Kosmos rocket lofts two small satellites

Posted: November 28, 2002

The Kosmos rocket on the launch pad. Photo: SSTL
The first in a series of new tools to monitor disasters and other events worldwide is in orbit today, thanks to a ride from a Russian Kosmos-3M rocket.

Liftoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia occurred at 0607 GMT (1:07 a.m. EST). The Kosmos-3M launcher injected the mission's two payloads into orbit shortly thereafter.

Topping the rocket were the AlSat-1 disaster monitoring microsatellite and the Russian Mozhaets spacecraft.

Built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of the United Kingdom, AlSat-1 is the first of a planned five-satellite constellation of microsatellites to monitor disasters, emergencies and other events across the globe.

AlSat-1 orbits 686 kilometers high in Sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of 98 degrees.

The 200-pound satellite carries a payload of three imagers in the near infrared, red and green spectral bands. A resolution of 32 meters and a large imaging swath provides flexibility to cover a wide area of targets in any given pass and a regular revisit capability.

AlSat-1 is also Algeria's first national satellite, with operations to be conducted largely by the Centre National des Techniques Spatiales in that country.

Engineers from both Surrey and Algeria completed building and testing the spacecraft over a 15-month period, which included training for the Algerian team in the techniques of the industry. A ground station was also set up in Algeria for the team there follow the mission.

"This will be SSTL's 21st satellite for launch, but the first in the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation," said SSTL CEO Sir Martin Sweeting prior to launch. "Together with our Algerian customer and Russian colleagues, we are looking forward to a good launch on Thursday to usher in a new era of affordable, rapid-revisit Earth observation capabilities made possible by small satellites."

Surrey leads the so-called Disaster Monitoring Constellation, in collaboration with organizations in Algeria, China, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. Officials say the five small spacecraft will be the first civilian-operated Earth observation fleet to have the capability to revisit any location on the planet daily, an important attribute for highly dynamic situations like natural disasters or emergencies.

Images gathered by the constellation will be distributed to emergency management personnel to aid in response planning.

Four more microsatellites for the disaster monitoring program will be launched by the end of 2003, representing Turkey, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and Thailand. A follow-on constellation with much higher imaging resolution will be put into orbit beginning in about 2004.

The other spacecraft hauled into space by the Kosmos-3M light booster was the Mozhaets satellite, designed and built by students at a Russian military space academy. The small craft will help with the education of the students as well as conduct studies in the field of geodesy, among other objectives.

Hubble Posters
Stunning posters featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope and world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin are now available from the Astronomy Now Store.

Hubble Calendar
NEW! This remarkable calendar features stunning images of planets, stars, gaseous nebulae, and galaxies captured by NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The conception, design, development, testing and launch history of the Saturn I and IB rocket is documented in this forthcoming three-disc DVD.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
NEW 3-DISC EDITION This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.

Astronomy Now presents Hubble: the space telescope's view of the cosmos. A collection of the best images from the world’s premier space observatory.