A Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying the Russian Resurs-P No.3 Earth observation satellite, has blasted off into the sky on Sunday, Mar. 13, from the Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff occurred at 1:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT). It was the second attempt to launch the satellite.
The launch was initially scheduled for late 2015 but was postponed to March 2016. The first attempt to launch it took place yesterday, also at 1:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT), but the booster suffered a rare on-pad abort just about ten seconds prior to launch.
The launch window was only ten seconds long, so any hold or abort results in an immediate scrub for the day. The cause of the abort is currently being investigated.
“The automatic engine cutoff occurred during the lift-off of the Soyuz 2-1B carrier rocket with the Resurs-P No.3 remote-sensing satellite. The launch has been cancelled, the causes are being investigated,” a source at Roscosmos told RIA Novosti.
The Soyuz-2.1b has a 20-second ignition sequence leading up to liftoff. A pad abort during ignition is very rare for Russian rockets. This was the first on-pad abort for the Soyuz-2.1b and the first for any Soyuz rocket in more than a decade.
The launch campaign started in December 2015 with the arrival of the satellite at Baikonur. A series of tests and inspections were performed at the Baikonur Processing Facility to prepare the spacecraft for the mission.
Fueling of the satellite was carried out in early March before its solar arrays were attached. Then, the spacecraft was encapsulated in the rocket’s payload fairing. The Soyuz launch vehicle was assembled on Mar. 9 and the payload fairing with the satellite was installed atop of it. On next day, the rocket was rolled out to the launch site.
After liftoff, the Soyuz-2.1b rocket started its short 9-minute mission, climbing vertically and quickly executing a pitch and roll maneuver, targeting a polar orbit inclined 97.3 degrees. Nearly two minutes into the flight the rocket’s boosters were jettisoned and the launch vehicle continued its mission powered by its core stage. The separation of the core stage occurred about four minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff, leaving the third stage with the payload fairing alone. The third stage flew for about four and a half minutes to release the Resurs-P satellite approximately nine minutes and 20 seconds into the flight.
The satellite has already deployed its solar arrays and established communications with Russian ground stations. It will use its propulsion system to reach its targeted sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 297 miles (477.5 kilometers).
Resurs-P No.3, developed by the Progress State Research and Production Space Centre in Samara, Russia, also known as TsSKB-Progress, is an Earth observation satellite for the Russian Resurs observation and remote sensing program. Weighing about 6.4 tons, the spacecraft is based on the Yantar-4KS1 bus and is three-axis stabilized. It is 26 feet (7.9 meters) long, 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter and is expected to be operational for up to seven years.
The satellite consists of three sections, a payload section containing the imaging payload, a service section consisting of avionics, electrical systems and other support equipment, and a propulsion section that facilitates the main propulsion system and a high-fidelity attitude control system. Its design is modular, it includes the assembly compartment with the power package module and two photovoltaic solar arrays mounted on the compartment's outer surface, the instrumentation bay and the purpose equipment bay.
The spacecraft is expected to update maps, aid the work of Russia's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Emergency Ministry and the agricultural, fishery and hydro-meteorological agencies.
Resurs-P No.3 carries the Geoton-L1 hyperspectral imaging payload as the main imaging instrument. Thanks to this payload it possesses hyperspectral and stereo spectral image recording capabilities with an accuracy of 30 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters). Its main objective is to obtain high-resolution imagery of the Earth's surface for commercial and research applications. It is able to provide global coverage in 60 days, in daylight and locally even more frequent by strategic pointing. The instrument has a mass of 683 lbs. (310 kg) and was designed jointly by NPO Opteks and CNII Electron.
Resurs program started in 1979 with the launch of the first satellite. These reconnaissance satellites, designed for ecological studies and natural resource analysis, have operated for more than 40 years. The first Resurs-P satellite was launched in June 2013, while the second was orbited in December 2014. Russian plans two more launches of the satellites in the Resurs-P series, currently scheduled for 2018-2019.
The Soyuz-2.1b rocket that was employed in Saturday’s launch is an upgraded version of a three-stage carrier Soyuz-2 booster. The 151 feet (46.1 meters) tall launch vehicle with a total mass of 672,000 lbs. (304,814 kg) is designed to put satellites into a variety of orbits. The Soyuz-2.1b is capable of putting up to 18,100 lbs. (8,210 kg) into a low-Earth orbit (LEO), 10,800 lbs. (4,899 kg) into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and 7,170 lbs. (3,252 kg) into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The first launch of this version took place from Plesetsk on July 26, 2008, with a classified military payload.
This launch vehicle uses four RD-107A engines for liftoff, burning for about 2 minutes. The first stage, 88.9 feet (27.1 meters) long and 9.7 feet (2.95 meters) in diameter, is equipped in one RD-108A engine. The rocket’s second stage has a length of 22 feet (6.7 meters) and is 8.7 feet (2.66 meters) in diameter. The 2.1b version has an upgraded engine RD-0124 with improved performance to the second stage.
Russia has launched four orbital missions in 2016 so far. The nation plans at least 13 more flights by the end of the year. Saturday’s launch was the second liftoff for Soyuz-2.1b booster this year and also the second mission from Baikonur in 2016. The country’s next launch is planned for Mar. 14 when the Proton-M rocket will send the ExoMars spacecraft on its journey to the Red Planet.