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Russia's science satellites


The author thanks Jonathan McDowell for providing important corrections for this section.

Russia, Ukraine launch solar science mission

2001 July 31: Russia and Ukraine jump-started their space-based scientific research, launching a cooperative mission to study the Sun and its interaction with our planet. The AUOS-SM-KF spacecraft, also known as Koronas-F (Coronas-F), blasted off at 12:00 a.m. Moscow Time on July 31, 2001 from Site 32 at Russia's Northern Cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

The 2,260-kg Koronas-F satellite was built by KB Yuzhnoe in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and equipped with 15 scientific instruments, which will be used by scientists in Russia, Georgia, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Great Britain and the US. A three-stage Tsyklon-3 rocket delivered Koronas-F into 500-kilometer orbit with the inclination of 82.5 degrees toward the Equator. According to the representative of the Russia's Space Forces, the spacecraft successfully separated from the third stage of the Tsyklon-3 vehicle at 12:51 Moscow Time, after the two firings of the stage's engine.

The Koronas-F is expected to spend at least a year studying dynamic processes of the solar
activity, including active regions, flares and mass ejections in the wide range of electromagnetic spectrum from radio to gamma rays. The spacecraft's instruments will also measure the interaction between solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere as well as the seismology of the Sun's interior.

The Koronas-F satellite continues the mission of its predecessor, AUOS-SM-KI spacecraft, or Koronas-I, launched on March 2, 1994. According to unofficial reports, soon after the launch, gyrodines onboard the satellite failed, leaving it dependent on gas thrusters for attitude control. The system run out of gas after five months in orbit. In addition, due to errors in the documentation, the temperature onboard the satellite turned out to be 10-20 degrees lower than expected.

The Koronas-I reentered the atmosphere on March 4, 2001. Following the deorbiting of the Mir space station on March 23, 2001, Russia had no science payloads, functioning in orbit.

The Koronas-F was expected to be followed by the AUOS-SM-F (Foton) spacecraft, which will also carry a cluster of scientific instruments to study the Sun.

The first attempt to launch the Koronas-F was planned for July 25, however, it was scrubbed when the specialists detected that a gyroscopic device in the control system of the Tsyklon-3 launcher performed slightly out of specification. The effort to correct the problem within 24 hours was not successful and the State Commission overseeing the launch made a decision to drain the propellants from the vehicle and return it to the assembly building for repairs. The launch was then rescheduled for July 31. A previous launch of the Tsyklon-3 rocket, which took place in December 2000, ended in a failure, when the vehicle's third stage went out of control due to the flight control system malfunction.

2001 August 8: The Koronas-F spacecraft transmitted its first scientific data to the IZMIRAN institute's ground control station near Kaluga, Russia. According to the representative of KB Yuzhnoe, the spacecraft currently relays the recorded information to the scientists every 36 hours. The ground control station in Yevpatoriya, Ukraine, monitors the systems onboard the spacecraft.

According to unofficial reports, immediately after the launch, the spacecraft started tumbling in orbit and required considerable efforts to stabilize it in space. Also one of the switches in the command relay system failed, forcing transmission of all science data via a backup channel. One of the transmitters failed two years into the mission.

The Koronas-F satellite ultimately ended its mission in 2005.

AUOS bus

The Koronas-type spacecraft is based on the AUOS-SM satellite bus, which is essentially a standard "platform" designed to be configured for a variety of tasks. The AUOS, which stands for "Automatic Universal Orbital Station" in Russian, has been under development since the beginning of the 1970s at KB Yuzhnoe design bureau in Dnepropetrovsk. The AUOS concept grew out of KB Yuzhnoe's previous experience with the DS-U "standardized" satellites.

As several other spacecraft developers in the West and in the USSR, KB Yuzhnoe conducted a study in 1971, which showed the possibility of development of a series of "standardized platforms," which could be later adapted for a variety of tasks. KB Yuzhnoe developers proposed three basic configurations for such platforms dubbed KAM-I, KAM-II and KAM-III, where KAM stands for (Multipurpose Space Apparatus).

In its turn, the KAM-I concept became a base for two variations of science and research platforms: AUOS-Z with Earth-pointing attitude control system and AUOS-SM with Sun-pointing attitude control system. Both platforms would be able to carry up to 310 kilograms of payload and provide 50 Vt of electrical supply. Also, both spacecraft had a capability to downlink science data to the individual receiving stations of the international partners in the particular mission.


The development of the payloads for the AUOS-Z spacecraft started in 1973.

The AUOS-Z platform featured a cylinder-shaped service module equipped with eight solar panels, which were attached to the upper end of the module and deploying at the angle of 30 degrees upon reaching the orbit. A special boom for gravitational stabilization of the spacecraft would deploy on the top of the service module. The payload module, carrying scientific instruments, would be docked to the service module via standard interface.

Total 10 satellites based on the AUOS-Z bus made it to orbit. Most of them were used for fundamental scientific research conducted by the scientists of the former Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.


The AUOS-SM-based spacecraft were under development since 1987. The first AUOS-SM-based spacecraft was Koronas-I launched in 1994.

Koronas-F development cooperation:

Element Developer Leading designer Location
Spacecraft bus design
KB Yuzhnoe
V.I. Dranovskiy
V.N. Oraevskiy
KB Yuzhnoe
M. Yangel


Launches of the spacecraft based on AUOS-3 and AUOS-SM platforms:


June 19: AUOS-Z-T-IK (Intercosmos-15) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.


March 30: AUOS-Z-R-O (Cosmos-900) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.

Sept. 24: AUOS-Z-R-E-IK (Intercosmos-17) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.


Oct. 24: AUOS-Z-M-IK (Intercosmos-18) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.


Feb. 27: AUOS-Z-I-IK (Intercosmos-19) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.

Dec. 12: AUOS-Z-R-P-IK (Intercosmos-20) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.


Feb. 6: AUOS-Z-R-P-IK (Intercosmos-21) launched by 11K65M (Cosmos-3M) rocket from Plesetsk.

Sept. 21: AUOS-Z-M-A-IK (Oreol-3) launched by 11K68 (Tsyklon-3) from Plesetsk.


Sept. 28: AUOS-Z-AV-IK (Intercosmos-24) launched by 11K68 (Tsyklon-3) from Plesetsk.


Dec. 18: AUOS-Z-AP-IK (Intercosmos-25) launched by 11K68 (Tsyklon-3) from Plesetsk.


March 2: AUOS-SM-KI (Koronas-I) launched by 11K68 (Tsyklon-3) from Plesetsk. (98)


July 31, 12:00 Moscow Summer Time: AUOS-SM-KF (Koronas-F) launched by 11K68 (Tsyklon-3) from Plesetsk. Separated from the upeer stage at 12:51 Moscow. The launch was delayed from July 25 and 26 (11:00 Moscow Summer Time) by the problems in the launch-vehicle's control system.

The Koronas-F reentered the Earth atmosphere on Dec. 7, 2005. Its last tracking was conducted at 20:08 Moscow Time. According to the calculations, remaining fragments of the satellite impacted the Indian Ocean at 41 degrees South latitude and 85 degrees East longitude at 20:34 Moscow Time.

This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak. All rights reserved.

Last update: August 2, 2015



Tsyklon-3 rocket launches the SM-KF (Koronas-F) spacecraft on July 31, 2001. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

The artist rendering of the AUOS-SM-KF (Koronas-F) spacecraft in orbit. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

The artist rendering of the AUOS-SM-KI (Koronas-I) spacecraft. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

The artist rendering of the AUOS-Z-T-IK spacecraft launched under name Intercosmos-15. It was the first satellite based on AUOS-Z platform. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe

The AUOS-Z-R-P-IK version of the AUOS-Z bus. It was launched under name Intercosmos-20 and 21. Copyright © 2001 by Anatoly Zak