The very first satellite launched by the USSR in 1957 helped to advance the understanding of the upper atmosphere. Since then, Russian spacecraft have been making significant contributions in the mankind's understanding of the Solar System and the broader Universe. The Earth-orbiting satellites studied cosmic radiation, distant objects and physical phenomena in deep space. They also helped to advance material science and space biology.
An overview of science and research spacecraft developed in the former USSR:
Russian sub launches inflatable reentry device
Published: 2002 July 12; updated July 16
A Russian strategic submarine launched a ballistic missile carrying an inflatable reentry device designed to return cargo from orbit to Earth.
The Volna rocket blasted off at 03:58 Moscow Time from the Ryazan strategic nuclear submarine stationed in the Barents Sea, a representative of the Russian Navy said. (The Volna is the "civilian designation" for the R-29RL submarine-based ballistic missile.) The launch targeted the Kura testing ground located on the Kamchatka Peninsula, however several days after the launch, the search team in the area was unable to locate the reentry device and its experimental payload, designated Demonstrator-2.
The inflatable reentry technology, known as IRDT, was originally developed by the Khimki-based NPO Lavochkin design bureau for a Martian lander, within the Mars-96 project. Later the technology was adapted for use in low-Earth orbit and tested in three different configurations during two launches in 2000 and 2001. Only in one previous case, an experimental payload, called Demonstrator, was successfully returned to Earth. Attempts to return a solar-sailing spacecraft in 2001 failed. (See below). In 2000, the Fregat upper stage was believed to be successfully reentered the atmosphere using the IRDT, however, the search for the stage in the landing area yielded no results.
Russia plans space observatories
Published: 2006 Dec. 9
On August 29, 2006, speaking at the 5th International Aerospace Congress in Moscow, Deputy Chief of the Federal Space Agency, Vitaly Davydov said that a fleet of three astronomy observatories of the Spektr series, along with Koronas-Foton and Intergelio-Zond spacecraft were promised funding.
Russia plans small science satellites
Published: 2006 Dec. 9
On December 6, 2006, Russian space agency, Roskosmos, revealed plans for five launches in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 within an umbrella program called "Small spacecraft for fundamental space science." The program was based on a low-cost satellite platform developed by NPO Lavochkin with non-federal funding. At the time, one or two of these missions were expected to go into lunar orbit, according to Roskosmos.
Published: 2012 July 20; updated July 22
A Russian rocket lifted off Sunday with a cluster of five satellites, among them a pair of new-generation spacecraft inaugurating platforms for future scientific and commercial applications.
A Soyuz-FG/Fregat rocket blasted off from Site 31 in Baikonur on July 22, 2012, at 10:41:39 Moscow Time, carrying Russian Kanopus-V No. 1 remote-sensing satellite along with a similar BKA spacecraft built for the government of Belarus. As secondary payloads, the mission carried a Russian MKA-FKI science satellite, an exactView satellite for a Canadian company and a TET-1 experimental satellite funded by the German space agency, DLR.
According to the Russian space agency, the Fregat upper stage separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 10:50 Moscow Time and started its own flight including five firings of its main engine.
All five payloads reached orbit successfully. BKA separated from the Fregat at 11:26 Moscow Time, followed by Kanopus-V at 11:31, TET-1 at 11:33, exactView-1 and MKA-FKI at 13:00:33 Moscow Time, when flying over the Pacific Ocean beyond the communication range of Russian ground stations. The Fregat upper stage then conducted a deorbiting maneuver and reentered the Earth atmosphere at 13:50:53 Moscow Time. A ground control team responsible for MKA-FKI spacecraft confirmed establishing normal contact with the satellite shortly after it had entered the communication range at 13:55:21 Moscow Time. Industry sources also reported that Kanopus and BKA satellites estblished contact and downlinked telemetry during the second orbit of the mission.
Both Russian spacecraft onboard this Soyuz rocket represented new types of standard carriers, which are scheduled to be customized for future missions. The Kanopus platform is intended primarily for remote-sensing commercial applications, while a smaller Karat bus is well suited for a wide variety of low-cost science experiments. Both platforms already have a backlog of future missions waiting for launch.
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Last update: August 28, 2014
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The replica of the first "simplest satellite," PS-1, known in the West as Sputnik-1. Although it lacked any real scientific instruments, the spacecraft helped to determine the density of the upper atmosphere. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The Sputnik-2 launched in November 1957, carried a live dog, however the spacecraft had no reentry and soft-landing systems. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
Electron-1 (top) and Electron-2 (bottom) spacecraft, launched in 1964, provided data on space radiation. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
A full-size replica of the Proton-1 satellite (top) and a scale model of the Proton-4 -- a series of satellites built as a "fast-reaction" payloads for the test flights of the UR-500 (Proton) rocket in mid-1960s. The spacecraft were equipped with the detectors for the experiments in astrophysics. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The Vertikalny Kosmichesky Zond (Vertical Space Probe) reached an altitude of 4,400 kilometers after its launch from Baikonur on October 12, 1967. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The DS-U1-G spacecraft launched under name Kosmos-108 and 196 in 1966 and 1967 helped to determine the density of the upper atmosphere and to register UV radiation from the Sun. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The DS-MO spacecraft (Kosmos-149) employed unique aerodynamic stabilization system during the experiments in the upper atmosphere. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The DS-U2-M spacecraft, launched under name Kosmos-97 and 145 in 1965 and 1967, tested Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The DS-U3-IK-3 spacecraft represents only one in the numerous family of science spacecraft built by KB Yuzhnoe. This particular version, launched under name InterKosmos-7 in 1972, was customized to register X-ray radiation. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The DS-U2-IK-6 spacecraft, launched under name InternKosmos-14 in 1975, studied electrical and magnetic fields in the Earth orbit. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The AUOS-Z bus, first launched in 1976 became a platform for many geophysical experiments in orbit. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The Prognoz ("Forecast") spacecraft, launched for the first time in 1972, were used to study solar activity and Earth's magnitosphere. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
A body of a UV-telescope for the Astron orbital telescope built by NPO Lavochkin. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
The Spektr UF telescope: original architecture (top) and the latest configuration (bottom). Copyright © 2008 Anatoly Zak