Soyuz 2.1b launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome

Gonets-M33, Gonets-M34, Gonets-M35 & Skif-D | Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat-M

Lift Off Time/Launch Window
(Subject to change)
October 22, 2022 – 19:57:00 UTC | October 22:57:00 MSK
Mission Name
Gonets-M33, Gonets-M34, Gonets-M35 & Skif-D
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
(Who’s paying for this?)
ISS Reshetnev 
Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat-M
Launch Location
Site 1S, Vostochny Cosmodrome, Amur Oblast, Russian Federation
Payload mass
~950 kg (3 x 250 kg for Goniets-M, 200 kg for Skif-D)
Where is/are the satellite(s) going?
Low Earth Orbit (Goniets) 1,400 km / Medium Earth Orbit (Skif-D) 8,070 km
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Where will the first stage land?
It will crash into the Pacific Ocean
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
This will be the:
– 5th launch of a Soyuz-2.1b in 2022
– 77th launch of a Soyuz 2.1b variant
– 12th launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome ever
– 139th orbital launch attempt in 2022
Where to watch
Official livestream (if available)

What Does All This Mean?

Roscosmos is launching several Goniets-M communications satellites to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) along with a Skif-D satellite to a Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), on a Soyuz 2.1b rocket featuring the optional Fregat-M final stage. It will launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Far East Russia.

This particular Soyuz rocket is using a relatively new fuel type on all of its booster stages. Instead of the conventional RP-1 kerosene-based fuel, it will use “naphthyl”, also known as RG-1. This is a move that is currently only planned for launches from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Goniets-M 33 – Goniets-M 35 & Others

Goniets Constellation

Goniets-M satellites are communication satellites that serve a particular service for areas of the globe with otherwise little to no communications infrastructure. They are used for storing data and messages uploaded during one part of their orbit over a transmitting station. The satellite then offloads the data to a receiving station once it has passed this station overhead. The main application area for this service is transfer of medical records for international organizations.

Commercial Goniets-M satellites are an upgraded version of original Goniets satellites, which were in turn derived from a military system known as Strela-3. Original Goniets satellites could store 12 Mbits of data, and transmit information at a rate of 2.4 kbit/second (or 2400 baud). There were nine successfully launched Goniets production satellites, with an on-orbit lifetime of 1.5 years. They were all launched on Tsyklon-3 rockets between 1996 and 2001.

Goniets-M satellite
Model of Goniets-M Satellite (Credit: Pline/Wikipedia)

Goniets-M satellites have 8 Mbytes of onboard storage, a significant increase from 12 Mbits on the earlier generation. Transmission rates of 2.4 gbit/s, 9.6 kbit/s, and 64 kbit/s are now available. The complete constellation is expected to consist of 36 satellites in six orbital planes. The lifetime of this newer generation on-orbit is 5-7 years. To date, there have been 22 successfully deployed satellites in the constellation. These three satellites were ordered in 2019 as blok no.18. At that time, they were scheduled to be launched via an Angara rocket.


Skif-D is a demonstration spacecraft for broadband Internet. It will be the first deployed satellite in a program known as Sphere. The Sphere program is thought to eventually consist of multiple satellite systems. The Skif constellation is planned to have 12 satellites in orbit by 2028.

Artist's impression, Skif-D satellite, in operation
Artist’s impression of the Skif-D satellite in operation (Credit:

Skif and the Sphere system are designed to compete against other constellations being deployed currently, including Starlink and OneWeb. The Sphere program in total is expected to consist of over 600 spacecraft.

The launch date for this flight has depended on the readiness of the Skif-D satellite.

Soyuz 2.1b

Introduced in 1966, the Soyuz rocket (also known as R7) has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian space program. The first launch of the Soyuz 2.1a version on November 8, 2004 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome represented a major step in the Soyuz launch vehicle’s development program. Fregat is the upper (4th) stage of Soyuz 2.1, and it first flew in the year 2000.

Evolution of the R7 / Soyuz rocket family
Evolution of the R7 / Soyuz rocket family (Credit: NASA / Peter Gorin / Emmanuel Dissais)

The Soyuz version currently being used for most satellite launches (as distinct from crewed capsules or cargo capsules to the ISS) is a four-stage launch vehicle, which consists of:

  • four side boosters (booster stage)
  • a central core booster (first stage, which is lit at the same time as the side boosters, on the ground)
  • an upper (central) stage which is common to all Soyuz rockets regardless of payload
  • the re-startable Fregat “upper” stage (fourth stage) – this is not always used, for example it is not used with Soyuz spacecraft or Progress spacecraft

Side Boosters

The side boosters’ RD-107A engines are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, which are the same propellants used on each of the rocket stages. The kerosene tanks are located in the cylindrical part and the liquid oxygen tanks in the conical section. Each engine has four combustion chambers and four nozzles.

During side booster separation, the boosters perform a well-known pattern, in which they peel off and cartwheel outwards! This is known as the “Korolev cross,” named after Sergei Korolev, the Chief Design Engineer of the USSR space program in the 1960s.

Korolev cross during side booster stage separation on a Soyuz launch
“Korolev cross” seen during side booster stage separation on a Soyuz launch. (Credit: Arianespace)

Center Core

The center core is fitted with an RD-108A engine, and also has four combustion chambers and four nozzles. It also has four Vernier thrusters, used for three-axis flight control once the side boosters have separated. The third stage engine’s thrust enables the stage to separate directly from the central core. This is called “hot staging.”

Traditionally, Soyuz booster stages have used RP-1 (highly refined kerosene) as propellant. For this flight, however, reports claim that this flight will use a different propellant, naphthyl, on all booster stages. Naphthyl is also known as RG-1, and is also based on kerosene. Its principal difference from RP-1 is that it has 12%less sulfur content than RP-1. When discussing this new fuel in March 2019, Rostekh’s executive director Oleg Evtushenko said “Technological innovations will reduce the load on the environment and significantly increase the payload put into orbit.”

Second Stage

The second stage uses either an RD-0110 engine in the Soyuz ST-A (2.1a) version or an RD-0124 engine in the ST-B (2.1b) version. This flight is using a 2.1b vehicle, so in this case, the stage has an RD-0124 engine.

RD-0124 motor at Salon-du-Bourget 2013. (Credit: Pline)

Fregat 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, now 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 stage’s engine uses storable propellants – UDMH (unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) and NTO (nitrogen tetroxide) – and can be restarted up to 50 times in flight so that it can carry out very complex missions.

The Fregat upper stage is encapsulated in a fairing with the payload and a payload adaptor/dispenser. It is entirely independent from the rest of the rocket, having its own systems on board for guidance, navigation and control. It also provides its own telemetry data back to the ground.

Fregat uses the S5.92 engine, which uses unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) for fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (NO4) for oxidizer. These propellants are hypergolic, meaning that no ignition source is required. The fuel and oxidizer will combust as soon as they meet in the combustion chamber.

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