Today from Plesetsk cosmodrome Roscosmos launched geodetic military satellite GEO-IT-2 (GRAU 14F31) on atop of Rokot with Briz-KM, after two years of delay.

Mission was originally postponed from 2014 and finally it was put into flight schedule for 2016. After multiple delays launch was set for June 4, 2016 from Eurockot Pad 3 in Launch Complex 133 in Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Main objective of the mission was delivering GEO-IT-2 12L to circular orbit with following parameters: 1000 km × 1000 km orbit with inclination at 99.4°. It is second satellite from GEO-IT-2 series after first 11L launched on 2011 and 13L planned for 2017.

T-0 was set for 14:00 GMT (17:00 Moscow time) and punctually Rockot launch vehicle operated by Russian-German joint venture Eurockot Launch Services started to rise over Pad 3 in Plesetsk cosmodrome LC-133. First stage separated at T+2’16” and rocket was continuing flight to northwest direction. Rocket jettisoned payload fairing after over three minutes of flight on altitude of 120 km. After T+5’30” second stage separated and Briz-KM upper stage started its engines on altitude of 240 km. It is worth to mention that second stage of Rockot containing N2o4/UDMH fall into waters of Baffin Bay, east of Ellesmere Island, in exclusive Canadian economic zone (it continuously meets with the opposition of people living in this region, who are afraid of toxic hydrazine remaining in tanks of second stage of Rockot to contaminate region). On Northern Canada Briz-KM started its elliptical orbit to reach apogee over Indian Ocean and after engine firing it deployed satellite at 15:55 GMT on 1000 km x 1000 km circular orbit.

Geo-IK-2 12L is geodetic satellite for measuring altitude with high precision (that is why it was placed on circular orbit). Using special altimeter it will measure distance from ocean surface to give precision image of the shape of Earth. Altimeter (“Sadko”) was made by Thales Alenia Space basing on Poseidon-2 device used for Jason-1 satellite. As additional payload, GEO-IT-2 was also equipped with time synchronizer, laser retroreflector, transmitter with antenna operating on Ka band and navigation receivers based on GPS and GLONASS. In spite of civilian purpose, precision data on Earth surface could help in improving accuracy of nuclear warheads in ICBMs for Russian armed forces. Satellite was built by ISS Reshetnev and weighs 1400 kg; it is powered with two deployable solar arrays with onboard battery. It is utilizing 3 axis stabilization system and according some sources it is partially based on Uragan satellite bus.

Rockot light rocket was designed in Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center as a modification of existing ICBM missile UR-100N (SS-19 Stiletto). First flight was performed on 20 November 1990 from Baikonur cosmodrome. Rockot is able to lift on 200 km orbit almost 2 metric tons of payload (1950 kg accurately). It weighs 107000 kg with length of 29 m and diameter at 2.5 m. General design is based on two stages and upper stage which are utilizing toxic N2O4/UDMH. First stage is powered with 3 RD-0233 and 1 RD-0234 engines with thrust at 2080 kN. Propulsion of the second stage is based on two engines: RD-0235 and RD-0236 with total thrust at 255.76 kN. Third stage is Briz-KM which is powered by one S5.98M engine providing thrust at 19.6 kN.

Commercial history of Rockot started in 1995 when Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center established company with DaimlerBenz Space for introducing Rockot into commercial market under Eurockot Launch Services Company. Eurockot shares were divided by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and DaimlerBenz Aerospace which decided to buy from Russian army 45 UR-100N missiles for further modifications by Khrunichev. In 2000 shares from DaimlerBenz Space were acquired by EADS Astrium (51% of shares at the moment) which became main partner of Khrunichev (49% of shares). Rockot was launched under Eurockot Launch Services in its first commercial mission on 16 May 2000 from Plesetsk cosmodrome with two SimSat satellites.