At 0636 GMT, on 14 July, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, hosted the launch of a Russian Soyuz 2-1A vehicle, carrying 73 payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission’s primary payload was the KANOPUS -V-IK 1, built for Roscosmos by JSC VNIIEM to provide Earth Observation and sensor data. Of the other 72 payloads, just five others had Russian involvement.

In order to complete the mission the Fregat upper stage needed to complete a series of seven engine firings, firstly to enter the correct initial orbit (479 x 523 km) for the primary KANOPUS payload, then to rise another 100 km (595 x 601 km) in order to release all the secondary payloads expect for the DOVEs, followed by a 150 km descent (450 x 482 km) to release the DOVEs. The seventh and final engine firing will drive the Fregat into a destructive re-entry 8 hours and 42 minutes after the mission started.

The Soyuz 2-1A lifts off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying 73 satellites. Courtesy of Roscosmos


The other payloads from Russia consisted of; two MKA-N 6U cubesats built for Roscosmos as demonstrators for the cubesat platform – these cubesats carry an Earth imaging payload -, a mission designed by the Moscow Aviation Institute to provide cubesat experience to its students, ISKRA-MAI-85, a 1U cubesat mission – UTE-YUZGU – from the South-Western State University, Kursk, with input from the Universidad Technologica Equinoccial, Ecuador, and an independent mission designed by students from the Moscow Polytechnic University to deploy a large solar reflector in LEO called MAYAK.

The US was the main source of the co-payloads, with US Earth Observation (EO) company Planet having 48 of their DOVE 3U cubesats on-board. Spire – a fellow US Earth sensing company – also entrusted eight 3U cubesat LEMUR-2s to the launch. Other US companies on the launch manifest were; GeoOptics with three earth sensing CICERO cubesats, Astro Digital with two LANDMAPPER-BC cubesats and Tyvak with their technology demonstrator cubesat NANOACE. The remaining international customers were; two German universities the University of Stuttgart with their FLYING LAPTOP microsatellite and TU Berlin with TECHNOSAT, the Norwegian Space Center with two Canadian-built microsatellites NORSAT-1/, and Japan’s Weather News International (WNI) and their commercial meteorological satellite WNISAT-1R.