Meteor weather satellite with additional payload satellites possibly lost after failure of Fregat-M upper stage.

Second launch from Vostochny became a disaster due the possible failure of  Fregat-M upper stage.

Russian weather satellite Meteor M2-1 with 18 other different spacecrafts was launched on the top of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with Fregat upper stage in the early morning hours from Site-1S at 05:41 UTC. It was planned that satellite will be delivered to low Earth orbit to support constellation of Meteor-M satellites covering only two spacecrafts. Meteor-M generation was designed to replace Meteor-3 and 3M  spacecrafts placed on orbit by Tsyklon-3 rockets in years 1984-1994 and in 2001 by Zenit-2 rocket (seven Meteor-3 vehicles should be replaced with 3M series, but only one 3M satellite was delivered to orbit in 2001). Roscosmos planned also to deliver to orbit additional 18 satellites on special payload adapter attached to Fregat-M.

Launch was performed at 05:41 UTC and after first phase of flight covering ignition and burn of four boosters and central core stage went correctly. After separation of boosters and hot staging of first and second stage, second stage (third if we will count boosters as separate stage) begun its independent flight at T+4'47". Payload fairing was released around 60 seconds before releasing first and second stage. Fregat-M upper stage was probably released at around T+9'23". Next according to flight plan Fregat-M should perform first burn lasting 77 seconds and begun coast phase planned for 46'44". Second burn should last 57" and precede releasing Meteor-M2.1. Unfortunately after planned deployment of Meteor, satellite failed to establish contact with ground control center. Fregat also was not sending telemetry data what gave reason to assume that something went wrong before separation of Fregat or just few minutes after.

As next phase of flight plan assumed another two burns and two orbit changes, it was quite sure that Fregat should send any telemetry data, just as first satellite which should be already released from adapter. Unfortunately just as Meteor M-2.1, upper stage has been remaining silent.

Russian Interfax news agency announced that according to their source inside Russian space industry, Fregat-M was lost due the human error. Wrong data loaded to onboard computer memory caused that Fregat was in not correct position before initializing first burn. Due this fact instead raising orbit it was moved closer to Earth. This resulted with reentry, disintegration  and finally hitting into Atlantic Ocean. This was not officially confirmed by Roscosmos yet, Corporation only announced that investigation is in progress.

On payload adapters of NPO Lavochkin Fregat-M, in spite of 2750 kg Meteor satellite, 18 other satellites were installed. Follwoing satellites were also planned to be delivered to orbit during this mission:

  • Telesat LEO Vantage-2 communications satellite owned by Telecast.
  • IDEA OSG-1 research satellite which would gather data on space debris on LEO orbit.
  • Baumanets-2, research satellite designed by students of the Bauman Moscow State      Technical University.
  • AISSat-3, communications satellite supporting ship tracking service.

Rest slots were occupied by 14 Cubesat satellites owned and operated by different companies and organizations including two Corvus remote sensing satellites for land mapping, Lemur tracking and research satellite, D-Star communications Cubesat and experimental Small Explorer for Advanced Missions satellite.

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