Soyuz Rocket Launches 38 Satellites into Orbit

Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifts off from Baikonur with 38 satellites. (Credit: Glavkosmos webcast)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — This morning, March 22, 2021, the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Fregat upper stage and 38 spacecraft on board was launched from the launch pad No. 31 of the Baikonur cosmodrome. 

After 1 hour and 3 minutes after the launch, the main payload was separated – the South Korean satellite for Earth remote sensing CAS500-1. At the moment, after processing telemetry information, the upper stage has successfully completed all stages of the program for placing the remaining 37 spacecraft into target orbits.

The launch vehicles of the State Corporation Roscosmos have fully worked out all stages of the most difficult flight, ensuring the launch of satellites into three different sun-synchronous orbits. The launch operator is Glavkosmos Launch Services (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation).

In particular, after two more starts of the upper stage (insertion into the second transfer orbit and the separation orbit) from 11:35 to 11:37 Moscow time, the separation of the first batch of associated payload took place as part of the Japanese remote sensing satellites GRUS-1B, −1D, – 1C and −1E. 

After the fifth and sixth activation of the “accelerator” from 13:13 to 13:43 Moscow time, the Unisat-7 satellites of the Italian company GAUSS, NAJM-1 from Saudi Arabia, the Japanese ELSA-d spacecraft for removing space debris, DMSAT-1, three ADELIS-SAMSON spacecraft, the first satellite of the Higher School of Economics NRU HSE – ERS, Challenge One, KSU cubesat, GRBAlpha, WildTrackCube-SIMBA, 3B5GSat, OrbiKraft-Zorky, KMSL NANOSATC-BR2, four Beesat satellites, Timon and Pumbaa for imaging the solar corona, two Kepler satellites, Hiber-3 and Lacuna Space.

A feature of this launch was the use of a belt-type separation system for launching vehicles with sensitive scientific and on-board equipment, which was developed by the engineers of the S.A. Lavochkin (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation). In the future, the new system is planned to be used to launch subsequent vehicles of the CAS500 series, as well as some Russian satellites.

“During the launching phase, the spacecraft is connected to the upper stage by a shroud that is held in place by detonation locks. If separation is necessary, the locks open, and the springs gently push the spacecraft away from the upper stage, without exposing it to high shock loads, ”said Aleksey Polyakov, deputy general designer of NPO Lavochkin .

The spacecraft ELSA-d of the Japanese company Astroscale will be the first to demonstrate the basic technologies required for docking and space debris removal. Four GRUS satellites of the Japanese company Axelspace for observing the Earth’s surface with strict periodicity. NAJM-1 from Saudi Arabia is a pilot educational program for the development of a small satellite with a short duty cycle for imaging the Earth and providing communications from low Earth orbit.

DMSAT-1 is a small spacecraft developed for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center for multispectral observation in the visible and near-infrared ranges for the detection and control of aerosols contained in the upper atmosphere. Three ADELIS-SAMSON satellites of the Israel Institute of Technology Technion are intended for demonstrating a long-term autonomous flight of a cluster of several satellites and determining the geographic position of a ground transmitter.

Two Kepler 6/7 units from Kepler Communications inc. from Canada are designed for high-rate Ku-band broadband communications, as well as low-rate S-band narrowband communications. They provide data transfer services to IoT facilities, resources and devices located around the globe using the Global Data Service (GDS) and the ubiquitous Internet of Things service. 

NANOSATC-BR2 is a scientific, educational, technological satellite for monitoring the ionosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field of the Southern Regional Space Research Center of the University of Santa Maria, Brazil.

KMSL is a scientific satellite for conducting an experiment in microgravity of the College of Engineering, Chosan Gwangju University, Republic of Korea. Pumbaa and Timon are spacecraft in the Astrodynamics and Control Laboratory at Yeonse University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, designed to image the solar corona, including an area 10 times the angular diameter of the Sun.

Four Beesat-5, -6, -7, -8 – satellites of the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, for demonstration:

  • Communication subsystems in the UHF range;
  • an X-band transmitter, an experimental GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receiver;
  • optical payload to determine the spatial position;
  • laser ranging for accurate orbit determination.

Hiber-3 is a Dutch spacecraft designed to provide satellite connectivity to IoT devices. Unisat-7 of the Italian company GAUSS – for testing the technology of precise injection into orbit of small spacecraft of the CubSat format. The program acts as an orbital platform for the deployment of third-party satellites. UNISAT-7 will separate six nanosatellites:

  • Unicorn-1, development of the technology for precise injection into orbit of small spacecraft of the CubSat format, Germany.
  • DIY-1, testing of the SC orbiting mechanism and flight qualification of radio equipment and solar panels, Argentina;
  • FEES, educational and research apparatus, Italy;
  • STECCO, Educational & Research Italy, Gravity Gradient Orientation Technology Development, Italy;
  • SMOG-1, educational and research Italy, Hungary;
  • BCCSAT-1, Educational and Research Italy, Thailand.

The first satellite of the Higher School of Economics “NRU HSE – DZZ”. The satellite “NRU HSE – DZZ” was created jointly by the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics. A.N. Tikhonov and SPUTNIX. Kubsat 3U is equipped with an experimental Fresnel lens camera developed by Samara University and a high-speed X-band transmitter MIEM students were engaged in the development of satellite control systems. The Cubsat of the 3rd Center “Sirius” and the National Research University Higher School of Economics is equipped with an improved device for monitoring rapid changes in space radiation fluxes of the DeKoR type. Scientists from the Sirius University and the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Moscow State University are engaged in the scientific component of the project – they work with a space radiation detector and mathematical algorithms for the mission.

The spacecraft SIMBA of the University of Rome La Sapienza is designed to monitor the behavior of wild animals. GRBAlpha of the University of Kosice is needed to demonstrate detector technology and electronics for the future mission of CAMELOT – a constellation of nanosatellites to cover the entire sky, with high sensitivity and localization accuracy after detecting gamma radiation.

Open Cosmos, an aerospace company that provides end-to-end satellite missions, is the supplier of two satellites among those to be launched on this board. The company is responsible for the design, manufacture, assembly and flight control of nano-satellites built for the needs of specific customers – Lacuna Space and Sateliot. Sateliot is a satellite telecommunications operator that will launch a constellation of nanosatellites to make the 5G Internet of Things more accessible to people. The company plans to deploy 16 satellites starting in 2022 and bring their number to 96 by 2025, while receiving an investment of more than €100 million.

Challenge One is a satellite for the Internet of Things technology and is also equipped with advanced communication equipment, developed at TELNET facilities by qualified specialists from Tunisia. This launch of the Tunisian satellite will form the basis for the creation of a new space ecosystem for Tunisia and its region. 

KSU CubeSat, developed by the Technical College at the University. King Saud, will transmit telemetry data and photographs from space to the ground station.

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The upper stage “Fregat”, manufactured by NPO Lavochkin, ensures the efficient implementation of all tasks related to launching one or several spacecraft into working orbits or trajectories departing from the Earth. The highest reliability, the possibility of launching from four cosmodromes, and, practically, ideal launching accuracy, give the Fregat upper stage an undeniable competitive advantage over world analogues.

This launch became the 94th for this upper stage. Its efficient operation provides ample opportunities in the field of launch services. Constant modernization of upper stages of the “Fregat” type, ensuring the launch of various associated payloads into different orbits with high accuracy within the framework of one launch and the possibility of launching from four cosmodromes (Vostochny, Plesetsk, Baikonur, GKTs (French Guiana)) provide undeniable competitive advantages in the world space launch market.