Spaceflight Insider

ORS-3 mission’s satellite-launching record – beaten day later

At 0710 GMT, a Soviet era Dnepr missile launched from the Dombarovsky base located in Russia with 32 small satellites on board. This accomplishment places Russia in the lead as having launched the most satellites on a single mission. Photo Credit: Kosmostras

With the launch of a Russian Dnepr rocket from the Dombarovsky base located near Yasny, Russia, the current record for the most satellites launched to orbit on a single flight was broken. On Nov. 19, a Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur 1 rocket ferried some 29 satellites from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Today, at 2:10 p.m. EST (0710 GMT), the Dnepr rocket, a modified Soviet-era missile thundered aloft with its payload of 32 satellites.

To deliver the various spacecraft to their orbits, the upper stage had to maneuver through a series of thruster firings. Image Credit: Kosmostras

To deliver the various spacecraft to their orbits, the upper stage had to maneuver through a series of thruster firings. Image Credit: Kosmostras

Both the Minotaur 1 and Dnepr are based on missiles who have found a second life in the post Cold War era. Both were used to deliver a fleet of tiny satellites, man of which were produced by students. One might ask how so many satellites were hefted aloft on a single launch vehicle. Simply put, the spacecraft in question were tiny.

What have been dubbed as Cubesats, nanosatellites and such were the primary payloads of both missions launched this week and are a growing trend in space flight. With dwindling resources and in an effort to continue space exploration and utilization efforts, government institutions, companies and even individuals are looking to find ways to conduct their orbital experiments in as affordable means as possible.

Also like the Minotaur 1, Dnepr wasted little time in getting its precious cargo to their destinations, a mere fifteen minutes or so after launch and the rocket was busily deploying its numerous charges.

A release issued by Kosmostras stated the following:

  The launch of 24 Payloads was successfully performed by RS-20 rocket (Dnepr Launch Vehicle) from Yasny Launch Base, Orenburg region, Russia, on November 21, 2013 at 11:10:11  Moscow time (07:10:11 UTC).The launch was executed by the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Ministry of Defense with the support of the Russian and Ukrainian companies, which are part of the ISC Kosmotras industrial team.All payloads have been inserted into their target orbits.
Photo Credit: Kosmostras

Photo Credit: Kosmostras

Those payloads include the following:

DubaiSat-2 – the second Earth-observing satellite to originate from the United Arab Emirates, this spacecraft will provide panchromatic and multi-spectral images. It will orbit at an altitude of about 372 miles (600 km).

STSAT-3 – this satellite hails from South Korea and will provide astronomical imaging as well as study galaxies. It will also observe the Earth in the infrared. The spacecraft’s Earth-observing efforts are designed to help water quality control and other environmental efforts.

SkySat-1 – U.S. spacecraft which will provide 1-4 meter resolution images for commercial use.

UniSat-5 – Italian satellite which will be used to deploy some of the other Cubesats on this flight.

AprizeSat -7 and-8 – U.S. communications satellites.

XPOD Systems – Canadian satellite (with three international partners) that will conduct environmental, astronomical and technology-testing missions.

ISIPOD Systems – Fourteen Cubesats from 10 different nations. Primary purpose is technology development.

Dnepr is a little more than 110 feet tall and is named after the Dnieper River. The rocket is produce by ISC Kosmostras which conducted the first launch of the vehicle on April 21, 1999.


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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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