Soyuz rocket missions in 2018
In the first Russian orbital launch attempt of 2018, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket returned to flight on February 1, 2018, 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.
Second time is a charm for Progress MS-08
After a 48-hour delay, the new attempt to launch Progress MS-08 went without a hitch and the Soyuz-2-1a rocket lifted off from the snow-covered Pad 6 at Site 31 in Baikonur on February 13, 2018, at 11:13:33.233 Moscow Time (3:13 a.m. EST). The orbital insertion also worked as planned and the spacecraft successfully deployed its antennas and solar arrays immediately after its separation from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 11:22 Moscow Time (3:22 a.m. EST).
March 9: Soyuz rocket successfully launches fourth O3b quartet
On March 9, 2018, a Soyuz rocket successfulled delivered the fourth quartet of O3b satellites, to be operated by SES networks and designed to provide low-cost Internet access around the world, after lifting off from its Amazon region launch pad in French Guiana. The European Arianespace consortium, which operates commercial Soyuz launches from the South-American launch site, designated the mission as VS18, which denotes the 18th launch of the Russian-built rocket from the site.
March 21: Soyuz MS-08 enters orbit
In the first manned launch of 2018, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft carried three members of Expeditions 55 and 56 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold lifted off on a Soyuz-FG rocket from Pad 5 at Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21, 2018, for a five-month shift aboard the orbiting outpost.
March 29: Soyuz-2-1v launches a military payload
On March 29, 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense successfully launched a light-weight Soyuz-2-1v rocket carrying the EMKA satellite, apparently designed to test a new miniature Earth-imaging system.
June 6: Soyuz-FG launches Soyuz MS-09
In the second manned launch of 2018, the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft carried three members of Expedition 56 and 57 to the International Space Station, ISS. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopiev, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 6, 2018, for a long-duration shift aboard the orbiting outpost. It is the 55th flight of the Soyuz spacecraft series to the ISS, denoted in the outpost's official flight manifest as 55S.
June 17: Soyuz-2 rocket launches the 56th GLONASS mission
The Russian military personnel in Plesetsk successfully orbited a fresh satellite to replenish the nation's orbital navigation network. The 56th mission to deploy and maintain the GLONASS constellation lifted off on a Soyuz-2-1b rocket on June 17, 2018.
July 10: Soyuz-2-1a launches Progress MS-09
A Russian cargo mission departed Baikonur Cosmodrome today to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, ISS. The Progress MS-09 spacecraft lifted off at 00:51 Moscow Time on July 10, 2018 (5:51 p.m. EDT on July 9). For the first time in the ISS program, the Progress flight successfully reached the outpost after a two-orbit rendezvous profile.
October 11: Soyuz MS-10 makes emergency landing after a launch failure
The launch of the Soyuz MS-10 at 4:40 a.m. EDT on October 11 ran into a "booster problem" near the time of the first-stage separation around two minutes after liftoff. The spacecraft entered a "ballistic reentry mode," according to NASA. Rescue helicopters lifted off from Baikonur in the direction of the projected emergency landing site between 3:51 and 3:55 a.m. Houston time and were expected to reach the site in 1.5 hours, NASA said. Around 5:20 a.m. EDT (or less than half an hour after launch), NASA reported that rescue services were in radio contact with the crew on the ground east of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan following a ballistic reentry and landing. The crew was reported in good condition, NASA said.
The Russian military personnel in Plesetsk launched an operational spacecraft for electronic intelligence, known as Lotos-S1 or 14F145, but officially identified only as Kosmos-2528. The fourth spacecraft in the Liana constellation, it lifted off on a Soyuz-2-1b rocket on Oct. 25, 2018, at 03:15 Moscow Time (8:15 p.m. EDT on October 24) or just two weeks after the failed launch of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft on a Soyuz-FG rocket.
November 3: Soyuz-2 rocket completes the 57th GLONASS mission
The Russian military successfully launched a fresh satellite to replenish the nation's orbital navigation network. The 57th mission to deploy and maintain the GLONASS constellation lifted off from Plesetsk on a Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket on Nov. 3, 2018, at 23:17 Moscow Time. Slightly more than three and half hours later, the GLONASS M-57 satellite was released into its planned circular orbit around 19,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface.
November 16: Progress MS-10 lifts off to resupply ISS
A Russian cargo mission departed Baikonur Cosmodrome to deliver fuel and other supplies to the International Space Station, ISS. A Soyuz-FG rocket with the Progress MS-10 spacecraft lifted off from Site 1 on Nov. 16, 2018, at 21:14 Moscow Time (1:14 p.m. EDT). The launch also marked the return to flight of the Soyuz-FG rocket variant after its launch failure with the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft on Oct. 11, 2018.
December 3: Soyuz resumes crew flights after launch failure
A month and a half after a nerve-racking launch accident and the risky emergency landing of the Soyuz MS-10 mission, the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft lifted off with a fresh crew in the latest attempt to staff the International Space Station, ISS, with the three members of Expedition 57 and 58. A Soyuz-FG rocket launched the mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 3, 2018, at 14:31 Moscow Time (6:31 a.m. EST).
December 19: Russian rocket delivers European spy satellite
Revealing a strange geo-political dichotomy, a Russian-built rocket was launched to boost Europe's military reconnaissance capabilities from space. The launch of a Soyuz ST-A/Fregat-M rocket from the ELS facility near Kourou, French Guiana, on Dec. 19, 2018, (after a 24-hour delay due to high-altitude winds), delivered the CSO-1 imaging satellite to serve the needs of the French Ministry of Defense and other European armed forces. The 3.5-ton spacecraft will undoubtedly be used to monitor Russia's military activities.
December 27: Soyuz rocket launches a 28-satellite cluster
Closing Russian space activities in 2018, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket launched a pair of Kanopus V Earth-watching spacecraft, accompanied by 26 hitchhiking payloads on December 27. It was the 4th launch from Vostochny since the introduction of the new spaceport in 2016.
Launches of the Soyuz rocket family in 2018:
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Soyuz-2-1a lifts off on February 1, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
First stage boosters separate from Soyuz-FG rocket on Nov. 16, 2018. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Separation of the payload fairing as seen by an onboard camera of the Soyuz-FG rocket launching Progress MS-10 spacecraft. Credit: Roskosmos