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

LOS ANGELES — An executive with the company that provided launch services for more than 70 satellites launched on a Soyuz in July said there is no evidence that the failure of several of those satellites was caused by the rocket.

In an Aug. 31 interview, Vsevolod Kryukovskiy, launch program director at Glavkosmos, said that the Soyuz rocket and its Fregat upper stage performed normally on a July 14 mission that carried 73 satellites, mostly cubesats from both domestic and international customers.

“We have received formal confirmation from all our international customers of their satellites’ successful injection and separation from the upper stage,” he said. “We also confirmed that the launch vehicle and upper stage worked nominally during the injection and separation.”

Some customers of that mission had raised the prospect of a problem with the vehicle to explain the failure of their satellites. At least four of the secondary payloads, all built by Russian companies or universities, have failed to contact the ground or show other signs of operating, with some of the operators suggesting that a vehicle problem could be a root cause.

Kryukovskiy instead suggested that the problems lie with the individual satellites, some of which were built by developers with little or no experience. “It’s their first experience in cubesat development,” he said. “It could be something on the development side, or with components or ground stations.”

He did acknowledge, though, an issue with the deployment of one cubesat each from Planet and Spire, which flew 48 and 8 satellites respectively on the July launch. Planet has not been able to contact one of its Dove satellites, while one of Spire’s Lemur satellites was injected into the wrong orbit. Both companies have downplayed any adverse effects of

“We are working with a technical team to examine the final mission telemetry,” he said. “The final report should be ready in a few weeks.”

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...