Soyuz-2-1a rocket launched a pair of Kanopus-V satellites, nine secondary payloads

In the first Russian orbital launch attempt of 2018, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket returned to flight on February 1 from the Vostochny spaceport, after a similar mission failed on November 28, 2017. The vehicle successfully delivered the third and fourth Earth-watching satellites in the Kanopus-V series along with nine small commercial payloads.

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Soyuz mission with Kanopus-V-3 and V-4 satellites at a glance:

Launch date and time
2018 Feb. 1, 05:07:18.130 Moscow Time (9:07 p.m. EDT on Jan. 31)
Launch vehicle
Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat-M No. 122-03
Launch site
Vostochny Cosmodrome, Soyuz pad
Kanopus-V No. 3, Kanopus-V No. 4
Orbital parameters
Altitude: 477.2 by 522.4 kilometer; inclination: 97.46 degrees toward the Equator
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Preparing the mission

During the night from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2, 2017, the components of the Soyuz rocket for the mission departed its assembly plant in Samara on their way to Vostochny by rail. Following its delivery to the launch site on Sept. 10, 2017, the rocket was assembled and integrated with its Fregat upper stage for a test rollout to the launch pad. NPO Lavochkin rolled out the Fregat upper stage and its associated payload fairing for the mission on September 12. The hardware was delivered to Moscow's Sheremetievo airport, where it was to be loaded on a transport aircraft for delivery to the processing complex in Vostochny on the morning of September 13. On October 4, the fully assembled Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle was rolled out to the launch pad and the mobile service tower was moved into the position around the rocket. The integrated tests of the launch facility and the rocket were scheduled to continue until October 7.

The Kanopus V No. 3 and No. 4 satellites arrived at the Ignatievo airport in the Amur Region on Nov. 10, 2017, aboard an Il-76 transport plane, after which they would be transported to the Vostochny airport, Roskosmos announced.

The December 22 launch date was in question following the failure of the Soyuz-2-1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage on November 28. A delay as far as February or March was reportedly considered. In the first half of December, the mission was reported to have been postponed from December 22 to the end of Jaunary 2018 to give flight control specialists enough time for correcting software in the wake of the November 28 accident. On December 29, 2017, Roskosmos announced that the mission had been scheduled for Feb. 1, 2018.

By January 11, 2018, processing personnel in Vostochny was conducting electric tests and preparation of power sources for the Kanopus-V-3 and -4 satellites. The Fregat stage for the mission had already been fueled and had remained in storage at the fueling facility, Roskosmos said. Also, the first and second stages of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket were fully assembled and stored at the launch vehicle assembly building. Finally, at the launch facility, personnel of the TsENKI processing branch in Vostochny began work with preparations of the propellant components and the formation of the joint launch team for the mission, Roskosmos said.

On January 23, the Chief Designer Council gathered at RKTs Progress in Samara to review the readiness of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket to carry the Kanopus satellites in light of the Meteor-M2-1 launch failure in November 2017. The council reviewed various reports on the accident and on the measures to return to flight from Vostochny. According to Roskosmos, the council confirmed the readiness of the Soyuz-2 vehicle in Vostochny for launch on February 1.

On the same day in Vostochny, Roskosmos teams completed the assembly of the payload section for the Kanopus-V-3/4 mission and rolled the payload fairing of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket onto the Fregat upper stage with its cargo. The assembled section was then prepared for integration with the launch vehicle. Its transfer to the vehicle assembly building took place on January 24 and, the next day, the payload section was integrated with third stage of its Soyuz rocket.

The completion of the rocket integration was planned for January 26. On the same day, the State Commission overseeing the launch was expected to meet to clear the rocket for the rollout to the launch pad scheduled for January 29, 2018, Roskosmos said.


Upper composite is being integrated with booster stages of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket on Jan. 26, 2018.


Kanopus-V No. 3 and No. 4 satellites

The Kanopus-V No. 3 and No. 4 satellites were virtually identical to the original Kanopus satellite launched in 2012. Like their predecessors, they are officially intended for monitoring natural and man-made disasters, such as forest fires and environmental contamination. They can also be used for monitoring agricultural activities, water resources and land use, cartography and other observations in the interests of ministries and agencies of the Russian Federation, according to Roskosmos.

Known specifications of the Kanopus-V satellite:

Liftoff mass
Approximately 490 kilograms
Payload mass
Approximately 106 kilograms
Attitude control system
Attitude control system accuracy
Not worse than 5 angular minutes
Stabilization accuracy
0.001 degrees per second
Average power supply
300 Watts
Maximum power supply (available up to 10 minutes)
680 Watts
Power supply system voltage
24-34 Volts
Projected life span
no less than 5 years
Orbit parameters
Sun-synchronous, 510 kilometers, 97.4 degrees, 94.8 minutes
Launch vehicle

To provide monitoring of the Earth's surface, the Kanopus-V satellite is equipped with two instruments. The payload section, TsA, on the satellite also includes an onboard data system and a radio system for downlinking of information from scientific instruments, RLTsI-KV.

Instruments onboard Kanopus-V satellite:

Special resolution (nadir)
Spectral range
Number of spectral channels
Pan-chromatic imaging system, PSS
2.1 meters
23 kilometers
0.54-0.86 mkm
Multi-spectral imaging system, MSS
10.5 meters
23 kilometers
0.46-0.52 mkm,
0.51-0.60 mkm,
0.63-0.69 mkm,
0.75-0.84 mkm



A fully assembled payload section with Kanopus V No. 3 and Kanopus V No. 4 satellites.

Secondary payloads

In addition to the pair of Kanopus-V satellites considered to be the primary payload of the mission, the same Soyuz rocket will also carry nine small satellites arranged to piggyback into orbit through an arrangement reached with their owners by Glavkoosmos, the commercial arm of Roskosmos.

An overview of payloads carried during the Soyuz-2-1a launch on Feb. 1, 2018:

Russian federal payloads
Kanopus-V No. 3
VNIIEM, Roskosmos
Kanopus-V No. 4
VNIIEM, Roskosmos
Commercial payloads via OAO Glavkosmos
Technical University, Berlin, Germany
Technical University, Berlin, Germany
Technical University, Berlin, Germany
Technical University, Berlin, Germany
Spire, USA
Spire, USA
Spire, USA
Spire, USA

S-Net constellation


A quartet of S-Net satellites developed at Technical University in Berlin, Germany, will start building a constellation for testing communications in orbit between different spacecraft using S-band radios. The data will be uplinked to the satellite from the ground at a rate of 100 kilobytes per second. The satellite could contact each other while locating up to 400 kilometers apart in orbit.

Launch profile

The Soyuz-2-1a rocket lifted off as scheduled on Feb. 1, 2018, at 05:07:18.130 Moscow Time (9:07 p.m. EDT on January 31) from the S1 Soyuz launch complex in Vostochny Cosmodrome.

The launch vehicle carried Kanopus-V No. 3 and No. 4 Earth-watching satellites as its primary payload, as well as four S-Net, four LEMUR and one D-StarOne piggyback satellites.

After a few seconds in a vertical ascent under power of the four boosters of the first stage and the core booster of the second stage, the rocket headed northwest across eastern Russia, aligning its trajectory with a polar orbit inclined around 97.46 degrees toward the Equator. The strap-on boosters of the first stage separated around two minutes into the flight and were expected to crash at Drop Zone No. 981 in the Amurskaya Oblast (Amur Region) on the border between Tynda and Zeya Districts.

The fairing protecting the payload then split in two halves and separated during the operation of the second stage. The payload fairing was projected to fall at Drop Zone No. 983 in the Aldan District in the Sakha (Yakut) Republic.

Moments before the second stage completed its firing less than five minutes into the flight, the RD-0124 engine of the third stage fired through the interstage lattice structure, which then separated along with the second stage.

Just five seconds later, the tail section on the third stage split into three segments. Both the second-stage booster and the segments of the tail section were to fall at Drop Zone No. 985, in the Vilyusk District, located farther north in the Sakha Republic.

The third stage continued firing inserting the Fregat upper stage and its payloads into a ballistic trajectory just short of orbital velocity. As a result, after its engine cutoff and separation from Fregat, the third stage reached the peak of its ballistic arch and began a long free fall back to Earth over the Arctic Ocean. Its trajectory was designed to bring flaming debris of the stage crashing into the middle of the Northern Atlantic.

Fregat space tug flight profile

In the meantime, five seconds after after its split from the third stage, the Fregat fired its stabilization thrusters and less than a minute later, ignited its main engine over the Arctic Region for slightly more than a minute, which ensured its insertion into an initial transfer orbit. The stack then climbed passively for around 45 minutes before Fregat fired for the second time near the apogee of its initial orbit, this time over the southern polar region of the planet. The maneuver, lasting less than a minute inserted the vehicle into a nearly circular orbit. Less than two minutes later, the pair of Kanopus-V satellites ejected from Fregat's payload adapter, completing the main task of the mission. Both initial engine firings were completed by the Fregat beyond the view of Russian ground stations and had to be confirmed during the subsequent passes of the vehicle over Russia.

At 06:51 Moscow Time on February 1, Roskosmos issued a statement confirming that Kanopus V-3 and V-4 satellites separated at 06:06 and 06:12 Moscow Time. According to the mission control center in Korolev, the satellites entered a nearly planned 477.2 by 522.4-kilometer orbit with an inclination 97.46 degrees toward the Equator.

Next, the Fregat embarked on a complex preprogrammed sequence, including several firings of its main engine to form several orbits for the separation of secondary payloads, a task expected to be completed five hours after liftoff. However, only one of these orbits was actually used for the release of the nine small satellites, because several other payloads were dropped from the mission before launch and were replaced with dummy cargo to avoid complex modifications of the flight sequence.

According to Roskosmos, all secondary payloads were successfully released on February 1 during a period from 07:33 to 07:50 Moscow Times.

After completing a total of six engine firings, the Fregat was programmed to enter a suicide trajectory into the Earth's atmosphere. The nearly empty stage plunged into the dense atmosphere at altitude of around 100 kilometers over the Pacific Ocean around 5.5 hours after launch. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the operation had gone as planned.

Several hours after the release of Kanopus satellites, the VNIIEM Corporation, which developed the series, announced that the pair had entered its prescribed orbit and had been under control. The satellites automatically deployed their solar panels according to the flight sequence and maintained orientation and stabilization in space, the company said.

Spire, the company that developed Lemur satellites, also reported the successful deployment of its quartet carried during the mission.

Timeline for the Soyuz mission on Feb. 1, 2018:

Moscow Time
Stage I (four boosters) separation
Payload fairing separation
Stage II (core booster) separation
Stage III separation; payload section in autonomous flight
Fregat engine firing 1 starts to form 1st transfer orbit
Fregat engine firing 1 ends
Fregat engine firing 2 starts to form the deployment orbit for a pair of Kanopus-V satellites
Fregat engine firing 2 ends
Kanopus-V No. 3 and No. 4 separation process begins
Kanopus-V No. 3 and No. 4 separation process completes
Fregat engine firing 3 starts to form 2nd transfer orbit
Fregat engine firing 3 ends
Fregat engine firing 4 starts to form 2nd payload release orbit
Fregat engine firing 4 ends
Separation sequence begins for four S-Net satellites
Separation sequence ends for four S-Net satellites
Separation sequence begins for four Lemur and one D-Star-One satellite
Separation sequence begins for four Lemur and one D-Star-One satellite
Fregat engine firing 5 starts to form 3rd transfer orbit
Fregat engine firing 6 ends to form 3rd transfer orbit
Fregat engine firing 7 begins to deorbit the stage
Fregat engine firing 7 ends to deorbit the stage
Fregat to reenter the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 100 kilometers over the Pacific Ocean


Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:



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The article by Anatoly Zak; Last update: February 3, 2018

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 31, 2018

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Secondary payloads are being loaded aboard Fregat upper stage with Kanopus V3 and V4 satellites. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Payload fairing of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket is being prepared for integration with the Fregat upper stage at its payloads on Jan. 23, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Payload fairing of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket is being transported to the vehicle assembly building on Jan. 24, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Payload section is integrated with the third stage of its Soyuz-2-1a rocket on Jan. 25, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Soyuz-2-1a lifts off on February 1, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos