Glavkosmos Soyuz smallsat launch
An artists's rendering of the Soyuz upper stage set ti deploy 72 small satellites during a July 14 mission. Credit: Glavkosmos

WASHINGTON — The Russian company that markets commercial Soyuz launches says it is offering capacity on a launch of a Russian lunar mission next year for smallsat secondary payloads.

In an Aug. 5 presentation, representatives of GK Launch Services said it’s offering capacity on the Soyuz-2 launch of the Luna-Glob lander, set to launch in October 2021 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Evgeny Solodovnikov, sales director of GK Launch Services, said any secondary payloads included on the mission would be deployed on Earth escape trajectories. He did not disclose how much payload capacity is available, or the cost for flying a small satellite on the mission.

Luna-Glob is part of a long-delayed Russian lunar exploration program that includes orbital and sample return missions. Roscosmos tweeted Aug. 5 that the mission, also known as Luna-25, is on schedule for an October 2021 launch, with engineers starting to install scientific instruments on the lander.

That launch is one of eight Soyuz-2 missions, both commercial and Russian government, where GK Launch Services is offering space for secondary payloads through early 2024. The other seven launches are all to sun-synchronous orbits, launching either from Vostochny or the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

GK Launch Services is among several companies that have, in recent years, placed a greater emphasis on flying smallsat secondary payloads. Some Soyuz launches in recent years have carried dozens of cubesats and other smallsats. The Fregat upper stage can place payloads into as many as three different orbits on a single mission, the company said.

Solodovnikov declined to discuss pricing of smallsat rideshare services in general, either to Earth orbit or the lunar mission opportunity. “We are compatible and competitive with SpaceX,” he said. SpaceX offers rideshare launches of smallsats weighing up to 200 kilograms at prices as low as $1 million.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...