Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dnepr Rocket Launch a Failure - 18 Satellites Lost

The Wednesday launch of an ISC Kosmotras Dnepr rocket ended in failure moments after liftoff from an underground missile silo in Kazakhstan. The first stage of the rocket, a decommission Russian SS-18 ICBM, apparently shutdown 86 seconds after liftoff (about 10 seconds early). The rocket and its payload of 18 satellites fell back to earth 16 miles south of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The Dnepr carried 18 satellites in all, including a remote sensing spacecraft for Belarus, a Russian student-built satellite, two Italian university microsatellites, and 14 palm-sized CubeSat payloads housed inside five portable deployment devices.

The payloads lost due to this failure included:

  • BelKA - the first orbiting satellite for Belarus. An Earth observation platform, built by Energia in Russia, to carry out a robust remote sensing campaign for Belarus and other users worldwide.

  • Baumanets - a Russian microsatellite built by a group of students at the Moscow State Technical University. The small spacecraft was to have operated in space for at least one year as an educational tool and technology pathfinder for students.

  • UniSat 4 - an Italian payload was the fourth member of a series of microsatellites managed by professors and students at the University of Rome.

  • PICPOT - another Italian payload that was designed and developed by engineering students in Torino, Italy.

    Also lost were 14 CubeSats from 10 different universities and 1 private company. The launch was coordinated by California Polytechnic State University. The Cubesats lost included:

  • AeroCube-1 built by The Aerospace Corporation and carried a 902 to 928 MHz spread spectrum downlink.

  • CP-1* and CP-2* built by California Poly Tech. They carried 436.845 and 437.325 MHz downlinks respectively.

  • ICE Cube-1* and ICE Cube-2* developed by Cornell University and carrying 437.305 and 437.425 MHz downlinks respectively.

  • ION* built by the University of Illinois with a 437.505 MHz downlink.

  • HAUSAT-1* built by Hankuk Aviation University in South Korea with a 437.465 MHz downlink.

  • KUTESat* built by Kansas University with a 437.385 MHz downlink.

  • MEROPE* built by Montana State University with a 145.980 MHz downlink.

  • nCube-1* developed by several Norway universities carried a 437.305 MHz downlink.

  • RINCON* and SACRED* built by the University of Arizona. They each carried a 436.870 MHz downlink.

  • SEEDS* built by Nihon University in Japan and carrying a 437.485 MHz downlink.

  • Voyager* built by the University of Hawaii and carrying a 437.405 MHz downlink.

    Satellites marked with an asterisk would have carried an amateur radio band downlink and would have picked up an OSCAR satellite number from AMSAT if it would have been operational.

    More information on this satellite program and a preliminary timeline of this launch failure can be found on the Cubesat website.