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Russian Soyuz 2-1A Successfully Lofts Multiple Satellites From Vostochny Cosmodrome

Soyuz-2-1A launch vehicle clears its launch pad at Vostochny Cosmodrome on 26 December 2018. Photograph courtesy of Roscosmos.

The last Russian satellite launch of 2018 took place on 27 December 2018 when a Soyuz 2-1A launch vehicle lifted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, lofting two Kanopus-V remote sensing satellites and twenty-six secondary payloads into orbit with the aid of a Fregat upper stage.

The Soyuz 2-1A launched at 11:07 local time (02:07 UTC) from the Vostochny Cosmodrome located in Russia’s Far East.

The Kanopus-V satellites – Numbers 5 and 6 – join a constellation of six civilian Earth observation satellites operated by the Russian State Space Corporation, Roscosmos.

Kanopus-V – also known as Kanopus-Vulkan – satellites have three sensors to image the Earth at visible-light and near infrared wavelengths.

The Kanopus-V Panchromatic Imaging System (PSS) aboard the Kanopus satellites can capture images at resolutions of up to 2.5 metres. The Multispectral Imaging System (MSS) provides a resolution of 12 metres over four spectral bands. The Multispectral Scanner Unit 200 (MSU-200) has a resolution of 25 metres.

The Kanopus-V satellites were built by NPP VNIIEM in cooperation with UK satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). With a mass of 473 kilograms, the satellites are expected to have an operational lifetime of at least five years.

As well as the two Kanopus-V satellites, the Soyuz 2-1A launch placed twenty-six secondary payloads into orbit. These smaller satellites were contracted through the commercial arm of Roscosmos – GK Launch Services, a partnership between Glavkosmos and ISC Kosmotras.

The largest of these secondary payloads is the 100-kilogram GRUS-1 Earth observation satellite that was launched for Japan’s Axelspace. GRUS-1 is the first of three satellites that being developed by Axelspace to capture high-resolution satellite images. GRUS-1 has an operational lifespan of at least five years and will take images at a resolution of 2.5 metres with a swath width of 60 kilometres.

The remaining satellites that comprised the Soyuz 2-1A secondary payloads were all CubeSats, and include the following:

  • 12 Flock-3K CubeSats for U.S. company Planet, built by the Dutch company Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS);
  • ZACube-2 that will be operated by the French-South African Institute of Technoogy (FSATI) at South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology;
  • Lume-1, a communications CubeSat developed by a consortium of European universities led by the University of Vigo in Spain;
  • Eight Lemur-2 CubeSats for U.S. company Spire Global, that will carry out GPS occultation and Automatic Identification System (AIS) functions;
  • iSat ADS-B CubeSat built by German Orbital Systems for Czech company iSky Technology;
  • D-Star ONE Sparrow technology demonstration CubeSat built and operated by German Orbital Systems;
  • UWE-4 CubeSat built by the University of Wurzburg in Germany that test a miniaturized electric propulsion system with Nano Field Effect Electric Propulsion (NanoFEEP) thrusters.

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