Kanopus satellite series

Previous chapter: Russian application satellites

A scale model of the Kanopus-V satellite. Click red arrow to rotate.

Bookmark and Share

Kanopus project

According to its prime developer, NPP VNIIEM, Kanopus-V (a.k.a Canopus-B) was designed for real-time monitoring of natural and man-made disasters and other emergency situations. Essentially, it would be an imaging satellite designed to photograph the Earth surface with a resolution of 2.1 meters and a swath of 20 kilometers with its panchromatic camera and a resolution of 10.5 meters and a swath of 41 kilometers with a multispectral camera. Resulting images could be used for cartography, agricultural planning and similar applications. VNIIEM advertised Kanopus-V as a complement to a larger Meteor-M spacecraft, which was built by the same company for large-scale observations of the Earth surface.

Kanopus-V would be launched into the Sun-synchronous orbit, meaning that it would always remain on the sunlit side of the Earth, as it flew from pole to pole 510 kilometers above the Earth surface with an inclination 97.4 degrees toward the Equator. Among the customers of the satellite, the manufacturer listed the nation's meteorological service -- RosGidroMet; Ministry of Natural Resources and the Academy of Sciences. The company also said that the satellite could be launched on Kosmos-3M, Rockot, Dnepr, Strela or Soyuz rockets.

Development history

Based on official releases, it seems that during its development the Kanopus-V satellite gained weight from 350 kilograms in 2008 to 400, 460 and, finally, 473 kilograms in 2011, while the mass of onboard payloads shrunk from 150 kilograms to 110 and ultimately to 108 kilograms. The capacity of the power supply system had to be apparently reduced from 350 to 300 Watts. A guaranteed lifespan of the spacecraft also went down from original seven years to five years.

The orbital altitude for the satellite was reported from 510 to 540 kilometers and an inclination between 97.5 and 97.4 degrees. The resolution of the main imaging system was reported as 2.5 meters and 2.1 meters. England-based SSTL company announced that it had supplied avionics platform and software for Kanopus-V.

As of March 28, 2007, the launch of Kanopus-V was scheduled on a light-weight Rockot in 2008. However following an agreement with the government of Belarus in July 2007, to build another copy for this former Soviet republic, Kanopus-V was paired with its sibling -- BKA. Both spacecraft were included into a cluster of satellites to be launched by the Soyuz FG/Fregat rocket. The mission was now planned for the fourth quarter of 2009.

BKA satellite

Under an agreement with the Belarussian government, VNIIEM built a virtual copy of the Kanopus-V satellite, known as BKA, or Belarussian spacecraft. It was meant to be a replacement for the original Belarussian Earth-watching satellite -- BelKA -- lost in the botched launch of the Dnepr rocket in 2006.

Almost immediately after the loss of BelKA, Belarussian officials floated ideas how to replace the spacecraft. In September 2006, the chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Mikhail Myasnikovich said that Belarus had considered as many as nine offers from Russia, China and Ukraine to rebuild the satellite within two or two and a half years. According the Interfax news agency, on July 12, 2007, in Minsk, National Academy of Science of Belarus signed an agreement with the Iosifyan research institute, VNIIEM, to build a replacement for the Belka satellite. The launch was promised in the fourth quarter of 2009, along with a similar Russian satellite. On Sept. 29, 2009, Roskosmos announced that the launch would take place in April 2010. The BKA project reportedly cost Belarussian government $17 million.

Both satellites would ride into orbit side by side, attached to an adapter truss on top of the Fregat upper stage. BKA apparently had identical mass characteristics and payload capabilities to Kanopus-V. Following the launch and separation in orbit by 180 degrees, both satellites were expected to work in tandem providing customers with photos of the Earth surface on the continuing basis.

At the end of November 2012, Russian officials reported that they had been tranferring control over the satellite to their colleagues in Belarus.


As of 2011, as many as six satellites within the Kanopus series were promised to fly by 2020. As of 2011, the Kanopus-V No. 2 satellite was expected to have a mass of 485 kilograms and carry 123 kilograms of payloads. By July 2012, the satellite identified as Kanopus-V No. 2 was promised to fly in 2013. Additional satellites in the Kanopus series, such as Kanopus-D for detailed observation, Kanopus-K for cartography and Kanopus-R for radar observations were also proposed. The same basic platform developed in the Kanopus project would be also used for the Zond and Mikhailo Lomonosov projects.

By November 2012, Roskosmos postponed the launch of Kanopus-V No. 2 to 2015 and renamed it Kanopus-V-IK, where IK stood for "infrakrasny" or infrared in Russian. According to Roskosmos officials, infrared sensors onboard Kanopus-V-IK would have a primary purpose of detecting sources of fires as small as five by five meters on a 2,000-kilometer swath of land. The satellite would reportedly able to revisit the same areas within 2-3 days.

In April 2013, the Belorussian press reported that two Russian and one Belorussian satellites would be added into the Kanopus network. The resolution of new satellite would be increased to one meter and a swath of the Earth surface covered in a single pass would reach 40 meters.

Preparations for flight

By 2010, Kanopus-V and its Belarussian cousin were scheduled to fly in March 2011. The mission then slipped to the end of 2011 and again to the first half of 2012, mostly due to problems with the completion of satellites. The Kanopus-V and Belarussian satellite, (by then renamed BKA), were delivered to Baikonur on April 18, 2012. Secondary payloads for this mission -- MKA-PN1 (Zond-PP), TET-1 and exactView-1 arrived to Baikonur on May 2, 2012. The launch was scheduled for June 7 and later for June 21, 2012.

On May 26, the Interfax news agency reported that the mission had remained grounded by a lack of permission from the Kazakh government to drop the first stage of the launch vehicle at a drop zone No. 120 in the northern region of this former Soviet republic. Only following the Russian-Kazakh agreement reached on June 15, the preparation for the mission was resumed on June 20 with the unpacking of the Fregat upper stage. On June 25, technicians tested deployment of solar panels on Kanopus-V and BKA.

The installation of payloads on the upper stage started on July 12. The payload section was integrated with the launch vehicle on June 18. On July 19, at 05:30 Moscow Time, a fully assembled launch vehicle was rolled out from the assembly building to the launch pad at Site 31. The launch was scheduled for July 22, at 10:41:39 Moscow Time (06:41 GMT).

Russia introduces two new satellite families

Published: 2012 July 20; updated July 22

A Russian rocket lifted off 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 Fregat at 11:26 Moscow Time, followed by Kanopus-V at 11:31, TET-1 at 11:33, exactView-1 at 13:00:32.6 and MKA-FKI at 13:00:33.6 Moscow Summer 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 Summer Time. A ground control team responsible for the 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 established contact and downlinked telemetry during the second orbit of the mission. However initial attempts to deploy at least one of the solar panels onboard Kanopus-V apparently failed and the confirmation about the success of the critical operation came unofficially only on July 26.

Both Russian spacecraft onboard this Soyuz rocket represented new types of standard carriers, which were expected to be customized for future missions. The Kanopus platform was intended primarily for remote-sensing commercial applications, while a smaller Karat bus was well suited for a wide variety of low-cost science experiments. At the time of the first launch, both platforms already have a backlog of future missions awaiting launch.

The first Kanopus satellite was officially taken out of service on February 15, 2020, according to RIA Novosti news agency quoting Roskosmos.

Secondary payloads in the Kanopus-V mission


As its secondary payload, the Kanopus-V mission carried the first spacecraft based on the new-generation Karat platform.


ExactView-1 or EV-1 (previously known as ADS-1b) was built by England-based SSTL under a contract for the exactEarth organization. It was to become the fifth deployed satellite in exactEarth’s advanced vessel monitoring satellite constellation. COM DEV Canada acted as prime contractor and COM DEV Europe (UK) supplied the advanced AIS transceiver payload system for this mission. The satellite was based on SSTL’s off-the-shelf SSTL-100 platform, adapted for the mission with an additional deployable solar panel providing extra power for the COM DEV designed AIS receiver payload.

At the time of the launch, AIS was deployed on more than 80,000 vessels globally, however AIS base station receivers are mostly based on land and can only track ships moving up to 50 nautical miles off the coast. ExactEarth is pioneering space-based AIS services that increases the range, enabling the monitoring of vessels throughout the world’s oceans. Operating from a polar orbit, exactView-1 was to utilize high-speed S-band and C-band communications to frequently downlink information to ground stations in Svalbard, Norway, Guildford, UK and several other locations around the world. ExactEarth would use a constellation of AIS satellites to provide near real time information about vessel locations, routes and traffic for commercial and governmental customers.

Having integrated the payload at its technical facility in Guildford, Surrey, SSTL then acted as launch agent in collaboration with Commercial Space Technologies, CST, of Russia. After launch, SSTL was to oversee a two-month in-orbit commissioning campaign from its UK ground station in collaboration with exactEarth and COM DEV engineers.

ExactView-1 was promised to be followed by two more satellites in 2013.


A 120-kilogram, 880 by 580 by 670-millimeters TET-1 experimental satellite was built by Kayser-Threde for German space agency, DLR, based on the 70-kilogram Bird platform. It was designed to function for up to one year in a 520-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit, certifying as many as 11 various components from different companies for their future use in space. As much as 50 kilograms of payloads being tested included solar arrays, navigation equipment, sensors, batteries, an infrared camera, communication equipment, a propulsion system and computer hardware. Kayser-Threde first invited potential users into the project in November 2007 and received a contract for the work from DLR on July 24, 2008.

Kanopus-V declared operational

Published: 2013 Jan. 29

The Kanopus-V imaging spacecraft had successfully entered the operational phase of its mission following its launch in July of last year, Russian space agency, Roskosmos, announced Tuesday. The agency also published a number of photos delivered by the spacecraft and said that its imagery could be ordered through the project operator.

On October 18 and October 21, 2012, and on January 18, 2013, Kanopus-V and its sibling -- BKA -- slightly raised their orbits. The October maneuver, slowed down the lead of Kanopus relative to BKA, which needed more time to complete each orbit around the Earth due to its higher altitude. At the time, Kanopus was 0.91 orbit ahead of BKA. By January, Kanopus flying two kilometers below BKA outran it by an orbit and a half and was now flying 0.45 orbit ahead, reported an observer of the Russian space program Igor Lisov.

Even before it officially entered service, Kanopus-V and its high-resolution photos had produced controversy illustrating challenges to Russian efforts to commercialize its space-imaging assets. Entering a very crowded market late and with less than superior capabilities, operators of Kanopus-V satellite made little secret where their potential customers might be. Some of the early photos taken by Kanopus-V satellite in the fall of 2012 and circulated on the Internet by the beginning of 2013, showed of all places... an Israeli air force base. An image of the Syrian capital Damascus published alongside and probably designed to demonstrate "impartiality" only reinforced the message who these images were marketed to. This is not the first time, the Russian space industry had to resort to catering its products to countries and groups which simply could not obtain comparable services in the West due to political and security reasons. In the early 1990s, preventing the exodus of Russian rocket scientists to Iran was quoted by US politicians and by the popular press as a rationale for starting the International Space Station. (In reality, Russia was invited into the ISS project in order to squeeze a ballooning price tag of the US-led station into the shrinking NASA budget after the Cold War.) Obviously, despite its involvement in the ISS, Russia have cooperated with Iran and Syria on a wide range of military and nuclear projects, often as the only way to preserve its own institutions and capabilities in the field.

Russia's parallel effort to market its satellite imagery was spectacularly unsuccessful in the 1990s. Western companies branding state-of-the-art technology easily outcompeted Russian organizations burdened by military secrecy, poor marketing and by lack of investments. A decade later, Russia's government-backed enterprises developing a new-generation of remote-sensing satellites would have to close a huge technological gap and drastically modernize their operations if they were to compete in a very crowded market of commercial satellite imagery. Otherwise, they might have no choice but to fill a small niche of the market among rogue nations. Given events in Syria, this niche might be getting even smaller.


Kanopus-V mission payloads summary:

Spacecraft Owner Mass Application
Kanopus-V No. 1 Roskosmos, Russia 473 kilograms Remote-sensing
BKA (Luka-3, BelKA-2) Belarussian Academy of Sciences, Belarus 400 kilograms Remote-sensing
MKA-FKI (MKA-PN1; Zond-PP experiment) IRE, Russia approximately 100 kilograms Remote-sensing
TET-1 DLR/Kayser-Threde, Germany 120 kilograms Experimental
exactView EV1 (formerly ADS-1b) COM DEV (Canada) 100 kilograms Navigation


Kanopus-V spacecraft specifications:

Spacecraft mass 400 kilograms
Payload mass 110 kilograms
Daily average power supply 300 Watts
Operational lifespan 5 years
Attitude control system accuracy 5 angular minutes
Stabilization accuracy 0.001 degrees per second
Re-targeting rate capability 2 minutes (+- 40 degrees)
Payload memory capacity 24 gigabytes
Operational frequencies 8,048 - 8,381.5 Megahertz
Number of uplink/downlink channels 2
Data transmission rates 122.88 - 61.4 megabits per second


Kanopus family launch schedule (as of 2011):

Kanopus-V No. 1 2011 (launched on July 22, 2012, operated until Feb. 15, 2020)
Kanopus-V No. 2 Middle of 2013
Kanopus-V No. 3 End of 2014
Kanopus-V No. 4 End of 2014
Kanopus-VM No. 1 Beginning of 2018 (Cancelled before 2019)
Kanopus-VM No. 2 Beginning of 2020 (Cancelled before 2019)


Kanopus family launch chronology and schedule (as of 2019):

Launch date
Launch site
Kanopus-V No. 1, BKA
2012 July 22
Kanopus-V No. 2-IK
2017 July 14
Kanopus-V No. 3, Kanopus-V No. 4
2018 Feb. 1
Kanopus-V No. 5, Kanopus-V No. 6
2018 Dec. 27
Kanopus-V No. 7, Kanopus-V No. 8
2025 (Planned)



Next chapter: Kanopus-V-IK

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: August 6, 2022

All rights reserved




Landmarks of Rome, including an ancient Coleseum as seen on a photo taken by the Kanopus-V spacecraft in January 2013. Credit: Roskosmos


A Soyuz-FG rocket with a cluster of five satellites lifts off on July 22, 2012. Credit: Roskosmos


A mockup of Kanopus-V satellite in deployed position. Copyright © 2011 Anatoly Zak


A full-scale mockup of Kanopus-V satellite in folded position. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


The Kanopus-V satellite and its Belarussian cousin under assembly circa 2010. Credit: VNIIEM


A scale model depicts an original design of the Kanopus-V satellite. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


A scale model of the Zond satellite for ionospheric research. Copyright © 2009 Anatoly Zak


The Kanopus-V satellite during tests in Baikonur. Credit: Roskosmos



A cluster of payloads in the Kanopus-V mission integrated for launch. Credit: SSTL


A Soyuz FG rocket with a cluster of satellites shortly after its rollout to the launch pad at Site 31 on July 19, 2012. Credit: Roskosmos


TET-1 shared a ride to orbit with Kanopus-V. Credit: Kayser-Threde


A photo of an Evergreen container ship stuck in the Suez Canal was taken by one of the Kanopus-V satellites on March 25, 2021. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos

Spacecraft home Application home