Russia launched a Soyuz rocket on Sunday through a veil of fog over the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying the first spacecraft in a new Arctic weather system monitoring and communications relay program. emergency.
The Soyuz-2.1ba rocket lifted off the launch pad at Site 31 in Baikonur at 1:55:01 a.m. EST (6:55:01 a.m. GMT; 11:55:01 a.m. local time) and quickly vanished into a veil. of fog overlooking the frozen steppes of Kazakhstan.
The rocket’s kerosene engines generated nearly a million pounds of thrust to exit the launch pad. The Soyuz headed northeast from Baikonur and dropped its four boosters from the first stage about two minutes after takeoff. The second stage of the rocket, or central stage, continued to fire until just under five minutes before the mission. The Soyuz payload fairing jettisoned after the rocket soared above the dense, lower layers of the atmosphere.
A third stage powered by an RD-0124 engine ignited to accelerate the Arktika-M 1 satellite and a Fregat upper stage to a speed close to orbit.
The Fregat upper stage with Arktika-M 1 separated from the Soyuz third stage at T + plus 9 minutes, 23 seconds, soon followed by the first combustion of the main engine of the Fregat to reach a preliminary parking orbit. Two more Fregat engine shots were to propel the Arktika-M 1 spacecraft into a highly elliptical or oval orbit between about 600 miles and 25,000 miles (1,050 and 39,800 kilometers).
The 4,850-pound (2,200 kilograms) Arktika-M 1 satellite was scheduled to deploy from the space tug Fregat at 4:14 a.m. EST (09:14 GMT), approximately 2 hours 19 minutes after takeoff.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has confirmed that the Arktika-M 1 satellite is separated from its launcher in a targeted orbit. Dmitry Rogozin, chief of Roscosmos, tweeted that the satellite’s solar panels were opening as planned and that ground crews had established communications with the spacecraft.
“All good!” Rogozin tweeted.
Soyuz’s launch on Sunday occurred in conditions “on the edge” of the rocket’s meteorological constraints, Rogozin said. Winds up to an altitude of 2 kilometers were particularly strong, Rogozin tweeted.
“But the rocket and its control system coped with flying colors,” he wrote.
In its elongated trajectory around the Earth – also called a Molniya-type orbit – the Arktika-M 1 spacecraft will take approximately 12 hours to circle the planet.
The satellite’s orbit has an inclination of approximately 63.3 degrees, which means that Arktika-M 1 will linger above the northern hemisphere when it is furthest from Earth, offering its instruments a view of arctic weather conditions for several hours in each orbit. With two orbiting satellites positioned 180 degrees apart, the Arktika network could provide 24-hour coverage of the Arctic.
Arktika-M 1 is the first in a new line of satellites designed to provide persistent weather data over the Russian Arctic, home to economically lucrative natural resources, energy reserves and an important region for Russian military operations. The Arktika-M satellites are built by NPO Lavochkin, the same Russian company that builds the upper Fregat stages.
The Arktika-M 1 satellite is based on the design of the Russian Elektro-L meteorological satellites which fly in geostationary orbit over the equator. Weather observatories in geostationary orbit collect images around the clock of the same part of the Earth, but they are unable to scan weather systems in high latitude regions.
According to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, the Arktika-M satellites will obtain color images of clouds and the Earth’s surface in the Arctic. The Arktika-M satellites also host radio receivers and transmitters to relay information from weather stations and search and rescue beacons in the polar regions, inaccessible to conventional geostationary satellites.
In addition to meteorological observations and emergency communications support, the Arktika-M satellites will help predict solar flare activity, measure radiation through the Van Allen belts, and collect data on the magnetosphere and l ionosphere of the Earth, said Roscosmos.
Roscosmos said engineers changed the design of the spacecraft used for Russian Elektro-L weather satellites to fit the Arktika program. The changes include additional radiation hardening and solar batteries to address the challenges of Molniya’s elliptical orbit.
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