Zenit 2 rocket launches five satellite payloads into space

Posted: December 10, 2001

A Ukrainian Zenit 2 rocket on Monday launched the Russian Meteor 3M-N1 Earth observation spacecraft that features NASA's Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment-3 atmospheric research instrument.

Liftoff occurred at 1719 GMT (12:19 p.m. EST) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. In addition the Meteor primary cargo, the rocket also lofted four piggyback payloads.

Meteor 3M-N1 carries a total of nine scientific instruments to provide various meteorological observations and images to scientists and forecasters on the ground in Russia. Those observations will include both visible and infrared images of the surface and clouds, cloud-top height maps, sea surface temperature measurements, and temperature and humidity profiles.

NASA's SAGE 3 instrument will detect and gather vertical profiles of aerosols, trace gases, clouds, temperature variations, and pressure changes in Earth's atmosphere.

The SAGE 3 mission patch. Photo: NASA
The satellite, the first built upon the Meteor 3M design, has a mass of around 5,500 pounds and is designed for a lifetime of at least three years on-orbit. The craft's payloads account for approximately 1,980 pounds of that mass. Like the Zenit's other satellite payloads, Meteor will operate from a sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of 99.64 degrees and a final altitude of around 1,020 kilometers.

Also taking the ride on the Zenit 2 was Pakistan's oft-delayed Badr-B demonstration spacecraft, the country's second experimental satellite. The craft is expected to operate for more than two years in space. Mission objectives of the technology demonstration mission include testing the feasibility of low cost space missions in Pakistan, and to try out technologies that could be used on future Earth imaging spacecraft.

The joint Moroccan/German Maroc-Tubsat spacecraft will take part in both remote sensing studies and the testing of new technologies and methods for satellite and payload science operations on missions in the future. Examples of those studies will include Earth remote sensing and vegetation observations in medium resolutions of around 300 meters, communications relay and storing activities, and evolving attitude control approaches for high resolution Earth imaging. Morocco was responsible for the construction of the payload and launch services, while the German side built the satellite bus.

A Russian science spacecraft called Kompass designed to aid in earthquake forecasting and a small joint U.S./Russian space debris detection technology satellite named Reflektor were also launched.

The Ukrainian Zenit 2 launch vehicle stands over 150 feet tall and uses two stages to place its payloads into orbit. The first stage uses a single RD-171 engine with four chambers and nozzles, while the second stage is powered by one single-chambered RD-120 engine. Both engines burn a refined form of kerosene and liquid oxygen.