Kosmos 2556 (Bars-M No. 3) | Soyuz 2.1a

Lift Off Time
May 19, 2022 – 08:03 UTC | 11:03 MSK
Mission Name
Kosmos 2556 (Bars-M No. 3), a surveillance military satellite
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
(Who paid for this?)
Russian Ministry of Defence
Soyuz 2.1a
Launch Location
LC-43/4, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russian Federation
Payload mass
4,000 kg
Where did the satellite go?
Sun-Synchronous Orbit
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
No, Soyuz is not capable of recovery
Where did the first stage land?
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
No, Soyuz is not capable of recovery
Were these fairings new?
This was the:
– 3rd launch of a Bars-M satellite
– 5th launch of Soyuz 2.1a of 2022
– 5th launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in 2022
– 56th orbital launch attempt of 2022 (54th successful)
Where to re-watch
Once available, an official replay will be listed here

How Did It Go?

Russia successfully launched the Kosmos 2556 (Bars-M No. 3), a military surveillance satellite, atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. The rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This mission marked the fifth mission from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome of 2022.

Kosmos 2556 (Bars-M No. 3) 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.

Bars-M No. 3 satellite
Bars-M satellite. (Credit: naukatehnika.com)

The Bars-M No. 3 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.

Soyuz 2.1a/Fregat-M, Kosmos 2553
Soyuz 2.1a is starting its Kosmos 2553 mission. (Credit: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)

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 StageSecond StageThird Stage
Engine 4 RD-107ARD-108ARD-0110
Total Thrust 840 kN (188,720 lbf),
sea level
1,020 kN (229,290 lbf),
792 kN (178,140 lbf),
sea level
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

Side Boosters

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.

"Korolev cross", Progress MS-16 mission
“Korolev cross” seen during Stage I separation on the Progress MS-16 mission. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS’s livestream)

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.

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