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Feb. 25, Russia launched its first space mission in 2002, delivering a secret satellite into low Earth orbit from Plesetsk. At 20:26 Moscow Time, the Soyuz-U rocket blasted off from Plesetsk, after a 2-hour-7-minute delay caused by technical problems. It was 1666th mission of the veteran rocket based on the R-7 ICBM. Some nine minutes after the blastoff, the spacecraft, officially announced as Cosmos-2387, reached the orbit. The Cosmos-2387 apparently belongs to the Yantar family of imaging reconnaissance satellites, routinely launched from Plesetsk.
March 30: A Proton rocket delivered the Intelsat-903 communications satellite, after a successful launch from Baikonur. The Proton equipped with a Block DM upper stage blasted off from Pad 23 at Site 81 in Baikonur on March 30, 2002, at 22:25 local time. This was the first mission of the Proton booster in four months and also its first commercial launch since June 2001. The events of September 11, and the following war in Afghanistan, were believed to be contributing factors in the delays of several commercial missions from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Baikonur, the home of the only existing launch facilities for the Proton rocket, is located in Western Kazakhstan -- in relative proximity to the area of conflict. The launch of the Intelsat-903 satellite was previously expected on November 26, 2001 and on March 4, 2002.
April 2: Russian Space Forces launched a military satellite on Tuesday from their Northern Cosmodrome in Plesetsk. A four-stage Molniya-M rocket blasted off at 02:07 Moscow Time on April 2 and ten minutes later successfully delivered a classified military payload, most likely Oko-type early-warning satellite, to the initial Earth orbit. The upper stage of the launch vehicle then expected to maneuver the satellite into highly elliptical orbit. This was 220th launch for the Molniya-M booster, which was apparently delayed several times in the past few weeks. Lubov Kudelina, Deputy Minister of Defense and Anatoly Perminov, Chief Commander of Russian Space Forces, KVR, personally attended the launch in Plesetsk.
April 25: The Soyuz TM-34 spacecraft, carrying a Russian commander Yuri Gidzenko, an Italian researcher Roberto Vittori and a South-African tourist cosmonaut Mark Shuttleworth blasted off from Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 25 at 10:26 Moscow Time (12:26 Local Time).
May 10: A Proton rocket delivered the DirecTV-5 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit after a successful launch from Baikonur. The Proton, equipped with a Block DM upper stage blasted off from Pad 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur on May 7 at 23:00 local time. The satellite is a 1300 model built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif. and it was to be positioned at 119 degrees West longitude to provide entertainment programming and broadband services to the United States. The launch had been originally expected in October 2001 and later it was scheduled for November 2, 2001 and April 30, 2002. On May 6, the mission was postponed minutes before its liftoff scheduled for 11 p.m. local time, due to an anomaly in the launch vehicle.
May 28: The Cosmos-3M booster delivered a navigation satellite after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The payload, officially identified as Cosmos-2389, apparently belongs to the Tsikada series of navigation satellites.
June 10: A Proton rocket successfully launched a Russian communications satellite. The four-stage booster blasted off at 05:14 Moscow Time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying the Ekspress-A1R satellite, which belongs to Russia's State Company for Space Communications, GPKS. The Express-A1R is equipped with 12 C-band, 5 Ku-band and one L-band transponders and it was expected to have a lifespan of seven years. The satellite, positioned in the equatorial orbit over the point 40 degrees East longitude, will provide TV, radio and Internet services across the former Soviet Union. The spacecraft became the fourth and the last in the Express-A series developed by NPO PM enterprise based in Zheleznogorsk, Russia. The French company Alcatel Space Industries supplied the communications payload for the spacecraft.
June 20:The Rockot booster launched a long-delayed pair of Iridium communications satellites from Plesetsk, Russian Space Forces said. A three-stage Rockot booster blasted off from Launch Complex No. 133 at 13:34 Moscow Time (5:34 a.m. EST). The launch of the satellites was originally expected as early as the first half of 2000, however the mission was continously delayed by Iridium's financial problems. Technical problems with the payload also delayed the launch for some 24 hours from June 19.
July 8: The Cosmos-3M booster delivered two classified satellites after a successful launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The launch took place at 10:36 Moscow Time. The payload was officially identified only as Cosmos-2390 and Cosmos-2391, however the Russian press reported that the spacecraft belong to the series of the Strela communications network, providing secret communications for the Russian authorities.
July 25: A Proton booster launched a classified satellite from Site 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, officially announced as Cosmos-2392. The launch took place at 19:13 Moscow Time (11:13 a.m. EST). The spacecraft was expected to separate from the upper stage of the launch vehicle at 21:27 Moscow Time (1:27 p.m. EST), after reaching a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth. Statements made by Russian space officials confirmed that the payload belonged to the Araks (Arkon) family of spacecraft developed by NPO Lavochkin. The company advertised the satellite as a dual-purpose system, designed for military and civilian observations of the Earth surface.
Aug. 22: A Proton rocket launched a commercial communications satellite. The four-stage booster blasted off at 11:15 local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying the Echostar-8 direct-broadcast satellite. The spacecraft successfully reached geosynchronous transfer orbit 6 hours and 36 minutes after the launch. The mission was delayed from June 22 and July 2002, due to technical problems with the payload and from August 20 and August 21, due to the weather.
Sept. 26: The Cosmos-3M booster delivered a Nadezhda-M ("Hope") navigation satellite on September 26, 2002, after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. The blastoff took place at 19:30 Moscow Time, the Russian Space Forces announced. The Nadezhda-M satellite entered a 987.4 by 1,022.1-kilometer orbit with the inclination 83 degrees toward the Equator. The Nadezhda-M carries COSPAS-SARSAT equipment designed to relay distress signals from the ships around the world. According to official statistics it was the 405th launch of the Cosmos-3M-type booster and the 1934th space launch from Plesetsk.
Oct. 15: One killed in Plesetsk launch failure
Posted: 2002 Oct. 15; updated Oct. 16, 17, 18
Russia's first attempt in more than a year to launch a science satellite ended in a disastrous explosion over Plesetsk cosmodrome, killing at least one soldier and injuring eight, six of whom were hospitalized. A dead soldier was identified as a 20-year-old private Ivan Marchenko. According to the Russian press, the fatality and all injuries were caused by falling window frames and other debris of a processing building.
The Soyuz-U rocket carrying Foton-M No. 1 spacecraft started disintegrating some 20 seconds after blastoff and nine seconds later exploded, showering the launch complex and surrounding area with flaming debris. The launch pad was reportedly damaged by a Block D strap-on booster, which separated from the rest of the rocket seconds after blastoff. A forest fire, which started at the site of the rocket's impact on the ground about one kilometer from the pad, was extinguished.
Russian space forces, which operate the Plesetsk facility, conducted the launch on October 15 at 22:20 Moscow Time. The mission was previously scheduled for October 9. The 6,425-kilogram Foton-M No. 1 was to be the first Russian orbital science mission, since the Koronas-F solar-research satellite entered orbit on July 31, 2001. Since then, an attempt to launch an experimental solar-sailing spacecraft on a sub-orbital trajectory has also failed.
Foton-type satellites, built by TsSKB-Progress in the city of Samara, are based on the Vostok spacecraft and equipped with a capsule, which allows returning life-science and material-processing experiments back to Earth after two weeks in weightlessness. The lost Foton had been the 13th in a series launched since 1985. It carried an array of European, US, Canadian, Japanese and Indonesian experiments with the total mass of 600 kilograms.
The same type of rocket that failed to deliver Foton is also used to launch Russian manned Soyuz spacecraft.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Russian officials said the launch of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, which is to use the Soyuz FG rocket could be delayed, pending the investigation of the Plesetsk crash.
Oct. 17: A Proton rocket launched the European Integral gamma-ray observatory. The launcher blasted off from Site 200 at Baikonur Cosmodrome at 10:41 local time (08:41 Moscow Time). After second firing of its Block D upper stage, the launch vehicle placed the spacecraft into a 72-hour elliptical orbit, with a perigee of 10,000 kilometers and an apogee of 153,000 kilometers from the Earth surface, or nearly half the distance to the Moon.
Nov. 26: A heavy communications satellite ended up stranded in a useless orbit, after its launch vehicle failed. The Proton rocket rocket equipped with a Block DM-3 upper stage and carrying the Astra-1K communications satellite for a Luxemburg-based operator, blasted off from Pad 23 at Area 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 04:04 local time on Nov. 26, 2002. The three stages of the rocket booster worked normally and the initial burn of the Block DM-3 upper stage was also completed successfully, delivering the Astra-1K into an initial low orbit. However, during the second ignition of the Block DM-3 upper stage, intended to send the spacecraft into an elliptical transfer orbit, the main engine of the stage shut down prematurely, leaving its cargo in a 203 x 179-kilometer orbit. The spacecraft then separated from its upper stage and apparently maneuvered to a slightly higher orbit; however, it didn't have propulsion power to reach operational altitude. The Proton rocket failure came at a time of the increased competition in the satellite-launching industry and followed another launch failure of the Russian rocket in October 2002. Immediately, after the loss of the Astra-1K, The International Launch Services, ILS, a US company marketing the Proton booster to Western customers, announced that the next mission of the booster, would feature the Proton-M version of the rocket, equipped with a Briz-M upper stage instead of Block-DM.
Nov. 28: The Cosmos-3M booster delivered Algerian and Russian satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit, after the launch from Russia's northern cosmodrome in Plesetsk. A two-stage vehicle blasted off at 09:07 Moscow Time on Nov. 28, 2002, carrying AlSat-1 remote-sensing satellite for the Algerian government and the Mozhaets experimental satellite, designed for the training of the Russian military academy students. The AlSat spacecraft, is a part of the Disaster Monitoring Canstellation, DMS, network, developed by SSTL company of England. According to the Russian Space Forces, both satellites successfully reached a 701 x 680-kilometer orbit.
Dec. 20: A converted ballistic missile launched a cluster of commercial satellites from Baikonur. The R-36M missile, once most powerful ICBM in the Soviet strategic fleet, blasted off from Silo complex in Baikonur at 20:00 Moscow Time. Designated Dnepr, the rocket carried a cluster of commercial payloads, including UniSat-2 (Italy); SaudiSat-1C (Saudi Arabia); LatinSat-A and B (Argentina), Rubin-2 (Germany); and a Ukrainian-built mockup of the 2001 Trailblazer spacecraft developed by a private US company. The mission was previously planned in November 2001, however a number of problems dealyed it until Dec. 4, 2002.
Dec. 25: A Proton-K rocket blasted off from Pad 23 at Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 10:37 Moscow Time, carrying three Uragan-M ("Hurricane") spacecraft for the GLONASS network -- the Russian equivalent of the US Global Positioning System, GPS. According to official reports, the payload successfully reached an initial parking orbit at 10:48 Moscow Time. After additional maneuvers, the trio of 1,425-kilogram satellites were to separate from the upper stage of the launch vehicle in their final orbit between 14:35 and 15:11 Moscow Time. This was the first launch of the Proton rocket with the Block DM upper stage, after a similar vehicle failed to deliver a commercial communications satellite into its final orbit on Nov. 26, 2002.
Dec. 25: Russian Space Forces launched a military satellite on Tuesday from their Northern Cosmodrome in Plesetsk. A four-stage Molniya-M rocket blasted off at 15:20 Moscow Time on December 24 and ten minutes later successfully delivered a classified military payload, officially identified as Cosmos-2393, to the initial Earth orbit. The spacecraft is most likely the Oko-type early-warning satellite. The upper stage of the launch vehicle then maneuvered the satellite into highly elliptical orbit. According to official reports, the spacecraft separated from the upper stage of the launch vehicle at 16:23 Moscow Time on December 24, 2002. The satellite established contact with the ground control center at 17:05 Moscow Time. A major fire at Russia's military ground control center near Moscow in 2001 is believed to be responsible for the loss of control over one or several satellites, providing early warning about missile attack for the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Dec. 30: A Proton-M rocket, carrying the Nimiq 2 comsat, blasted off from Pad 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:17 a.m. local time (6:17 p.m. Sunday EST, 23:17 Sunday GMT). Six hours and 53 minutes later, the satellite was successfully released into a transfer orbit. The satellite, designed for direct broadcast services, was built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, and was to be operated by Telesat Canada.
This page was compiled by Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 10, 2012
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Comparison of Proton-K and Proton-M launch vehicles. Credit: ILS
A scale model of the Rockot booster and its surface launch pad in Plesetsk. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
A close up view of the core-stage engine on the Soyuz rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The Cosmos-3 rocket blasts off from Site 132 in Plesetsk. Credit: PO Polyot
Europe's Envisat satellite was launched on the Ariane-5 rocket in 2002. Copyright © 2010 Anatoly Zak