1043-pound (473-kilogram) satellite has two deployable solar arrays and is expected to operate for about five years, according to Gunter’s Space Page.

The other satellites included 48 CubeSats, which were part of Planets global Earth observation fleet and eight microsatellites, which will add to Spire Global’s commercial weather satellite network. Additionally, there were several satellites from Germany, Japan, Norway, and Canada.

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Lifting off from Site 31/6, the 152-foot (46.3-meter) tall Soyuz 2.1a began with a vertical climb. The first phase of flight was powered by an 88.9-foot (27.1-meter) core stage surrounded by four 64-foot (19.6-meter) strap-on liquid fueled boosters.

The core stage had a single RD-108A engine, while the four strap-on boosters each sported an RD-107A engine. Both consumed liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene. Altogether, for the first 1 minute, 57 seconds of flight, the five engines produced some 933,000 pounds-force (4,150 kilonewtons) of sea-level thrust.

Once the four strap-on boosters consumed their fuel, they separated and fell away in a configuration known as the Korolev Cross, an aerial ballet involving the four boosters forming a cross, when viewed from below, as they fall away.

The core stage continued to burn for several minutes before cutting out at 4 minutes, 47 seconds after leaving Kazakhstan. At the same time, the second stage (third if the boosters are counted as the first stage) ignited and separated from the core.

Several seconds later, the payload fairing on top of the rocket separated, revealing the payload to space.

Burning until 8 minutes, 48 seconds into the flight, the second (or third) stage shut down and the Fregat upper stage, with the 73 satellites, separated and began to fire. This first burn continued until 15 minutes, 29 seconds into the mission’s elapsed time to place the stack into a parking orbit.

Just over 40 minutes later, the Fregat ignited again for about a minute to place the stack into a 297.4 by 324.7-mile (478.6 by 522.5-kilometer) orbit at an inclination of 97.44 degrees from the equator.

One hour, 1 minute, 8 seconds after lifting off from Baikonur, the main payload, Kanopus-V-IK, separated and moved away. Over the next hour, the Fregat ignited two more times: one at 1 hour, 36 minutes for one minute; the other at 2 hours, 22 minutes for six seconds.

The final burns placed the remaining 72 satellites into a 370 by 373-mile (595 by 601-kilometer) orbit, inclined at 97.61 degrees.

Five satellites separated between two and six minutes after the fourth Fregat burn. These included Flying Laptop, TechnoSat, WNISAT 1R, Norsat 1, and Norsat 2.

Several minutes later, five Russian CubeSats were deployed along with eight Lemur 2 CubeSats, three CICERO CubeSats, two Landmapper-BC CubeSats, and a NanoACE.

Then, at 3 hours, 15 minutes into the mission, the Fregat fired for the fifth time for 1.5 minutes. Afterward, at 3 hours, 57 minutes into the mission, the Fregat made its sixth burn for 1 minute to enter into a third separate orbit with a low point of about 280 miles (450 kilometers) and a high point of 300 miles (485 kilometers) with an inclination of 97 degrees.

This allowed for the separation of 48 Dove CubeSats, owned by Planet, between 7 hours, 41 minutes and 8 hours, 4 minutes into the flight.

After all 73 satellites were deployed, a seventh and final burn began at 8 hours, 15 minutes after leaving Kazakhstan. This de-orbited the now-empty Fregat for a destructive re-entry over the Indian Ocean.

This was the sixth Soyuz-2 launch in 2017 and the ninth overall by Russia. This includes two Soyuz launches for Arianespace in French Guiana.

The next launch by Russia will also be a Soyuz rocket. This time it will be a Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, to the International Space Station.

Liftoff for that mission is slated for 11:41 a.m. EDT (15:41 GMT) on July 28, 2017, from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch

Soyuz-2.1a / Kanopus-V-IK launch. Photo Credit: Roscosmos


Photos Credit: Roscosmos


Video courtesy of Roscosmos



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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