Russia is trying to extend their presence on the market of nanosatellites, starting with TEKh-42-2 (or TNS-0-2 – Technology Nanosatellites – Tekhnologicesky Nanosputnik) technology demonstrator satellite scheduled on 2017.
It is known that Russia has strong position as far as the launch vehicles are concerned, but still pace of development in space technologies is extremely fast; Russian space industry (which is now mainly taken over by Roscosmos state corporation) due the various reasons is not in best condition. To remain one of the world leaders in space race, Roscosmos is forced to improve research and development on most recent technologies. After delays in implementing reusable technology for rockets and lack of any kind of operational spaceplane, Roscosmos cannot afford further delays in improving their space industry in other space technologies.
To meet demands of the market, new Russian nanosatellite is planned to be developed and will be deployed during spacewalk performed from International Space Station. At the beginning we can see that there is something what is not going along with most recent technologies. American nanosatellies are deployed during rocket flights from special containers mounted on rockets or in case, if satellite is designed to be deployed from ISS, special Cubesat deployment device designed by Nanoracks is utilized (some satellites are deployed by Canadarm2 if their size or shape makes impossible fitting them into Nanoracks). Russian has not created such device yet and did not decide to use Canadarm2, so their previous nanosatellites like TEKh-42-1 (or delivered recently with Progress spacecraft TPU-120 satellite) was deployed during spacewalk. Russia is not leader in nanosatellites – since deploying first TEkh-42-2 on March 28, 2005 (during 58 EVA by Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov) technology have gone forward and still on the market on nanosatellites leaders are western companies like Surrey Satellite Technology or Sierra Nevada Space Systems . Development of launch vehicles designed especially for nanosatellites, Russia also has nothing impressive to offer. Virgin Galactic will start flights with LauncherOne, Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser will start its CRS-2 missions in 2019. Northrop announced on April 2016, that their proposed XS-1 unmanned spaceplane developed for DARPA, will be offered commercially even if Department of Defense decide to choose one of the spaceplanes offered by competitors. Roscosmos still is counting on their present rockets or future Angara launch vehicle, but still it is not most cost-effective solution for satellites with weight under 50 kg or even 10 kg. It is worth to mention that on June 2015, Roscosmos organized first large symposium devoted to nanosatellites : The First Russian Symposium on Nanosatellites with International participation “RusNanoSat-2015” with participation of following institutions: Government of the Samara Region, The Space Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences, International Astronautical Federation. It clearly shows that Roscosmos spotted the problem and is trying to change present situation.
It should not be surprising that Roscosmos planned for 2017 TEKh-42-2 as a beginning of filling the gap in their present offer. First TEKh-42 satellite was designed by Russian Scientific Institute of Space Device Engineering (RSIDE) as a part of the program developed by Federal State Unitary Enterprise (EZAN) was designed as weighing 4.5 kg cylindrical shaped spacecraft. It was equipped with onboard lithium battery (2 x 18 v with capacity of 10 Ah) which was able to power satellite for three months. It was placed on orbit with parameters: 349 km × 359 km with inclination at 51.6°. Its shape was pretty unusual comparing to cubic shaped Cubesat satellites. Instruments and power unit were closed in cylindrical housing with flat cover in the one end and with conical shroud at the opposite side. Shroud had simple straight antenna installed on the top. Length of the satellite was 17 cm with diameter at 25 cm. Satellite had simple temperature regulation system based on covering housing with two color painting: black and white stripes should provide constant temperature inside satellite at 20°C. Satellite was controlled by computer based on single chip by Silicon Laboratories – C8051F022. Communication system was GlobalStar modem and radio beacon based on COSPAS-S&RSAT system for monitoring powering of the satellite.
Mission of the satellite had multiple objectives: first was performing tests of GlobalStar satellite communication system with utilization of onboard modems and antenna. Second was general testing of satellite gathering data which could be useful during next mission: determining attitude motion for developing approach for attitude determination for using sun-sensors based on photodiodes.
Concept of next satellite from TNS series was unveiled on 21 April 2016. According to RIA Novosti news agency, spokesman of the JSC “Russian Space Systems”, manufacturer of second TNS-0, announced:
“As part of the research program of technologies, RKS will design, manufacture and prepare for launch small satellite in 2017. The nano-satellite technology demonstrator, TNS-0 №2 will help in developing new technology which will be used to create new solutions in space telecommunications, navigation, real-time monitoring during emergency situations.”
Along with statement, some technical details were unveiled. Satellite will be probably larger than its predecessor with length of 20 cm to 65 cm and weight increased to 4.8 kg. Satellite will be equipped in solar arrays; it will use GlobalStar communication system with additional VHF transponder. Predicted operational life will be identical as for TEKh-42-1 at 3 months. Additional details about payload of the satellite were not unveiled but it is probable that this time it will be imaging or remote sensing equipment.
Single satellite deployed from ISS will not make Roscosmos a leader in nanosatellite business, but for sure it will help to develop own solutions and technologies for future. But for Roscosmos competition outside Russia is not only problem. On October 2015 Russian commercial company remaining outside Roscosmos Corporation, Dauria Aerospace signed agreement with Chinese VC fund company, Cybernaut. Objective of the agreement is establishing joint venture based in Hong Kong focused on delivering satellite services under name “Urban Observer”. Company activity will be based on own fleet of imaging nanosatellites which will photograph at least 100 of world’s largest cities. First launch of “Auriga HD”, designed and build by Dauria Aerospace, small imaging satellite (with weight under 50 kg) is planned already for 2017.