Russia has launched the first Soyuz mission following a mishap earlier this month that forced the crew of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft into a ballistic descent escape. The launch deployed the Lotos-S1/Kosmos 2528 spy satellite aboard a Soyuz-2.1b for the country’s Ministry of Defence.
Although this morning’s launch was aboard a Soyuz 2.1b and not the FG variant that launched the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft, the rockets share much of the same hardware. This includes the boosters and first stage that have already been identified as the cause of the MS-10 failure. As a result, this morning’s success may be seen by many as Russia’s first step towards regaining trust in their long-running crewed space programme.
The Soyuz-2.1b lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 00:15 UTC this morning. In a post on the Roscomos Facebook page, officials confirmed that the satellite had been deployed successfully and that Russian Space Forces (VKS) had acquired a strong signal from the satellite. Once VKS operators had secured control, the satellite was reassigned as Kosmos 2528.
The Kosmos 2528 is an electronic intelligence satellite. It was deployed into low Earth orbit with an apogee of roughly 900 kilometres (560 miles) at an inclination of 67.15 degrees. Once operational, the satellite will intercept radio signals in order to assist military operators to locate and characterise targets.
Kosmos 2528 is the fourth satellite of Russia’s Liana signals intelligence (SIGINT) programme constellation. The first, a prototype was launched in November 2009. This was meant to be followed by the first operational unit. However, due to delays in development, a second prototype was launched in December 2014 before the first operational unit was launched in December 2017.