Elektro-L No. 3 aims for launch in 2019

During 2018, engineers at NPO Lavochkin hoped to bring Russia's latest geostationary meteorological satellite to the launch pad in October 2019, but by the end of that year, the mission slipped to 2020.

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A photo of Elektro-L3 satellite released on Oct. 5, 2018.

Elektro-L No. 3 mission at a glance:

Launch date
2020 Fall (planned as of November 2018)
Projected life span
10 years
Orbital position in the geostationary orbit
165.80 East longitude
Prime developer
NPO Lavochkin
Launch vehicle
Upper stage
Launch site
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The development of the third satellite in the Elektro-L series was given the final go ahead in 2012. Like the first and second Elektro satellites, Elektro-L No. 3 was designed for launch on the Zenit rocket, which Roskosmos ordered for the mission in March 2013. However in February 2015, in the wake of the Russia's conflict with Ukraine, NPO Lavochkin announced that the third Elektro-L satellite would be switched from the Zenit to a Proton rocket.

At the time of the Elektro-L2 launch in December 2015, the third satellite was promised to fly at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. In February 2016, RKS Corporation announced that its production factory, RKP, had been completing calibration and testing of the multi-range scanning instruments which would be used aboard the satellite to produce images of the Earth.

However, in October 2016, Roskosmos said that the launch of the Elektro-L No. 3 satellite had been scheduled for the end of 2017. The main reason for an almost a year-long delay was apparently related to the satellite's key instruments, which had to be upgraded based on the experience with the preceding spacecraft.

By the middle of 2017, the third Elektro-L mission had to be postponed again until the fall of 2018. As of September 2017, the launch was scheduled for Oct. 22, 2018. At the time, GKNPTs Khrunichev in Moscow was assembling a Proton-M rocket for the mission and RKK Energia in Korolev was working on the Block DM-03 No. 6L upper stage with the completion date of Sept. 30, 2018. However, sometimes after April 2018, the Elektro-L3 mission had to be delayed once again until the second quarter of 2019.

By September 2018, the launch was pushed back yet again, this time to October 2019. At the time, the assembly of satellite was underway, but a number of technical issues still remained, even though they were deemed to be resolvable, industry sources said.

Elektro L3 enters final tests

On October 5, NPO Lavochkin announced that on September 3, the Elektro-L3 had been transferred to the checkout and test station, KIS, for final but non-integrated tests and confirmed that its launch had been scheduled for October 2019. According to the company, all components of the spacecraft had been manufactured, including the service module and the payload module, except for the heliophysics instrument complex, GGAK. NPO Lavochkin promised the delivery of the GGAK payload in January 2019.

The October 5, press-release quoted the head of NPO Lavochkin's directorate for meteorological projects Vladimir Babyshkin as saying that following tests at KIS, the satellite would be assembled in flight configuration at the company's experimental plant. The termal control platform with service system would be installed inside the body (of the service module) and the payload module would be installed on top of the service module. The specialists were also completing the installation of the onboard cable network and thermal protection system. After the completion of the assembly, the spacecraft would have to undergo integrated tests in the vacuum chamber.

Only after the installation of the GGAK payload, the satellite would enter acceptance tests, including electric tests, radio checks inside echoless chamber and mechanical load tests.

Still, despite all efforts, by November 2018, the mission was reported to be delayed until the Fall of 2020.

(To be continued)


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The article by Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 28, 2018

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: October 5, 2018

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Scenes at NPO Lavochkin showing the assembly of the Elektro-L satellite or one of its prototypes circa 2016. Credit: Roskosmos