Saturday, March 12, 2016

Russia Scrubs Launch of the Third Resurs-P Earth-observing Satellite, Next Attempt Tomorrow

Soyuz-2.1b rocket suffers an on-pad abort on the launch pad on Mar. 12. Credit: Roscosmos

The Roscosmos State Corporation has scrubbed the launch of the Resurs-P No.3 Earth observation satellite, scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 12 at 1:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT). The spacecraft was scheduled to be lifted off atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but the booster suffered a rare on-pad abort just about ten seconds before the 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.

Roscosmos announced that the next attempt of the launch will take place tomorrow, on Sunday, Mar. 13, also at 1:56 p.m. EDT (18:56 GMT).

Due to today’s abort, next Soyuz launches from Baikonur are likely to be suspended before this emergency is investigated. Thus, the planned launch of the manned Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Mar. 18 and the Progress MS-2 cargo mission on Mar. 31 are currently on hold.

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 version and the first for any Soyuz rocket in over a decade.

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.

The launch was initially scheduled for late 2015 but was postponed to March 2016. The launch campaign started in December 2015 with the arrival of the satellite at Baikonur.

The Soyuz-2.1b rocket 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.

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