Featured image credit: ROSCOSMOS
Lift Off Time
|March 23, 2023 – 07:00 UTC | 10:00 MSK|
|Bars-M No. 4, a surveillance military satellite|
|Russian Ministry of Defence|
|LC-43/3, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russian Federation|
Where is the satellite going?
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
|No, Soyuz is not capable of recovery|
Where will the first stage land?
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
|No, Soyuz is not capable of recovery|
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
This will be the:
|– 4th launch of a Bars-M satellite|
– 3rd launch of Soyuz 2.1a of 2023
– 44h orbital launch attempt of 2023
Where to watch
|Once available, an official livestream will be listed here|
What Does All This Mean?
Russia will launch the Bars-M No. 4, a military surveillance satellite, atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. The rocket will launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This mission will mark the third mission of Soyuz 2.1a of 2023.
Bars-M No. 4 (Kosmos 25XX) Mission
The Bars-M series of satellites includes electro-optical area surveillance satellites for military cartography that combine topographic and high-resolution Earth imaging systems. These satellites are intended to replace the old Yantar-1KFT (Kometa) series and the cancelled Bars series. The Bars-M satellites are being developed and manufactured by the TsSKB-Progress that was contracted by the Ministry of Defence of Russian Federation.
The Bars-M No. 4 satellite platform is 4.0 x 2.3 x 2.3 m and has a mass of around 4,000 kg. It consists of three compartments: a service module, an instrument module, and a payload module that features the Karat imaging instrument built separately by the Leningrad Optical Mechanical Association. Moreover, the payload compartment hosts a dual laser altimeter that is aimed to deliver images with a ground resolution of around one meter.
The Bars-M satellites use a SVIT propulsion system that can be found in the non-pressurized service module and is composed of the main engine and 12 attitude thrusters. Two deployable solar arrays provide electrical power to the spacecraft.
What Is Soyuz 2.1a?
ROSCOSMOS’s Soyuz is a multi-use medium-lift launch vehicle that was introduced in 1966 and since then has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian space program. It is able to launch civilian and military satellites, as well as cargo and crewed missions to the ISS. Over the decades, several variants of the Soyuz rocket have been developed. Soyuz 2.1a is one of its latest iterations that belongs to the Soyuz-2 rocket family.
The rocket consists of three stages, all of them are expendable. When launching to the ISS, Soyuz-2 can be flown with either a Progress capsule or a Soyuz spacecraft.
Soyuz 2.1a is about 46.3 meters (152 ft) in height and 2.95 meters (9 feet) in diameter. The vehicle’s total lift-off mass is approximately 312,000 kg (688,000 lb). The rocket’s payload lift capacity to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is between 6,600 and 7,400 kg depending on the launch site.
|First Stage||Second Stage||Third Stage|
|Total Thrust||840 kN (188,720 lbf), |
1,020 kN (229,290 lbf),
|792 kN (178,140 lbf),|
922 kN (207,240 lbf),
|298 kN (67,000 lbf),|
|Specific Impulse (ISP)||263 s, sea level|
320 s, vacuum
|258 s, sea level|
321 s, vacuum
|326 s, vacuum|
The first stage of the Soyuz 2.1a rocket is composed of four side boosters that are powered by RD-107A engines. Each one of the boosters has a conical shape and a dry weight of 3,784 kg. It is approximately 19.6 meters in length, with a diameter of 2.7 meters. Each side booster has two vernier thrusters that are used for flight control.
The RD-107A engine runs on rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx). The propellants are stored in the pressurized aluminum alloy tanks, the kerosene tank is located in the cylindrical part of the booster, and the LOx tank is in the conical section. Each one of those engines has four combustion chambers and together they are capable of producing a thrust of 840 kN at sea level and 1,020 kN in a vacuum.
Perhaps, the most spectacular moment of the Soyuz-2 rocket’s launch is the separation of the first stage. It happens approximately two minutes after the launch. The boosters perform a pattern, known as the “Korolev cross” (named after Sergei Korolev, a very important figure of the USSR space program and history).
Second And Third Stages
The center core stage is powered by a single RD-108A engine, and the upper stage is fitted with a single RD-0110 engine. Both of these engines run on rocket-grade kerosene and LOx and have four combustion chambers. The second stage is 27.10 meters long, with a diameter of 2.95 meters, and a dry mass of 6,545 kg. It has four vernier thrusters for three-axis flight control.
The third stage of a Soyuz-2 rocket has a height of 6.7 meters, a diameter of 2.7 meters, and a dry mass of 2,355 kg. One interesting thing about the engine on this stage is that it starts its ignition sequence prior to stage separation. This process is called “hot fire staging”.
Fregat-M Upper Stage
Flight qualified in 2000, the Fregat upper stage is an autonomous and flexible stage that is designed to operate as an orbital vehicle. It extends the Soyuz launcher’s capability, covering a full range of orbits (LEO, SSO, MEO, GTO, GEO and Earth escape). Fregat is independent of all the other stages, as it has its own guidance, navigation, attitude control, tracking, and telemetry systems. The S5.92 engine burns storable propellants – UDMH (unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) and NTO (nitrogen tetroxide). The Fregat upper stage is encapsulated in a fairing with the payload and a payload adaptor/dispenser. Upgraded Fregat-M has additional ball-shaped compartments on top of its propellant tanks, which allows to increase the load capability of the propellant.