A Dnepr rocket launched a record-breaking thirty-seven
satellites on Friday morning local time, deploying a cluster of
spacecraft for scientific research and commercial operation. The
mission departed on schedule from Dombarovsky in Southern Russia at
01:11 local time (19:11 UTC on Thursday).
Dnepr Record Breaker:
With thirty-seven satellites aboard the Dnepr, Friday’s launch saw
the record for most spacecraft launched by a single rocket broken for
the fourth time in less than a year.
The previous record was set at 34 by January’s Antares launch with
Orbital Sciences’ first CRS mission to the International Space
Thirty-three of the satellites werre deployed directly by the Dnepr
– as opposed to being released by other payloads or transported to
the International Space Station for later deployment – which is also
a new record. That record had previously been held by an American
Minotaur launch which occurred last year.
Deimos-2, KazEOSat-2 and Hodoyoshi-3 and 4 were the main payloads
for what was the twentieth Dnepr launch.
Z3Built by South Korea’s SATREC Initiative for Deimos Imaging of
Spain, the Deimos-2 satellite follows on from the smaller Deimos-1
which launched in 2009.
Based around the SI-300 bus, Deimos-2 has a mass of around 300
kilograms (660 lb). It will be used for high-resolution Earth
imaging; it’s EOS-D imager is capable of producing pictures at
resolutions as high as 0.75 metres (2.5 feet).
KazEOSat-2, which was previously known as the Medium Resolution
Earth Observation Satellite, or DZZ-MH, will be operated by
Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary, the main contractor to the space programme
Built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of the
United Kingdom, KazEOSat-2 is based upon the SSTL-150+ satellite bus
and carries a camera which can image the Earth at resolutions of up
to 6.5 metres.
The 185 kilogram (408 lb) satellite will complement the larger and
higher-resolution KazEOSat-1, which was launched by Europe’s Vega
rocket in April.
The University of Tokyo’s Hodoyoshi-3 and 4 are prototype remote
With masses of 60 and 66 kilograms (132 and 145 lb) respectively,
Hodoyoshi-3 carries two cameras with resolutions of 40 and 200 metres
(131 and 656 feet), while Hodoyoshi-4 is equipped with a single, more
powerful, instrument providing a resolution of 6 metres (20 ft) per
The spacecraft are also equipped for further technology
demonstration, and store-and-forward communications.
The other payloads on the Dnepr include AprizeSat-9 and 10, which
will be used for commercial communications. The ownership of these
satellites is not entirely clear; they were built by SpaceQuest, who
will operate them for the early phases of their missions.
Once operational, the two twelve kilogram satellites may be
transferred to exactEarth or retained for operation by SpaceQuest.
They are the eleventh and twelfth satellites in a series which was
originally named LatinSat.
BRITE-Toronto and BRITE-Montreal, also known as BRITE-CA 1 and 2,
are the fourth and fifth members of the six-satellite Bright Star
Target Explorer (BRITE) constellation, a joint venture between
Canada’s Universities of Toronto and Montreal, Austria’s University
of Vienna and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The two satellites launched on Friday form the Canadian part of the
constellation, although the University of Toronto were responsible
for designing all six satellites and manufacturing most of them. The
final BRITE satellite, Poland’s Heweliusz, is scheduled to be
launched atop a Chang Zheng 4B rocket from China later this year.
The BRITE programme is aimed at studying variations in the amount of
light coming from the brightest stars visible from Earth. The
Canadian satellites are identical apart from the filters used in
their telescopes; Toronto’s satellite will use a red filter to study
the lower-energy end of the spectrum, while Montreal’s will study
light with shorter wavelengths using a blue filter.
BugSat-1, which will be operated by Argentina’s Satellogic S.A, is a
22 kilogram technology demonstrator. Intended to demonstrate a
medium-resolution camera in addition to UHF and C-band communications
systems, the satellite will be made available for amateur radio users
at the end of its primary mission.
Saudi Arabia’s SaudiSat-4 spacecraft will be used to study whether a
phenomenon called the photoelectric effect, which causes metals to
emit electrons when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, can be use to
cancel out electrical charges which build up in satellite components
The 100-kilogram (220 lb) satellite was built by the King Abdulaziz
City for Science and Technology (KACST) in association with NASA’s
Ames Research Center.
TabletSat-Aurora was developed by Russian company Sputnix. A 25
kilogram (55 lb) spacecraft, the satellite will be used to test the
TabletSat-2U-EO bus upon which it is based. In addition, the
spacecraft will observe the Earth, returning images with a resolution
of up to 15 metres (49 feet).
The UniSat-6 satellite, of Rome’s La Sapienza University, is a
technology demonstration mission which follows on from last year’s
UniSat-5 mission. Like UniSat-5, UniSat-6 carries CubeSat dispensers
however it lacks the PocketQube deployers flown on the previous
Four CubeSats are expected to be deployed from UniSat-6 at a later
date. AeroCube-6 is an American technology demonstration satellite
which will be operated by The Aerospace Corporation. Intended to test
a new CubeSat bus, it is a single-unit satellite with sides of 10
centimetres (3.9 in), which will collect data on radiation levels in
low Earth orbit.
It is joined by Lemur-1, a prototype Earth-imaging satellite for
NanoSatisfi Incorporated, also of the United States. The three-unit
CubeSat carries visible-light and infrared imagers, however its
primary objective is to demonstrate how the satellite bus functions
under operational conditions.
A three-unit CubeSat, TigriSat, is the first satellite to be
launched for Iraq. Built for the country’s Ministry of Science
and Technology by Iraqi students working at the La Sapienza
University in Rome, TigriSat will be used to monitor dust storms
Iraq previously claimed to have launched a satellite in 1989,
however this was discredited after footage of the rocket exploding
during first stage flight surfaced. Analysts have also determined
that it was unlikely to have been an orbital launch attempt in any
Antelsat, the fourth satellite to be deployed from UniSat-6, will be
Uruguay’s first spacecraft. It is a two-unit CubeSat, which will be
used for amateur radio, Earth observation and to advance Uruguayan
In addition to the CubeSats aboard UniSat-6, twenty-one more will be
deployed from the Dnepr itself.
DTUSat-2 is a Danish satellite being launched for the Danmarks
Tekniske Universitet. It will be used to aid studies of bird
migration by relaying data from GPS trackers attached to the birds.
Duchifat-1 is a single-unit CubeSat which will be operated by
Israel’s Herzliya Science Centre.
The spacecraft has served as an educational project and once in
orbit will be used to test location determination, with the satellite
returning data on its calculated position to be plotted onto maps on
Eleven Flock-1c spacecraft will be launched for Planet Labs’ Flock
constellation. Earth imaging spacecraft, each three-unit CubeSat is
equipped with cameras capable of producing photographs at resolutions
of up to three metres.
Following four technology demonstration missions using Dove
satellites, the first twenty-eight Flock-1 spacecraft were carried
into orbit by January’s Cygnus mission, for subsequent deployment
from the ISS. Twenty-eight more satellites will be launched aboard
the next Cygnus mission, currently scheduled for July.
NanoSatC-Br 1, a single-unit Brazilian spacecraft, is based on a kit
purchased from ISIS. The spacecraft carries a magnetometer to study
the South Atlantic Anomaly, an area where the Van Allen belts are
unusually close to the Earth’s surface exposing satellites to
greater radiation levels than would otherwise be expected at those
The Platform for Attitude Control Experiments (PACE) CubeSat will be
used by Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University to test an attitude
control system, returning data on how the satellite’s orientation
changes as it attempts to manoeuvre. By studying its performance, the
satellite’s operators hope to be able to develop better attitude
control systems for small satellites.
Perseus-M 1 and 2 are the first six-unit CubeSats to launch, with
dimensions of 30 by 20 by 10 centimetres (12 by 8 by 4 in). The
satellites will be operated by Russia’s Dauria Aerospace, having been
constructed by Dauria’s American subsidiary Canopus Systems. Each
spacecraft carries an AIS receiver intended to collect data on the
position and status of ships at sea.
Ukraine’s PolyITAN-1 will be operated by the country’s National
Technical University. Itis intended to demonstrate that Ukraine can
conduct a CubeSat mission and study the performance of the
satellite’s single-unit bus in orbit.
POPSAT-HIP-1 will test attitude control and imaging systems
for Singapore’s Microspace Limited. It is a three-unit CubeSat.
The last two CubeSats, QB50P1 and QB50P2, form part of the QB50
programme which aims to launch and operate a constellation of fifty
small satellites for scientific research. These two demonstration
satellites will be operated by Belgium’s von Karman Institute with
contributions from other institutions.
QB50P1 carries an Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer, an attitude
control experiment, a thermocouple to monitor the spacecraft’s
temperature and FUNCube-3, an amateur radio payload for the Dutch
branch of AMSAT. QB50P2 carries the same attitude control system and
thermocouple, combining them with a French amateur radio system and
the FIPEX experiment for the Technical University of Dresden, which
will study the oxygen flux in the satellite’s environment.
Converted from the R-36 missile, the Dnepr is a three-stage rocket
which incorporates the two stages of the R-36MUTTH, with the
missile’s post-boost module converted to act as a third stage and
The R-36 originally served as an intercontinental ballistic missile
capable of delivering an 18 megaton nuclear warhead, although later
versions were equipped to carry up to ten Multiple Independently-
Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), each armed with a nuclear device.
Another variant, the R-36O, was designed to place its warhead into
orbit, and then deorbit it onto a target anywhere in the world.
This was subsequently banned under an international treaty in 1979.
The Dnepr made its first launch in April 1999, when it deployed
Britain’s UoSAT-12. Among the other payloads it has launched on
previous missions are the two Genesis demonstrators for Bigelow
Launched in 2006 and 2007, these prototype inflatable space station
modules paved the way for the work Bigelow is now doing on inflatable
space habitats and an experimental module for the International Space
Friday’s launch marked the Dnepr’s twentieth flight, with only one
of its previous missions ending in failure. That ca me in July 2006,
when a first stage hydraulic failure brought down a cluster launch
which had been carrying eighteen satellites.
The Dnepr launched from a silo at Site 370/13 of Russia’s
Dombarovsky launch site. The first stage did not ignite until the
missile is clear of the silo, with ejection being accomplished by
means of a gas generator at the aft of the vehicle which separated
shortly after ejection is complete.
The first stage was powered by four RD-263 engines, while an RD-0255
powers the second stage and an RD-869 powered the third. The
payloads were enclosed within a Gas Dynamic Shield, which protected
them from the exhaust of the third stage, in addition to a regular
This shielding is necessary because, due to its missile heritage,
the third stage flies backwards with the payloads mounted on the same
side as its engine nozzles.
Spacecraft separation occurred while the stage was still firing,
with the satellites ejecting from the back of the rocket. Once
separation was complete, the stage continued to burn to remove itself
from the operational orbit.
The Dnepr launch was the thirty-fourth orbital launch of 2014, and
the first to make use of a Dnepr. The Dnepr’s next launch is
scheduled for no earlier than August, with five satellites including
Japan’s Hodoyoshi-1 and Asnaro-1.