Russian imaging satellite is successfully passing through commissioning procedure in spite of previous problems with deploying one of the two solar panels.
Satellite was launched on atop of Soyuz-2.1b on March 13, 2016 from launch site 31, pad 6 at Baikonur Cosmodrome. Satellite, designed by TsSKB Progress, is imaging spacecraft designed to operate from 470 km – 483 km orbit (with inclination at 97.276°) along with two previous Resurs-P satellites (launched in 2013 P1 and 2014 P2). Unfortunately next day after launch, ground control center spotted problems with deploying one from two solar arrays. It caused problems with powering – satellite was not able to fully recharge onboard battery and was not able to operate in full time. Further attempts for unjamming solar array were unsuccessful – operators from ground control center waited for the moment when satellite would start propulsion – vibrations coming from thruster working with 2.94 kN should unjam mechanism of deployment.
According to Tass and Roscosmos, Resurs-P3 reached designated orbit after second correct at 06:35 GMT on 20 March 2016 after lasting one week space journey. First correction was performed on March 17 2016 with engine burn lasting 70 s. Second maneuver was performed on 20 March and burn last for 43 s. Both burns were unfortunately not enough to move array into correct position and weighing 5920 kg satellite was still not fully powered. It did not stood on the way for performing first test pictures with Geoton-L1 telescope. Roscosmos claimed that satellite has enough power to operate according to specification and serve well various Russian Ministries from Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing to Ministry of Defence. First high resolution pictures were transmitted to Earth on 23 March 2016. It seems that technical potential of imaging devices is still impressive – pictures taken by Reusurs-P3 looks amazing and proves that onboard devices are working correctly. Further tests performed with imaging payload let Roscosmos to confirm that satellite works correctly and meets the primary technical specifications. Corporation also not confirmed that folded solar array interferes significantly in the performance of spacecraft or limiting its operation ability. Appropriate statement and pictures can be found on Mission Control Center (MCC) official site.
On picture above: Skylab space station with partially deployed array on the low right side of the picture. Problems with deploying solar arrays are not something unusual, even during manned missions.