A Russian Launch Countdown Resumes without Canada

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BERLIN — The launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from which a Canadian satellite was removed in protest against Russia’s actions in Ukraine has been rescheduled for June 28 and will carry U.S., British and Norwegian satellites, according to the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

The builder of one of the British satellites, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., confirmed May 23 that its TechDemoSat-1, built for the British government and carrying eight separate experiment payloads, is now preparing for a June 28 launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Liftoff of the Soyuz rocket, equipped with a Fregat restartable upper stage, had been pending the readiness of its main passenger, Russia’s Meteor-M2 meteorological satellite, designed to operate in a near-polar low Earth orbit.

The Canadian government in late April barred the launch of Canada’s M3M Sat, which was to be used by exactEarth of Canada to reinforce exactEarth’s constellation of satellites providing data on maritime traffic via signals picked up by the satellite sensor and relayed to coastal authorities.

Two other satellites performing just about the same function — but built for Russian and Norwegian companies — are among the Soyuz passengers. The 20-kilogram DX-1, built for Dauria Aerospace for its Russian division, is billed as Russia’s first satellite designed and built by a fully private company.

Norway’s AISSat-2, weighing 7 kilograms, is part of the Norwegian government’s long-term plan to assure surveillance of ship traffic in its territorial waters.

TechDemoSat-1, funded by Britain’s Technology Strategy Board, weighs 150 kilograms and carries payloads to monitor space radiation, test a new satellite attitude-control system, and to monitor ocean-surface roughness with a synthetic-aperture radar.

The UKube-1 satellite, weighing 4 kilograms and built by Clyde Space Ltd. of Scotland, carries four experimental payloads and is viewed as the first in a series of cubesats to be financed by the UK Space Agency.

Skybox Imaging of Mountain View, California, is launching its SkySat-2 satellite to produce high-resolution optical images and video, much like the first SkySat satellite launched in November.

Skybox has declined to comment on the launch and whether it encountered any issues in receiving a U.S. State Department shipping license in light of the U.S. government’s sanctions on Russia. 

The sanctions slowed the approval of other satellites set for launch on Russian rockets, industry officials said, but in the past couple of weeks appear to have eased, with shipping licenses approved for at least two large telecommunications satellites.

Roscosmos said May 20 that SkySat-2 is among the satellites to be launched with Meteor-M2.

 

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