Soyuz rocket operations in 2021
In February during the pre-launch coverage of the Progress MS-16 mission, Deputy Director General at TsENKI Ruslan Mukhamedzhinov said that a total of 12 launches of the Soyuz rockets were planned from Site 31 in Baikonur in 2021. In March, Head of Roskosmos Rogozin also promised at least six launches from Vostochny.
A Soyuz-2-1b rocket lifts off from Vostochny with the fifith batch of OneWeb satellites on March 25, 2021.
On February 16, Roskosmos announced the arrival of a Soyuz-2-1b rocket and two payload fairings to Vostochny Cosmodrome. At the time, components for three more Soyuz-2-1b rockets and two payload fairings were at the launch site. The vehicle were apparently allocated for OneWeb missions. The assembly of the first rocket was scheduled to begin on February 24.
In addition, components for three more Soyuz-2-1b rockets and one Soyuz-2-1a were stored at the vehicle assembly building. Two 1b rockets for OneWeb missions were already assembled booster stages and two disassmebled vehicles for Meteor and Luna-25 missions were stored in separate stages. At the time, Ionosfera and Kondor-FKA satellites also had a chance to fly before the end of 2021.
February 2: Soyuz-2-1b launches an ear in the sky
The Russian military personnel in Plesetsk performed the country's first orbital launch of 2021 in the late hours of February 2. A Soyuz-2-1b rocket delivered a semi-classified satellite known as Lotos-S1 or 14F145. It was the fifth addition to the Liana constellation performing electronic intelligence from space for the Russian armed forces.
February 15: Soyuz-2-1a launches Progress MS-16
The 77th Russian cargo supply flight to the International Space Station, ISS, lifted off on February 15, with the unusual task of discarding the veteran Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1, from the Russian Segment of the outpost, to make way for the long-awaited MLM Nauka module later in 2021.
February 28: Soyuz launches first Arktika-M satellite
Russian personnel at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan performed an inaugural launch of the Arktika-M meteorological and remote-sensing satellite on Feb. 28, 2021. Derived from the Elektro-L series of weather satellites, the Arktika spacecraft will be used primarily for meteorological observations of the strategically important northern Russian frontier from a highly elliptical orbit stretched above the northern hemisphere of our planet.
After a 48-hour delay by a technical problem, Russian personnel at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, successfully launched a Soyuz-2-1a rocket on March 22, 2021, delivering the CAS-500-1 remote-sensing satellite for South Korea and 38 hitchhiker payloads from 18 countries in three different sun-synchronous orbits.
March 25: Soyuz launches fifth OneWeb cluster
The deployment of the Internet-delivery satellite constellation for the UK-based OneWeb company resumed in 2021 with the launch of a Soyuz-2-1b rocket carrying a fresh batch of 36 satellites. Originating from Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome, the fifth OneWeb mission lifted off on March 25, at 05:47 Moscow Time.
The first Russian crew exchange aboard the International Space Station, ISS, in 2021, came at a critical junction in the operation of the outpost's Russian Segment. Lifting off on April 9 on a Soyuz-2-1a rocket, the crew members of the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft were prepared to support the arrival and integration of the MLM Nauka module with the ISS during the 65th and 66th long-duration expeditions on the ISS.
Summary of launches in the Soyuz rocket family in 2021 (as of April 9, 2021 ):
Soyuz-2-1b with Arktika-M1 satellite lifts off on Feb. 28, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos