Soyuz Launches Weather Satellite and Six Secondary Payloads

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WASHINGTON — A Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket equipped with a Fregat upper stage successfully launched the country’s long-delayed Meteor-M2 weather satellite and six secondary payloads into low Earth orbit July 8 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said.

Among the secondary payloads was the SkySat-2 satellite for Skybox Imaging, the Silicon Valley startup, and the TechDemoSat-1 craft built by Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for the government.

Both organizations reported that their satellites were in the proper orbit and in good health following the launch.

The 2,900-kilogram Meteor-M2 satellite will monitor clouds, ice, land, sea-surface temperatures, ozone levels and other meteorological phenomena from a sun-synchronous orbit, Roscosmos said on its website, according to an English language translation. The satellite, built by VNIIEM, or Pan-Russian Research Institute for Electromechanics, is designed to operate for five years, Roscosmos said.

SkySat-2, a high-resolution imaging craft built in house by Skybox, joins twin SkySat-1, launched in November, in orbit. On July 10, Mountain View, California-based Skybox released the first images from SkySat-2, which the company said is expected to undergo calibration and tuning for several months.

“With the SkySat-1 and SkySat-2 constellation we are excited to continue pushing the envelope for increasingly timely high-resolution imagery, HD video, and analytics,” the company said.

TechDemoSat-1, funded by the British government’s Technology Strategy Board, will demonstrate new spacecraft technologies and software, Surrey said in a press release July 8. The spacecraft, carrying eight separate payloads, is the first to be controlled by the United Kingdom’s new Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell, Surrey said.

“This significant project is the first in-orbit satellite project directly funded by the Technology Strategy Board,” Iain Gray, the board’s chief executive, said in a prepared statement. “It allows us to provide UK businesses with an in orbit demonstration platform to test several new satellite-based products and services — a fantastic way to support innovation in the space sector and help businesses take advantage of the growing space market.”