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Above: The Sich-2 satellite was designed to carry downward-pointing optical (left) and infrared (right) sensors to photograph the Earth surface. A communications system can be seen in the center. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak

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The Sich-2 satellite was designed to enable a low-cost observation of the Earth surface from space, replacing larger Soviet era-spacecraft. The project was started in the 1990s, however financial problems kept it on the ground during the first decade of the 21st century. The new-generation Sich-2 spacecraft derived from an Egyptsat-1 satellite developed by KB Yuzhnoe in the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk for the Egyptian government under a commercial agreement. Egyptsat-1 was launched on the Dnepr rocket in 2007.


As its predecessor, the Sich-2M satellite was designed to ride into orbit on the Dnepr rocket, converted into the space vehicle from the R-36M UTTKh ballistic missile. Both, the rocket and the spacecraft were developed at the KB Yuzhnoe design bureau, which used to be one of the major pillars of the Soviet rocket and space industry.

The Sich-2 spacecraft would carry an optical scanner capable of capturing details on the surface of the Earth as small as eight meters and transmitting images digitally to ground stations. Although such resolution would be considerably lower than that of high-end remote-sensing satellites, Sich-2's photos and data would still be useful for such applications as cartography, environmental and disaster monitoring, agricultural and real-estate planning, its developers said.

During its orbital path, Sich-2 would be able to image a swath of land with the width of at least 46 kilometers using an optical imager. In addition, an infrared sensor would be employed to cover at least 55 kilometers swath. The satellite could photograph the same area once in at least four days and its developers promised to be able to deliver an image to the end user within 24 hours after data was captured by the satellite.

With the help of special reaction wheels, the spacecraft was designed to maintain its position in orbit along all three axis, enabling a high-precision pointing of its sensors toward ground targets.

Sich-2 was also expected to carry a payload for studying space particles and the Earth's electromagnetic field.

The Sich-2 project would be supported with the ground control complex, an information development center and the communications and data transmission system. An S-Band communication system onboard the satellite would be responsible for receiving flight control commands from the ground and transmitting telemetry data to mission control about the health of all systems onboard the satellite. A GPS receiver onboard Sich-2 would provide a highly accurate navigational data about the satellite's position. The power supply system would use four solar arrays to generate electricity and store it in the onboard battery. (510)

Hitchhiker payloads

In addition to launching Sich-2, the same Dnepr rocket was to deliver six more satellites: NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X - Earth-observation satellites for Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA. Both NigeriaSat spacecraft were to be added to the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, where they would assist with disaster relief and global environmental monitoring campaigns alongside satellites from other consortium members ASAL (Algeria), BLMIT (China), Deimos Space (Spain) and SSTL (UK).

NigeriaSat-2 was based upon SSTL-300i platform developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, SSTL, in the United Kingdom. The satellite was to be used primarily for resource management and mapping of the Nigerian territory, providing high resolution maps of Nigeria every four months, monthly monitoring of Nigerian crops for food supply security, and supporting the development of the Nigerian national Geographical Information System (GIS) by providing geospatial data.

Also onboard the Dnepr rocket were:

  • RASAT - an EO satellite for the Scientific Technological Council of Turkey and the nation's first domestically build spacecraft;
  • EDUSAT - a student science mission for the Aerodynamics Team of La Sapienza University, Italy;
  • APRIZESAT-5 and APRIZESAT-7 - data communications satellites for SpaceQuest, USA.

The same rocket was also scheduled to carry a Ukrainian BPA-2 (Block of Prospective Avionics), which was to remain attached to the upper stage of the launch vehicle. A similar cargo was carried onboard Dnepr in June 2010. The avionics system developed at Khartron-Arkos in Kharkov, Ukraine, was designed to test navigation techniques, which could be used onboard spacecraft, launch vehicles and aircraft.

A long road to the launch pad

By the beginning of 2009, the launch of Sich-2 was expected before the end of the year. However lack of funding forced to reschedule the mission to April 2010 and to August 11, 2010. By the spring of 2010, the mission was scheduled for Oct. 29 of that year.

By September 2010, the launch slipped to Dec. 16, 2010, however by November 2010, the mission was delayed again to the end of February 2011, as the earliest.

At the beginning of 2011, the head of the Ukrainian space agency, NKAU, told the press that the organizational problems between Ukraine and Russia forced another launch delay to a period between May and beginning of June 2011. In the meantime, Sich-2 was delivered to the launch base at the beginning of 2011. In April, Kosmotras organization, which manages Dnepr commercial missions, finally said that the launch campaign had been started, with the launch being planned for June 20, 2011. However by the end of May, the launch slipped to June 30, apparently due to delays with the delivery of secondary payloads for the mission. On June 10, a pair of NigeriaSat satellites finally arrived to the Orsk airport, which served the Dombarovsky missile deployment area.

By the beginning of July, the Sich-2 mission slipped yet again to July 21, but by the middle of the same month, new delays pushed it to July 28 and then almost immediately to the beginning of August. The launch then quickly slipped to August 4 and August 11. Finally, the order to fuel the missile was received at the beginning of August with the launch planned around 16-17 of August. On August 5, the official sources declared the launch attempt on August 17, at 10:12:30 Moscow Summer Time (07:12:30 GMT).

Ukraine returns to space with Earth-watching satellite

After a long break in launching independently funded spacecraft, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine is sending a domestically build satellite into orbit, along with an array of six other payloads.

A Dnepr rocket lifted off on August 17, 2011, at 11:12:20 Moscow Time (07:12:20 UTC) from the Dombarovsky missile deployment area, also known as Yasny, and successfully reached the orbit.

According to the Ukrainian space agency, NKAU, Sich-2 took first images on Aug. 25, 2011, in the course of the testing period scheduled to last for 35 days, following the launch. Although image data had reportedly been downlinked to ground control stations, the agency did not realize photos at the time.

Loss of the spacecraft

Sich-2 stopped communicating with ground control on Dec. 12, 2012, as a result of a faulty power supply battery. The Ukrainian space agency then received 790 thousand grivnas as an insurance payment.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian space agency, NKAU, was developing the Sich-2M satellite, whose launch was then expected at the end of 2014.


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Specifications of the Sich-2 satellite:

Satellite liftoff mass
*169 kilograms
Payload mass
50 kilograms
Orbital altitude
approximately 668 kilometers
Orbital inclination
98.074 degrees toward the Equator
5 years
Attitude control
Three axis
Average daily power consumption
approximately 59 Watts
Maximum power consumption
approximately 372 Watt
Imaging coverage capability
no less than 50,000 square kilometers per day
Project cost
$30 million (including $1.7 million for the launch services)

*(135 and 176 kilograms according to various early sources)

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: June 4, 2013

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A Ukrainian microsatellite platform would provide a base for the Sich-2 satellite. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


Sich-2 during the assembly. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

The integration of the Sich-2 spacecraft with the launch vehicle. Credit: SSTL


A scaled model of the NigeriaSat-2, one of six secondary satellites, which would accompany Sich-2 on its way to orbit. Copyright © 2010 Anatoly Zak


A Dnepr rocket with Sich-2 satellite lifts off from Dombarovsky/Yasny area on Aug. 17, 2011.





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