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Above: A proposed family of science satellites based on the Karat platform.
The standard MKA/Karat bus was expected to be used as a basis for numerous Russian science missions during the 2010s. Copyright © 2010 Anatoly Zak
At the beginning of the 21st century, engineers at NPO Lavochkin proposed a standardized small satellite bus, named Karat, which could serve as a basis for a variety of scientific missions.
Karat was designed to have a dry mass of 100 kilograms and to be able to carry around 50 or 60 kilograms of payloads. A pair of hydrazine tanks carried 45 kilograms of propellant for the attitude control system. Karat's solar panels were able to deliver maximum of 100 Watts of power to the payload. An S-Band radio-system could maintain contact with ground control at a range from 15,000 to 300,000 kilometers, depending on the antenna installed.
Some design features of the Karat platform, particularly its flight control system, BKU, were apparently inherited from the ill-fated Solar Sail project developed during difficult years of the post-Soviet economic collapse.
An initial federal contract for the development of what was officially identified as Small Spacecraft or MKA-FKI, was issued on April 27, 2006. Promised to fly as early as 2008, the first MKA-FKI/Karat-based payload finally reached the launch pad in 2012. By that time, Russian space agency, Roskosmos, formally outlined the purpose of MKA-FKI satellites as fundamental space science research, including a flexible program of solar research, Sun-Earth interactions, the observation of the Earth and small bodies in the Solar System and astrophysics experiments.
The flight control of the MKA-FKI missions would be conducted primarily with the use of existing ground assets. All MKA-FKI were expected to fly as secondary payloads on Soyuz-2/Fregat or Zenit-M/Fregat-SB rockets.
As of 2012, Roskosmos approved five missions based on MKA-FKI/Karat platform, with the first satellite carrying Zond-PP payload entering orbit that year:
Next chapter: MKA-FKI (PN1) Zond-PP mission
Karat platform specifications:
Karat-based MKA-FKI spacecraft projects:
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 7, 2012
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