Dnepr rocket launch
A Dnepr rocket launches the Swedish Space Corp.'s Prisma spacecraft and the French Space Agency's Picard spacecraft. Credit: Swedish Space Corp. photo

PARIS — A Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket on June 15 successfully placed two Swedish formation-flying satellites and one French solar-weather spacecraft into low Earth orbit from Russia’s Yasny spaceport, the French and Swedish space agencies announced.

The two agencies announced separately that France’s Picard satellite and Sweden’s two Prisma spacecraft had transmitted their first signals and were healthy in orbit.

The launch had been delayed for months because of a dispute between Russia and Kazakhstan over the issue of rocket debris falling on Kazakh territory.

The 150-kilogram Picard, based on the Myriade platform developed by the French space agency, CNES, will operate from a 725-kilometer orbit for at least two years to study solar activity, which is now beginning its cyclic increase after an unusually long quiet period.

The two Prisma satellites, Mango and Tango, were launched together and will remain as a single unit until Aug. 3, when they will separate and begin a series of maneuvers testing formation flying and rendezvous techniques. The 140-kilogram Mango will spend 10 months maneuvering around the 40-kilogram Tango in experiments designed to test technologies for future, larger missions in Europe requiring precise positioning of groups of satellites.

CNES also played a role in the Prima mission, proving the FFIORD — formation flying in-orbit ranging demonstration — subsystem, which includes part of Mango’s software.

“Everything looks very good, all systems are nominal after the first contact,” said Staffan Persson, Prisma program manager for the Swedish Space Corp., in a June 15 e-mail.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.