It seems that beginnings are always difficult even for such experienced space corporation like Roscosmos. Samsat-218, one of the satellites launched on April 28 2016 on atop of Soyuz-2.1a lost contact with ground.
It is not disaster, because main payload, MVL-300 satellite and second additional satellite Ainst-2D seemed to work fine. News was published by TASS news agency on May 4, 2016, and is based on source close to Roscosmos:
“No radio contact with the satellite has been available since the launch time, most probably, because it failed to switch on after orbiting,”
Special commission working in Yekaterinburg, which was established to explain reasons for technical issues caused by broken cable in Soyuz-2.1a during first launch from Vostochny cosmodrome, has probably next fact to spot on. In spite of that special meeting of representatives of the Samara State Aerospace University and JSC Progress State Research and Production Space Rocket Center (institutions which designed and manufactured Samsat-218) was planned for May 5th, 2016. During meeting, specialists and engineers tried to decide about further actions for recovering communication with Samsat-218. Unfortunately results of meeting and attempts for resuming communication were not satisfied. Chief of the Samsat-218 project, Igor Belokonov confirmed for TASS news agency that ground control stations still not received any radio signal from satellite which could confirm present health of spacecraft. Its present state remains unknown as reasons of possible malfunction. Igor Belokonov said for TASS:
“There are currently no sufficient grounds to believe the nanosatellite established contact. There were fragmentary weak signals at the frequency of 145.870 MHz against a background of noises when the nanosatellite was in the area of radiovisibility of the ground control center, which can’t be with confidence interpreted as signals from the satellite,”
At the moment TASS also announced that reason of the problem with communication was discovered:
“When the spacecraft was placed into orbit, it started to spin round too quickly. It has a very little mass – less than two kilograms. As a result, its antenna cannot catch the information, the satellite is rotating rapidly,”
Problem probably appeared during deploying satellite from Volga upper stage of Soyuz-2.1a rocket at T+2h05’28″32′” but not just after liftoff what was previously announced. Deploying piggyback payload was possible thanks to deployment device designed by JSC Progress State Research and Production Space Rocket Center and installed between Ainst-2D and MVL-300 close to the edge of fuselage of Volga. It offers possibility of deploying 1U to 3+U Cubesats with separation speed at 5 m/s – 8 m/s and angular velocity from 15 °/s (1U) to (3U) 5°/s. It was first mission with utilization of Cubesat deployment device on Volga upper stage.
Ground control center in Samara State Aerospace University, where students engaged in project are still waiting for signal from satellite, is able to receive signals only while satellite is passing over Samara region. To increase chance for receiving signal Igor Belokonov asked amateur radio operators in Russia to help in receiving signals from Samsat-218. Until now only signal which was received is from beacon installed in Samsat-218 which only transmits “Samsat-2018” with Morse code.
SamSat-218 (previously known as Contact-Nanosatellite) is 3U Cubesat built by students on Samara State Aerospace University (SSAU) as technology demonstrator. It was first satellite built only by students in Russia; its objective was to perform various tests of utilizing aerodynamic forces for attitude control in nanosatellites (Samsat-218 weighs only 1.4 kg).
On picture above: Soyuz 20 km over Vostochny cosmodrome – breathtaking, isn’t it?