PARIS – A Russian Soyuz-2.1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage carried a Russian weather satellite and six small spacecraft to orbit July 8, lifting off at 9:58 p.m. local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to Russian space agency .
Built by Moscow-basedVNIIEM and weighing 2,778 kg (6,124 lb.) at launch, Russia’s second Meteor-M weather satellite is designed to monitor global hydrometeorological data for weather forecasting and to gather data on the ozone and radiation environment in near-Earth space, according to Roscosmos. With a design life of five years, it will also measure sea-surface temperature, monitoring icy conditions at the poles for navigation.
Among the six small secondary payloads was the 100-kg SkySat-2, the second of a constellation of small Earth observation satellites launched for California startup Skybox Imaging, a company that in June was purchased by Google for $500 million.
Other spacecraft along for the ride include Norway’s AISSat-2, the second of three spacecraft equipped with automatic identification system (AIS) payloads for monitoring ship traffic in Norwegian and international waters. Weighing just 6 kg, AISSat-2 follows the July 2010 launch of AISSat-1, the first satellite to monitor AIS signals from ships in real time from polar orbit.
The Soyuz mission also launched Britain’s 150-kg TechDemoSat-1. Built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Guilford, U.K., and based on the company’s SSTL-150 platform, it is carrying eight experimental payloads and a mix of 20 heritage and new product development systems designed by SSTL.
A second British spacecraft, dubbed UKube-1 and built by Clyde Space of Glasgow, marks the launch of Scotland’s first satellite. Funded in part by the U.K. Space Agency and measuring just 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm, UKube-1 is carrying a handful of experimental payloads tightly packed into a 4-kg platform.
The mission also launched the DX1 microsatellite built by Munich-based Dauria Aerospace. The company said July 7 the launch was to have been captured through Google Glass and available to view and download on its Youtube.com channel.
Equipped with a commercial AIS payload, DX1 is to become part of the company’s Perseus space monitoring and remote sensing constellation, joining two Perseus maritime-surveillance satellites sent to orbit June 19 on a Ukrainian Dnepr rocket from the Dombarovsky air base near Yasny, Russia. Under an agreement between Dauria and the Russian transportation ministry, the constellation will provide data on maritime traffic in oceans and open waterways across the U.S., Canada, Northern Europe and Russia.
Also aboard the mission was Russia’s MKI-FKI satellite, a 250-kg spacecraft designed to study the influence of electrons from Earth’s radiation belts on the atmosphere and ionosphere.
A seventh satellite, Canada’s M3M built by Cambridge, Ontario-based COM DEV International, was removed from the Soyuz-2.1b manifest in April in response to escalating tension with Moscow over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.