A Russian rocket provided a ride for more than 70 satellites this morning

On July14, 2017 at 09:36 Moscow time, Soyuz-2.1a lifted off from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch mission is to deliver an Earth observation Kanopus-V-IK satellite and 72 smallsats piggybacked under the federal and commercial contracts of Glavkosmos to their target orbits.

As reported in

This mission was essentially a rocket ride share, as the satellites belong to various companies and universities. The largest number of satellites on the mission belong to Planet — a San Francisco-based company looking to create a huge constellation of space probes that can constantly observe Earth. The company was able to pack 48 satellites on this trip, which may sound like a lot, but Planet’s hardware doesn’t take up too much room. The company’s signature vehicle is the Dove, measuring in at just a foot long and four inches wide. The tiny size allows Planet to fly a whole bunch of these satellites on single flights, usually as secondary payloads that hitch rides with other, larger satellites.

And that’s exactly how this flight worked, too. The main purpose of the mission was to get just one satellite into orbit, an Earth-observing probe called Kanopus-V-IK designed to spot forest fires from space. The largest satellite of the bunch, Kanopus-V-IK sat on top of the tower and was deployed first into its intended orbit. After that, the rocket then moved to a higher altitude to deploy 24 satellites. Once all those were sent off, the rocket moved back down to a lower altitude to drop the remaining 48 Planet satellites.

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