Featured image credit: ROSCOSMOS
Lift Off Time
|May 26, 2023 – 21:14:51 UTC |
May 27, 2023 – 00:14:51 MSK
|Kondor-FKA No.1, a remote sensing radar satellite|
|Site 1S, Vostochny Cosmodrome, Amur Oblast, Russian Federation|
Where will the satellite go?
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?
This will be the:
|– 2nd launch of a Soyuz rocket using naphthyl as the fuel |
– 5th launch of Soyuz 2.1a of 2023
– 13th launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome ever
– 114th flight of an upper stage of the Fregat family
– 79th orbital launch attempt of 2023
Where to watch
What Does All This Mean?
ROSCOSMOS is preparing to launch a remote sensing radar satellite, Kondor-FKA No.1, on a Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle featuring a Fregat-M upper 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 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. This mission will mark the second flight of a Soyuz rocket using this type of fuel, with the first one being the Gonets-M33, Gonets-M34, Gonets-M35 & Skif-D mission.
Kondor-FKA No.1 Mission
The Kondor satellite (designed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya) is equipped with an S-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capable of performing continuous swath surveys or detailed spot surveys. It has a swath width of 10 km. In spotlight mode, the ground resolution ranges from 1 to 2 m, while in stripmap mode, it is 1 to 3 m, and in ScanSAR mode, it varies from 5 to 30 m.
ROSCOSMOS reported that this satellite will enhance the capabilities of Russia for all-weather and round-the-clock monitoring of the Earth, including the Russian Arctic. This is critical for tracking the thickness of ice along the entire Northern Sea Route. The second Kondor-FKA satellite is scheduled to launch in 2024, and two more satellites are planned to be launched in 2029-2030. Additionally, an improved version called Kondor-FKA-M is being developed, with a launch expected to occur after 2030.
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.