Russia's Rokot Launch Vehicle Also Readying for Return to Flight

Russia's Rokot Launch Vehicle Also Readying for Return to Flight

Russia’s spate of launch vehicle failures includes a January 2013 malfunction of a Rokot-Briz combination that left three small military communications satellites in the wrong orbit and one of them nonfunctional.  Rokot is expected to return to flight next month, as well as its much larger cousin, Proton, which failed catastrophically in July.

The January 15 Rokot-Briz launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome placed three small military communications satellites into orbit.  As is typical with these types of satellites, the Russians assigned them generic “Kosmos” designations — Kosmos 2482, 2483, and 2484.   Initial reports by Jonathan McDowell, author of Jonathan’s Space Report, and Anatoly Zak at, indicated that something had gone awry because the Briz-KM upper stage did not make a final deorbit maneuver.  Zak and Bob Christy at noted that the launch had been delayed because of problems with the Briz-KM upper stage.

Today, Russia’s RIA Novosti news service reported that the Briz-KM “failed to deliver three military satellites into their designated orbits.  As a result, one of the satellites was lost.”  In a tweet, McDowell (@planet4589) said that Kosmos 2483 did not change orbit in subsequent weeks like its two sister satellites.  He surmises that one possibility is that the upper stage was tumbling and improperly deployed that satellite.  His analysis of orbital data suggests that the other two satellites are operating normally despite the imperfect deployment.   The satellites are part of a constellation of “store/dump” military communications satellites alternately called Strela or Rodnik (Strela is the original name, Rodnik is newer; a civilian version is called Gonets).

The head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, told RIA-Novosti that the problem is corrected and the next launch of Rokot is scheduled for September, carrying the Gonets version.

Rokot (alternatively transliterated as Rockot) is Russia’s smallest operational space launch vehicle.   The July failure of Russia’s largest, Proton, created bigger headlines.  It also is now scheduled to return to flight next month.  

Both failures are part of a string of Russian space launch failures since December 2010 bedeviling the Russian space program.    A list of all those failures is available in a fact sheet.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.