The EgyptSat-2 satellite series

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Egyptsat-2 satellite also known as 559GK or Misrsat-2. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak

Project history

In 2007, the Egyptian government made its first attempt to acquire its own high-resolution surveillance satellite with the launch of the Egyptsat-1 spacecraft built in Ukraine. However the satellite failed prematurely after more than three years of operation. Although Egypt apparently continued working with the Ukrainian KB Yuzhnoe design bureau on a follow-on project, Cairo received a bid from Moscow to supply a state-of-the-art "eye in the sky". In 2009, after around four years of negotiations, Egypt awarded a contract to Russia for the development of a high-resolution imaging satellite. In Moscow, the project was officially handled by Rosoboroneksport, the government-owned company specialized in exports of military technology. However the actual development of the spacecraft was delegated to RKK Energia based in Korolev near Moscow and renown around the world for its leading role in the nation's manned space flight. The company also built the ill-fated BelKA imaging satellite in cooperation with the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

RKK Energia's new imaging satellite was originally known as E-Star, but it was eventually re-christened Egyptsat-2, as a parallel name-sake effort between Egypt and Ukraine had been delayed from 2013 to at least 2015.

RKK Energia based the E-Star/Egyptsat-2 design on its latest concept of an imaging satellite designated 559GK. In turn, the 559GK satellite derived from RKK Energia's experience during the development of the Yamal-100 communications satellite. It was the company's first spacecraft platform whose electronics and other systems were hardened to function in the vacuum of space, rather than inside failure-prone pressurized compartments, thus dramatically increasing the satellite's operational life span. RKK Energia also relied on the flight control system originally developed for the new-generation Yamal-300 satellite to build Egyptsat's computer brain.

The satellite was equipped with SPD-70 electric engines with a thrust of 40 mH and power of 700 Watts. Engines used xenon gas as propellant to enter its operational orbit and to conduct orbit corrections. This propulsion system was developed at OKB Fakel in Kaliningrad. Also, the Moscow-based NII KP design bureau reported that it had developed reaction wheels for Egyptsat's orientation system.

The Technologia enterprise based in the Russian city of Obninsk and the part of RT-Khimkompozit holding in cooperation with NPP Tais developed thermal control panels for Egyptsat-2 integrated with the satellite's body. RT Khimkomposit reported spending just two months after receiving the assignment to assemble the structure.

In its overall architecture, the 559GK satellite appeared similar to the latest-generation Earth-watching satellites developed in the West, such as Pleiades. Like Pleiades, the one-ton Egyptsat-2 was assigned for launch on the Soyuz-U rocket into a 700-kilometer orbit, even though this rocket could deliver almost four times more payload into a comparable altitude.

Russia's new capabilities

According to its official specifications, the one-ton 559GK satellite could discern details as small as one meter on the Earth's surface. In addition to regular photos, the satellite's optics could produce infrared imagery.

RKK Energia said that the satellite's camera could snap individual images as well as stereo pairs, conduct continuous shooting along its flight path and function in a cartographic mode. According to the company, the spacecraft promised to double the resolution capabilities of existing Russian satellites and hinted at some new techniques in electronic processing of imagery.

RKK Energia sub-contracted the development of the satellite's powerful optics and its data downlink system to OAO Peleng and NIRUP Geoinformatsionnye Sistemy in Belarus. The European consortium EADS Astrium (currently Airbus) was also involved in the payload development.

In December 2011, the German company MT Aerospace reported a delivery of a light-weight structure made out of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, CFRP, for a reflecting telescope of the Egyptsat-2 satellite. The flight version followed a development prototype, which MT Aerospace supplied to RKK Energia previous August.

Russia also apparently trained Egyptian engineers to control the satellite from a ground station near Cairo. The Moscow-based NPK BARL concern announced the completion of the center in October 2011.

The total price tag for the Egyptsat-2 project was rumored to be around $40 million. The development of the satellite coincided with a major political upheaval in Egypt; however, the nation's military clearly managed to fully fund the project.

In case of success of the Egyptsat-2 project, more satellites of this type could be built, including a version for the Russian government. A similar strategy of marketing to foreign customers enabled Russia to fund a number of advanced space projects. For example, a Korean contract for the development of the KSLV-1 rocket directly benefited Russia's own Angara program, while the government of South Africa agreed to purchase its own version of Russia's new-generation Kondor radar satellite.


Launches in the EgyptSat family:

Spacecraft name
Launch date
Launch vehicle
Spacecraft developer
2007 April 17
KB Yuzhnoe, Ukraine
2014 April 13
RKK Energia, Russia
2019 Feb. 21
RKK Energia, Russia


Known specifications of the 559GK spacecraft (as of 2011):

Spacecraft mass
1,050 kilograms
Operational life span
11 years
Image resolution in panchromatic mode
1 meter
Image resolution in multi-spectral mode
4 meters
Operational altitude
500-800 kilometers
Operational orbital inclination
48-98 degrees
Observation swath
up to 1,400 kilometers
Attitude-control system
Re-targeting speed
2 degrees per second
Downlink frequency
Downlink speed
300-600 megabit per second


Known contractors in the 559GK (Egyptsat-2) project:

RKK Energia
Russia, Korolev
Prime developer
Peleng, NIRUP Geoinformatsionnye Sistemy
Optical payload
Airbus (formerly EADS Astrium)
Avionics (?)
Russia, Moscow
Reaction wheels
Technologia (part of RT-Khimkompozit holding) and NPP Tais
Russia, Obninsk
Thermal control panels
MT Aerospace
Moscow, Russia
Electric systems
Moscow, Russia
Ground segment
OKB Fakel
SPD-70 ion engine

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Article and photography by Anatoly Zak; last update: May 17, 2019

Page editor: Alain Chabot; last edit: April 16, 2014

All rights reserved





The 559GK satellite. Credit RKK Energia.


The 559GK satellite in folded position. Credit RKK Energia.


The 559GK satellite unfolding its solar panels in orbit. Credit RKK Energia.


Exploded view of the 559GK satellite. Credit RKK Energia.


A prototype of the 559GK satellite. Credit RKK Energia.


The imaging system for the 559GK satellite developed by the Peleng company in Belarus. Credit RKK Energia.


A full-scale mockup of the Egyptsat-2 (559GK) satellite. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak


During the Moscow Air and Space Show in August 2013, an Egyptian delegation conducted talks with the Russian firm RKK Energia, which built Egyptsat-2. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2013 Anatoly Zak