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Bion spacecraft

Foton spacecraft


Soyuz-2 rocket with Bion-M No. 1 spacecraft arrives to the launch pad at Site 31 in Baikonur on the eve of its launch on April 19, 2013. Credit: Roskosmos

Previous chapter: Preparing Bion-M No. 1 for flight

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Mission of the first Bion-M satellite

The Soyuz-2-1a rocket carrying the Bion-M No. 1 satellite lifted off on April 19, 2013, at 14:00 Moscow Time (6 a.m. EDT) from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 31. The spacecraft was expected to be inserted into a 290 by 575-kilometer elliptical orbit, with an inclination 64.9 degrees toward the Equator.

The spacecraft successfully separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 14:09 Moscow Time and had been under control, Roskosmos announced around an hour after the liftoff.

The same mission would also release into orbit a cluster of "hitchhiker" payloads, including small satellites from Russia, Germany, the United States and South Korea. According to Roskosmos, secondary payloads would be released from the main satellite in the initial phase of the flight from 4th to 35th orbit around the Earth.

The launch campaign was preceded by unusually short preparation on the launch pad, with the final assembly and the rollout of the launch vehicle taking place on the eve of the liftoff. Also unusually, official Russian sources were confirming major milestones in the mission after the fact and with a considerable delay. The rocket left the assembly building around 18:00 Moscow Time (10:00 a.m. EST) and was installed on the launch pad two hours later. The personnel had only 18 hours to prepare the vehicle, instead of customary 48 hours.

In orbit

Following the launch, the spacecraft was detected in the elliptical 550 by 250-kilometer orbit, where it was left after the separation from the third stage of the Soyuz-2 rocket. The Bion-M then apparently fired its engine at the highest point (apogee) of the orbit, making it circular at an altitude of 575 kilometers.

Ground control cofirmed that three hours after the launch, the lights were turned in cages and food was despenced to animals onboard.

Some six hours after launch, on April 19, at 20:13:50 Moscow Time, the OSSI-1 radio-amateur satellite developed by a South-Korean artist Hojun Song was ejected from the top platform of the Bion-M "mother" vehicle.

Two days later, TsSKB Progress announced that the Aist-1 satellite separated from Bion-M on April 21, at 18:02 Moscow Time and its telemetry was received by the company's ground station, confirming normal operation of the satellite. Bion-M No. 1 was also reported to be in good shape.

BeeSat-3, BeeSat-2, and SOMP hitchhiker satellites were confirmed as successfully released during the 30th, 31st and 33rd orbit of the mission.

Preparing for landing

On May 14, 2013, the search team of Russia's Central Military District, which just completed the successful recovery of the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft, was ordered to move to the Orenburg Region in southern Russia to support the landing of Bion M No. 1 on the morning of May 19. A total of seven Mi-8 helicopters, along with An-12 and An-26 fixed wing aircraft and 150 members of military personnel were expected to participate in the operation.

A special homing radio signal on the reentry module of the spacecraft was designed to help search and rescue team to locate the capsule.

The life-support system onboard Bion-M was designed to function for at least 24 hours to ensure a well-being of all biological objects and experiments onboard. (646)

On May 17, mission control in Korolev announced that the landing of Bion-M No. 1 was scheduled on May 19 at 07:12 Moscow Time near Orenburg (10:12 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 18).

Next chapter: Landing of Bion-M No. 1

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*Reduced from original 60 and 45 days

Bion-M No. 1 mission at a glance:

Official designation
Bion-M No. 1
Spacecraft industrial index
Spacecraft manufacturing number
Spacecraft mass
6,266 kilograms
Descent module mass
2,415 kilograms
Number of onboard experiments
Number of scientific payloads
Launch date
2013 April 19, 14:00 Moscow Time (launched successfully; mission is in progress)
Landing date
2013 May 19, 07:01 Moscow Summer Time (planned)
Launch vehicle

*Reduced from original 60 and 45 days


"Hitchhiker" payloads released during the Bion-M No. 1 mission:

Payload name and description
Release time
G.O.D. Sat (OSSI-1)
South Korea
0.963 kilograms
April 19, after 18:12 Moscow Time (Orbit 4-6)

ECM SPL (includes three one-kilogram satellites):

  • BeeSat-2 (Berlin University)
  • Beesat-3 (Berlin University)
  • SOMP (Dresden University of Technology)
9.3 kilograms
April 21 (Orbit 30-33)
5.8 kilograms
April 21 (Orbit 30-33)

Aist (SGAU)

53.0 kilograms
April 21 (Orbit 34-35)


The article by Anatoly Zak, with additional reporting by George Chambers;

Last update: May 21, 2013

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In orbit

A photo of the Bion-M No. 1 spacecraft captured from the ground on April 24, 2013. Credit: Ralf Vandebergh.


A Soyuz-2.1a rocket with Bion-M No. 1 shortly before launch on April 19, 2013. Credit: TsENKI


Bion-M No. 1 lifts off on April 19, 2013. Credit: Roskosmos


"Hitchhiker" payloads on top of the Bion-M No. 1 satellite. Credit: Roskosmos


A pair of one-kilogram BeeSat satellites would be released from the top of the descent module of the Bion-M No. 1 satellite. Credit: Berlin University