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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




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Karat platform

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:

Dry mass of the spacecraft bus 100 kilograms
Maximum propellant mass Two sets of 45-kilogram tanks
Propellant Hydrazine and ftoroplast
Power supply to the payload 100 Watts (previously reported 100-150 Watts)
Power supply to the service systems 60 Watts
Stabilization accuracy 4 by 10-3 degrees per second
Attitude control accuracy 10 angular minutes
Onboard memory capacity No less than 8 Gigabytes
Data transmission rate No less than 3 megabits per second
Operational lifespan 5 years


Karat-based MKA-FKI spacecraft projects:

Original launch date
Current launch date
Flight program, status
PN1 Zond-PP
Launched successfully. A remote-sensing satellite with an L-band radiometer
PN2 (Monika) Relek
In development. Solar and magnetosphere research. Studies of relativistic electrons in the radiation belts and their interaction with ionosphere and atmosphere of the Earth
PN3 Konus-M (372A353)
In development
PN4 Strannik
In development. Studies of large-scale turbulent plasma dynamics in near-Earth and deep-space environment.
2007-2015 (327)
In development (Program based on the Karat platform)
Rezonans (MKA FKI)
2012 (327) 2014 (388)
OKR (in development)
A proposal
Lunnaya Doroga
A proposal
A proposal for a scientific satellite to study the Earth's magnetic field
A proposal
A proposal
A proposal
A proposal
A proposal
A proposal

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 7, 2012

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