Fault revealed which “toasted” 10 satellites during Soyuz-Fregat launch

by | Mar 12, 2018 | Launches, Satellites, Soyuz

Space News (Debra Werner) has reported confirmation of an insurance loss for two Corvus BC satellites, which were to be part of the Landmapper constellation of Earth observing satellites. The satellite pair was damaged during the Soyuz launch in July 2017. A payout has been made by the aerospace underwriting firm, Starr Aviation, according to the report. Seradata has previously understood that the satellites were insured for US$1 million each.

The damage effectively ended the lives of 10 small satellites carried on the Soyuz flight. Space News also reported that while Glavkosmos would not formally admit that the launch was at fault, telemetry supplied by the Russian launch provider showed that one of two attitude control thrusters on the Fregat upper stage failed to fire. Instead it pumped out hydrazine, which exploded when the second thruster fired. It was this explosion and the subsequent ingestion by the satellites of the products of this explosion that ended their lives.

Comment by David Todd: We and other space analysts have laid the blame for this event on the launch vehicle. Astrophysicist and space watcher Jonathan McDowell put it most succinctly when he wrote in his Jonathan’s Space Report column: “I consider that in a successful launch there is an at least implicit responsibility of the launch provider not to toast the payloads during ascent.”

Fregat upper stage on its way to do deliveries. Courtesy: Glavkosmos via Space News

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