Soyuz 2.1b launches new GLONASS-M navigation satellite


Soyuz 2.1b launches the new GLONASS-M navigation satellite on November 3, 2018.

Soyuz 2.1b launches new GLONASS-M navigation satellite on November 3, 2018. Photo credit: Ministry of Defense of Russia.

Russia continued the expansion of its GLONASS constellation with the launch, on November 3, 2018, of a Soyuz 2.1b rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome located in northern Russia.

The GLONASS-M spacecraft (GLONASS-M No. 757), which was sent up, will now become part of Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). The rocket and its cargo led to the skies of dawn at 11:17 p.m. Moscow Time (20:17 GMT / 3:17 p.m. EST) of Plesetsk Pad 4 on Site 43.

Glonass_K_model_at_Cebit_2011_Satellite, _sideview_1 image credit Pavel Kolotilov

A GLONASS (K) satellite. Image credit: Pavel Kolotilov

While the flight of a navigation satellite appears to be a small potato, last night's flight was attended by space troop commander and deputy commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Force, General Alexander Golovko.

An hour and 20 minutes after leaving the block, it was declared that the mission was a success by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

"On Saturday, November 3 at 11:17 pm Moscow time, the Aerospace Force Space Troop operational crew successfully launched the medium-capacity Soyuz 2.1b rocket with the launch vehicle GLONASS-M from launch unit 4 on platform 43 of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Arkhangelsk Region), "the Russian Defense Ministry said through the state press agency TASS.

The GLONASS-M pre-launch campaign was held in early October with the arrival of the spacecraft in Plesetsk. During the month, engineers were busy conducting checks and fueling satellite operations. The launch vehicle was fully assembled at the end of October and released for the launch pad on October 31st. However, his flight could have been completed much later.

With the failure of a Soyuz-FG rocket to send two crew members to the International Space Station on Oct. 11, it was feared that the launch of the GLONASS-M could drop further. With the cause of this accident determined to be a faulty sensor, the pre-launch activities for the GLONASS-M mission returned to the rails.

This mission began with the roar of the RD-107A engines, which pushed the rocket out of the block and into the night. After completing a small vertical ascent, the four propellers mounted on the side of the rocket were dropped after about two minutes of flight.

For Saturday's mission, the Soyuz 2.1b rocket flew in a configuration that used a third stage of Fregat-M. This upper stage measures about 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) in length and 11 feet (3.35 meters) in diameter. Its S5.92 engine is designed to burn for a period of approximately 18 minutes.

Once this stage of flight was complete, the central stage assumed control of the mission and triggered the launch vehicle until it was detached in about four and a half minutes after takeoff.

Then the third stage lit and controlled the flight for almost seven minutes. Then, at about 10 + minutes, the upper stage of Fregat-M separated from the third stage and began its three-hour journey that culminated with the satellite being inserted into a circular Middle Earth orbit (MEO) at an approximate altitude of 11,800. miles (19,000 kilometers), inclined 64.8 degrees to the equator.

When GLONASS-M No. 757 reached its target orbit, it was officially designated Kosmos 2529. The new satellite is planned to be a replacement for one of the GLONASS spacecraft currently in service. Russia has not announced which one it will replace.

GLONASS-M satellites, also known as Uragan-M, are the second generation of Uragan satellite projects that are used as part of Russia's GLONASS radio-based navigation system. A typical GLONASS-M spacecraft, developed by the Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems (ISS Reshetnev) and operated by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces, measures about 7.87 by 12.14 feet (2.4 by 3.7 meters) and has a launch mass of about 1.4 tonnes.

The GLONASS system provides real-time position and velocity data for military and civilian users. All satellites are located in an average circular orbit about 11,900 miles (19,000 kilometers) high, with a slope of 64.77 degrees in a period of 11 hours and 15 minutes. They provide a precision of 328 feet (100 meters) as part of the public segment and 33 to 66 feet (10 to 20 meters) for military purposes.

The system operates in three orbital planes, with eight satellites evenly spaced in each plane. A total of 24 satellites are needed to secure global coverage, while 18 are needed to cover Russia's territory.

As the rocket nomenclature suggests, this version of the rocket is an upgraded version of a previous project – the three-stage Soyuz 2 launch vehicle. The Soyuz 2.1b has towering 151 feet (46.1 meters) in height and has a mass total of 672,000 pounds (304,814 kg) and is designed to place satellites in a variety of orbits.

So far this year, Russia has held the fifth launch of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and the 13th Russia.

Tagged: GLONASS Lead Stories Plesetsk Cosmodrome Russia Ministry of Defense Russian Soyuz-2.1b

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Tomasz Nowakowski

Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the leading blogs related to astronomy and science on the Internet. Nowakowski contacted SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to make the two space-related sites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer has been received with gratitude as the two organizations are now working to better convey important developments in space exploration.


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