Russia launches new civil remote sensing satellite

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched a civilian Earth observation satellite into orbit today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan. The satellite's mission is mainly to assist exploration of natural resources, monitor pollution and natural or man-made disasters.

The three-stage Soyuz rocket lifted off at 0800 UTC (4:00 a.m. EDT), little under nine minutes later in an orbit with an apogee of approximately 230 miles, a perigee of around 125 miles, and an inclination of about 70 degrees. The Resurs DK1 spacecraft, weighing close to 15,000-pound, successfully separated from the Soyuz upper stage.

The DK1 is the newest member of the Resurs satellite fleet, the first in an upgraded series of spacecraft, and is capable of producing one-meter resolution images in black-and-white(two meters in color). The DK1 can document an area of up to 270,000 square miles a day and its advanced communications system allows fast downlinking of recent images to ground stations.

Images from the new satellite will be used by Russian government agencies, international groups, as well as sold commercially. The satellite will also monitor sea surface status, polar weather and ice conditions as well as assist in topographic and thematic mapping in remote regions.

In addition to the DK1, two secondary payloads were attached. One is the Italian PAMELA (Payload for Antimatter-Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) instrument, housed on the upper side of the satellite designed to examine cosmic rays in order to learn more about dark matter and the relationship between matter and antimatter. The other is a Russian particle detector for designed for identifying earthquake precursors in Earth's magnetic field.

Further launches of these updated satellites are expected in the next few years. The Soyuz rocket's next scheduled launch is a cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station, to be followed by the launch of the Eurosat MetOp-A weather satellite.