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Russia launches 3 Gonets communication satellites, 18 international smallsats

28 Sep 2020, 11:44 UTC
Russia launches 3 Gonets communication satellites, 18 international smallsats
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The Russian Aerospace Forces, itself a division of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, have launched a batch of three Gonets civilian communication satellites as well as 18 international rideshare payloads.
Liftoff of the Soyuz 2.1b carrier rocket occurred at 11:20 UTC (07:20 EDT) on Monday, 28 September 2020, from Site No. 43 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome — located 800 km north of Moscow.
The rocket
As part of a consolidated effort to streamline the myriad of Russian launch vehicles into two commercially viable options, the Soyuz 2 and the operationally upcoming Angara, this was the first mission in which Soyuz took up launch duties for the Gonets-M series of satellites.
Those prior missions all launched on Rokot-KM launch vehicles (except the first, which launched on a Kosmos-3M rocket).
The Soyuz for this particular mission was a 2.1b variant, flying with the standard Soyuz 2 booster and core stage engines but an uprated RD-0124 engine on the Blok-I second stage.
The more powerful Blok-I engine on the Soyuz 2.1b attains a maximum isp (specific impulse) of 359 seconds, an improvement over the baseline RD-0110 engine on the Soyuz 2.1a — which has an isp of 326 seconds.
Overall, ...

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