A Russian Soyuz booster rocket has successfully launched a satellite for the first time since a much-publicized failure in April.
The Defense Ministry said the Soyuz 2.1A rocket was launched Friday from the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia, placing a Russian military satellite into a designated orbit.
The failure of the previous Soyuz launch on April 28 led to the loss of an unmanned Progress cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. The same type of rocket is used to launch spacecraft carrying crews to the space outpost, and its failure prompted Russia to delay both the scheduled landing of some of the station's crew and their successors' launch.
The next Progress launch is set for early July, to be followed by a crew launch later that month.
Military satellite launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome - Russian Defense Ministry
MOSCOW. June 5 (Interfax-AVN) - Russian Aerospace Defense Troops have successfully launched a medium-class space rocket, Soyuz-2.1a, with a satellite, for the Russian Defense Ministry, a ministry spokesperson told Interfax-AVN on Friday.
"On Friday, June 5, at 6:24 p.m. Moscow time, the Soyuz-2.1a medium-class rocket with a satellite was launched for the Defense Ministry from the launch pad N 4 at the site N43 of Plesetsk State Testing Cosmodrome. Liftoff went as planned," the ministry said in a statement obtained by Interfax-AVN on Friday.
"The ground control system of the G.S. Titov Main Test Space Center of the Aerospace Defense Troops Space Command took Soyuz-2.1a rocket under their control at 18 hours 26 minutes," the ministry said.
The taking of the spacecraft under control is expected within radio visibility of the ground automated control complex of the Space Command, the ministry said.
The launch was carried out under the general supervision of the Aerospace Defense Troops Commander, Lt. Gen. Alexander Golovko.
This is a second Soyuz-2.1a rocket launch by Aerospace Defense Troops in Plesetsk this year. In all, three rockets, two Soyuz-2s and one Rokot, have been launched from Plesetsk in 2015.
The flight tests of the Soyuz-2 space rocket complex began at Plesetsk Cosmodrome on November 8, 2004. The past ten years saw 21 Soyuz-2 rockets in 1a.,1b and 1v upgrade versions launched from the northern cosmodrome.
Soyuz-2 replaces Souyz-U which was in use in Plesetsk from 1973 to 2012. Over the period, there were 434 Soyuz-U rocket launches which delivered about 430 various satellites to the orbit.
Russia conducts surprise Soyuz 2-1A launch carrying Kobalt-M
Russia has launched its Soyuz 2-1A rocket in a surprise mission from the Plesetsk cosmodrome at 15:24 UTC. The launch, using a rocket that recently failed during the Progress M-27M mission, was clouded under secrecy due to its payload, the Kobalt-M spy satellite – rumored to be the final film-return photo reconnaissance spacecraft.
Soyuz 2-1A Launch:
The Soyuz 2-1 rocket is derived from the earlier Soyuz-U and the Soyuz 11A511 before that – and first flew in November 2004.
The rocket was intended as an eventual replacement for all of the Soyuz and Molniya variants then in service.
The Molniya-M was retired from service in 2010 and the Soyuz-2 has already replaced the Soyuz-U for all launches apart from Progress missions to the International Space Station.
A switch to the 2-1A for the Progress M-27M mission ended in failure, as an issue – believed to be specific to the marriage of the resupply ship and the Soyuz 2-1A – has been cited in the failure investigation notes.
Roscosmos claim a hardware issue caused abnormal separation between the Soyuz carrier rocket and the Progress, resulting in the latter’s eventual doom.
The Soyuz-2 has three principal variants; the 2-1a, 2-1b and 2-1v (v being the Romanisation of the third letter of the Cyrillic alphabet).
The 2-1a is a modernised version of the Soyuz-U, while the 2-1b introduces a new RD-0124 stage engine.
The Soyuz-2-1v, which is also known as Soyuz-1, uses an NK-33 engine to power the core stage and does away with the four boosters flown on all other Soyuz rockets.
The first and second stages of the Soyuz-2-1a burn in parallel; the first stage consists of four strap-on boosters powered by RD-117 engines, clustered around the core, or second stage, which is powered by an RD-118.
Atop the core sits the third stage with an RD-0110 engine that injected the spacecraft into its target orbit.
Although Friday’s launch was a surprise, this was mainly related to the military payload, as opposed to a rushed decision to try and launch the Soyuz 2-1A in a “Return To Flight” scenario.
The payload – the Kobalt-M – is classed as a modernized version of the Yantar spacecraft. It is understood to be a military reconnaissance spacecraft by nature.
The spacecraft was developed by TsSKB Progress of Samara and manufactured by OAO Arsenal of St Petersburg.
The design of the spacecraft is such that it has two small capsules on board, allowing it to return film back to Earth inside the main – cone-shaped – reentry vehicle.
Kobalt-M satellites are typically launched into the 170 by 370-kilometer orbits with the inclination 62.8 – 67.2 degrees toward the Equator.
Very little is known about the spacecraft, given its military nature. However, previous mission information has provided some insight into the mission length for the spacecraft.
The first Kobalt-M satellite was launched on September 24, 2004 on a Soyuz-U launch vehicle from the LC16/1 Launch Complex at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Designated Kosmos-2410, the Kobalt-M returned to Earth on January 9, 2005, after a 107-day mission. The second satellite on the series was launched on May 3, 2006 on a 74-day mission.
Kosmos-2427 was the third satellite on the series, launched on June 7, 2007 – this time spending 76 days in space. This was followed by a number of similar missions until a May 17, 2012 Soyuz-U launch resulted in a Kobalt-M flight lasting an extended – and record-breaking – 130 day on orbit.
Kosmos-2495 was the first Kobalt-M to be launched by a Soyuz 2-1A rocket, resulting in a mission duration of 120 days.
The May 6, 2014 launch was believed to be the last for this range of spacecraft. However, due to changes to the geopolitical climate, it appears Russia decided to loft one more from the range, named Kosmos-2505, although this too is believed to be the final Kobalt-M, not least due to the advances in spy satellite technology.