Soyuz launches third Bars-M satellite

The Russian military launched a classified payload, believed to be the third Bars-M cartography satellite on a Soyuz-2-1a rocket which lifted off from the Plesetsk site, north of Moscow, on May 19, 2022.

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The expected ground track of the ascent trajectory for Soyuz rockets delivering Bars-M satellites from Plesetsk into an orbit with an inclination 93 degrees to the Equator. After around nine minutes of the powered flight, the satellite is expected to reach orbit over the Arctic Ocean and cross Canadian territory at the beginning of its first revolution around the planet.

The 3rd Bars-M mission at a glance:

Launch date and time
2022 May 29, 11:03:32.331 Moscow Time (actual)
Launch vehicle
Launch site
Bars-M No. 3, Kosmos-2556
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Preparations for flight

In an interview with the journal Radioelektronnye Tekhnologii that appeared at the beginning of 2020, General Aleksei Krivoruchko, Deputy Minister of Defense, said that the third Bars-M satellite was ready for transfer to the customer from the manufacturer (RKTs Progress), however, the launch campaign for the mission did not start until 2022.

Starting 0n May 11, 2022, Russian authorities issued warnings to sea traffic in the Arctic Ocean during a period from May 19 to May 22. The restricted areas matched drop zones used in te two previous Bars-M launches in 2015 and 2016.

Those launches originated from Plesetsk on the Soyuz-2-1a rockets heading north-northwest to align their ground track with an orbit inclined 97.6 degrees over the Equator. After around two minutes in flight, the vehicle dropped the four boosters of the first stage, which then fell into the White Sea. As the vehicle leaft the dense atmosphere, its payload fairing jettisoned, resulting in the impact of two fragments in the Barents Sea, off the coast of the Kola Peninsula. The second stage separated next, falling into the Arctic Ocean, just short of the Svalbard Archipelago.

Around nine minutes after the liftoff, the third stage completed the orbital insertion with the deployment of its payload in a near-circular orbit at an altitude of around 550 kilometers.

Third Bars-M lifts off

According to the official Russian media, quoting Ministry of Defense, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket lifted off on May 19, 2022, at 11:03 Moscow Time (4:03 a.m. EDT, 08:03 UTC) from Plesetsk and the launch was a success.

Within half an hour after the launch, the Russian military also confirmed that the spacecraft had reached its planned orbit and was tracked by ground assets of the Titov Chief Testing Center of the Russian Air and Space Forces, VKS.

The newly launched satellite was officially identified as Kosmos-2556.

According to data from the US Space Force, the spacecraft entered the 338 by 556-kilometer orbit with an inclination 93.52 degrees toward the Equator and an orbital period 93.52 minutes.

By May 22, 2022, the satellite entered the 491 by 560-kilometer orbit with a period of 95.13 minutes and a day later, it was observed in a 565 by 579-kilometer orbit, typical for Bars-M satellites.


The article, graphics and illustrations by Anatoly Zak; Last update: May 28, 2022

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: May 19, 2022

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Bars-M3 lifts off. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense