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Launch of Russia’s Rokot rocket with ESA satellite may be postponed — source

October 02, 2015, 15:53 UTC+3
Two launches of the Rokot vehicles were scheduled for about the same date, whereas only one Breeze-KM upper stage used for such launches is so far present at the Plesetsk cosmodrome
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© ITAR-TASS/Andrei Morgunov

MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. The launch of Russia’s Rokot carrier rocket with the Sentinel 3A satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA), originally planned for December 10, may be postponed till late December, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Friday.

"Due to the discrepancy in the launch campaign plans of Eurockot and the military, two launches of the Rokot vehicles were scheduled for about the same date, whereas only one Breeze-KM upper stage used for such launches is so far present at the [Plesetsk] cosmodrome," he said.

According to the source, the priority is given to the military launch, although it is still possible to launch the Sentinel 3A satellite as scheduled. "If Moscow gives the command - the launch will be carried out on December 10," the source said.

The previous Rokot launch from the Plesetsk spaceport in the northwest of Russia (Arkhangelsk region) was carried out on September 24 as a result of which three military communications satellites were orbited.

The light carrier rocket Rokot is a fully operational, three stage, liquid propellant Russian launch vehicle which is being offered commercially by Eurockot Launch Services for launches into low earth orbit. The German-Russian joint venture company was formed specifically to offer this vehicle commercially. The Rokot launch vehicle uses the SS-19/(RS-18) Stiletto ICBM for its first two stages.

The SS-19, which was originally developed as the Russian UR-100N ICBM series, was designed between 1964 and 1975. Over 360 SS-19 ICBMs were manufactured during the 70s and 80s.

The Breeze-KM third stage uses a re-startable storable liquid propellant engine that has been used in many other Soviet space projects.

The booster unit - which provides the first and second stages of Rokot - is taken from existing SS-19 missiles and is accommodated within an existing transportation/launch container. The third stage - which provides the orbital capability of the launcher - is newly manufactured.

This upper stage contains a modern, autonomous control/guidance system which controls all three stages. The upper stage multiple engine ignition capability allows implementation of various payload injection profiles. The Rokot second stage has an external diameter of 2.5 meters and a length of 3.9 metres. It contains a closed-cycle, turbopump-fed, fixed main engine designated RD-0235 and verniers designated RD-0236 for directional control.

According to previous reports, the Russian military intend to withdraw the Rokots using toxic fuel components, from operation in 2016. A total of three Rokot launches were planned for 2015 in the interests of the Defence Ministry (two of them have been carried out) and one - for 2016. In the future, the Defence Ministry intends to use the light rockets Soyuz-2.1V and Angara.

The Sentinel 3A satellite is designed to monitor the oceans and climate change. The Sentinel-3 mission’s main objective is to measure sea-surface topography, sea-and land-surface temperature and ocean-and land-surface colour with high-end accuracy and reliability in support of ocean forecasting systems, and for environmental and climate monitoring, ESA reported.

The lead manufacturer of the satellite is a French unit of the Franco-Italian group Thales Alenia Space. Thales Alenia Space was named prime contractor for the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-3 missions, with responsibility for the design, development, integration and testing of the satellites in these systems; the company’s Spanish subsidiary, Thales Alenia Space Espana, has successfully delivered all communications systems for the Sentinel 1, 2 and 3 satellites, including both A and B missions.

The satellite’s mass is 1.25 tonnes. The Sentinel 3A spacecraft is to be placed on a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 800 km.

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