Soyuz launches Russian-built satellite for Iran
A Soyuz rocket orbited an imaging satellite for the Iranian government on August 9, 2022, marking the departure of the Russia's workhorse space delivery system from the Western launch market after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
The Khayam mission at a glance:
The Soyuz rocket used in the Khayam mission was intended for a OneWeb launch, however the Kremlin's escalation of the war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, made the launch impossible.
Instead, the available Soyuz rocket was re-allocated for the launch of an optical imaging satellite likely developed at Moscow-based VNIIEM enterprise. This particular spacecraft was offered to the government of Iran for observations of the Earth's surface, first of all for the purposes of military reconnaissance.
The Khayam satellite reached the launch pad on the heels of Putin's visit to Teheran where Russia and Iran discussed military and economic cooperation.
Although Roskosmos did not release any imagery showing preparations of the Khayam satellite and its hitchhiker payloads, their arrangement was probably similar to the planned launch configuration of the South-Korean CAS-500-2 satellite and its secondary payloads targeting near-polar sun-synchronous orbit.
The primary payload from South Korea was expected to be accompanied by a cluster of small satellites from a number of international customers, including Japan-based Axelspace Corporation planning to deliver four GRUS observation satellites in addition to several previous satellites launched on Soyuz. A small satellite from Catalonia was also expected to fly. A total of 38 satellites from 18 countries had apparently been booked for that flight in 2022.
However, after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, foreign customers quit their participation in the mission. As a result, for the first time, the secondary payload cluster on a commercial Soyuz launch was composed exclusively of Russian-built payloads:
Summary of secondary payloads aboard the Soyuz launch on Aug. 9, 2022:
As of August 2022, Glavkosmos, the commercial arm for the Roskosmos State Corporation, still advertised four Soyuz rocket launches heading to the 550-600-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit with Cubesat-type satellites. The most immediate launch in the first or second quarter of 2023 was listed as fully booked, while three more flights in the third and fourth quarter of 2023 and one in the third or fourth quarter of 2024 were still available for micro-sats.
The Khayam orbital ascent profile and ground track will likely resemble that of Resurs-P satellites (above).
The final assembly of the Soyuz launch vehicle with the Khayam satellite was completed in Baikonur on August 4, 2022, and the next morning, the rocket was rolled out to Pad No. 6 at Site 31. On August 8, the newly appointed head of Roskosmos arrived at Baikonur to personally watch the launch.
The launch vehicle performed a largely routine powered ascent to an initial orbit with its three stages. However unlike most east-bound launches from Baikonur, remote-sensing missions normally turn north to align its ground track with a target orbit almost perpendicular to the equatorial plane of our planet. As a result, the Soyuz rocket drops the four boosters of the first stage in Northern Kazakhstan near the border with Russia, while the core booster of the second stage should impact the Ural Region of Russia.
After accelerating the payload section to a nearly orbital velocity, the third stage separates from the Fregat space tug and begins reentry over the Arctic Ocean. Five minutes after separation, Fregat fires its engine for five minutes, entering an initial transfer orbit.
The stage then coasts for nearly 45 minutes before another maneuver lasting less than 1.5 minutes. The Fregat's second engine firing forms a slightly elliptical orbit with an average altitude of around 500 kilometers intended for the primary payload. The main spacecraft is ejected from the Fregat's adapter around 1.5 minutes after the engine shutdown and soon thereafter, the free-flying satellite should establish contact with mission control.
After another half an hour, Fregat initiates the second dual maneuver to climb another 100 kilometers to a nearly circular orbit. It is used as the destination for secondary payloads.
At least some of the satellites can be released over Antarctica before coming in contact with Russian ground stations in Skolkovo near Moscow 35 minutes later.
Short time after the last payload jumps off Fregat, the space tug usually performs its final maneuver lasting nearly two minutes. It puts the stage on a destructive plunge into the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Following the launch, one of the objects associated with the Khayam mission was tracked in the near-circular orbit with an altitude of around 490 kilometers and an inclination 97.44 degrees toward the Equator.
Head of Roskosmos Yuri Borisov met Iranian ambassodor to Moscow Kazem Dzhalali just days before the launch of the Iranian satellite on a Soyuz rocket. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz rocket rolls out to launch pad in Baikonur. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur on Aug. 9, 2022. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos