Russia moves to capture the smallsat launch market


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Glavkosmos, a division in Roscosmos, Russia’s nationalized aerospace industry, is working to capture a large part of the new smallsat launch industry.

Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said June 14 that it will launch 72 small satellites as secondary payloads on the Soyuz-2.1a launch of the Kanopus-V-IK remote sensing satellite, scheduled for July 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Vsevolod Kryukovskiy, launch program director at Glavkosmos, said in a June 19 interview that the smallsat customers for that launch come from the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Norway and Russia. He declined to identify specific customers, although he said they include both companies and universities. The spacecraft range in size from single-unit cubesats up to a 120-kilogram microsatellite. “We’ll do the most technically challenging cluster mission ever,” he said. The satellites will be deployed into three separate orbits, after which the rocket’s upper stage will perform a deorbit maneuver.

Kryukovskiy said Glavkosmos is also arranging the launch of secondary payloads on two Soyuz launches planned for December from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East region. “We’ll have about 40 microsats that we’ll launch from Vostochny, and that will be the first international launch from this new Russian cosmodrome,” he said.

These numbers are in the same range as when India launched 103 smallsats on a single rocket, and suggest that Russia is trying to grab the market share that the new small rocket companies are aiming at.

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2 comments

  • LocalFluff

    One common (traditional) argument against secondary payloads is that they might endanger the primary payload, which might be orders of magnitudes more valuable.

    But in all of space flight experience, what support is there for that risk? I can’t google up any primary missions that failed because of the secondary payload. As in fuel or a battery exploding or electronics disturbing communication or something out gassing from the thing whatever is imagined. Are the expensive precautions really warranted?

  • Edward

    LocalFluff asked: “Are the expensive precautions really warranted?

    Yes.

    It is because the expensive precautions have been taken that you are having difficulty finding examples of secondary payloads causing a failure of a primary payload.

    Some secondary payloads, especially cubesats, come from universities and are constructed by students. They do not have the experience and training that satellite manufacturing companies do.

    This isn’t flight experience, but: I have been involved in two shake tests at professional companies in which screws backed out during the test. One case was an inadequate design (it was a test model, so the young designer didn’t think it mattered), the other was miscommunication between technicians, where each thought the other had torqued the screws (there is now a requirement for someone to witness all torque operations, at that company). If it can happen to the professionals, it can happen to the students.

    A primary payload owner does not want parts from the secondary payload to bounce around inside the fairing. This is one of the reasons why cubesats (a favorite for students) are carried into orbit inside an ejector box that contains any loose parts, at least prior to release. The containment makes the ejector box heavier than it would otherwise need to be.

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