Russia launches first Arktika-M weather satellite | Polarjournal
The satellite successfully reached its intended orbit after being transported by a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Photo: Roscosmos)

The Arktika-M-1 satellite was launched on February 28, 2021 at 12:55 local time and is the first of ten Arktika satellites that Roscosmos plans to put into orbit over the next few years. Arktika-M-1 was launched on a Soyuz 2.1b rocket from launch complex 31/6 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome and orbits the Earth in a highly elliptical orbit of 1,000 to 40,000 km with an inclination of 63.4°. The elliptical orbit of the satellite makes it possible to spend a lot of time over a polar region.

The Soyuz-2-1b rocket with the Arktika-M-1 satellite is carried to launch pad 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 25, 2021. (Photo: Roscosmos)

Russia has launched its first satellite to monitor the climate in the Arctic. According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, a Soyuz rocket carried the Arktika-M satellite into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday. “The satellite successfully reached its intended orbit after being launched by a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan,” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, said in a post on Twitter.

A Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle launched the Arktika-M meteorological satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 07:55 UTC (12:55 local time) on February 28, 2021. Arktika-M was developed by NPO Lavochkin (part of Roscosmos) for monitoring climate and environment in the Arctic. (Video: Roscosmos)

The start was originally planned for 2015, but was delayed several times due to instruments not being delivered on time. After the final tests in December 2020, the Soyuz 2.1b with the satellite on board was driven to the launch pad on February 25 before being launched on February 28.

When the upper stage is deployed, the protective fairing is mounted over the 2.2-ton satellite. (Photo: Roscosmos)

To serve as a meteorological satellite for the Arctic, Arktika-M-1 was launched into a special highly elliptical orbit. With a near-Earth range of about 1,000 km and a farthest range of about 40,000 km and an inclination of 63.4°, it will enable the satellite to monitor the Arctic region from a high vantage point and over long periods of time. The satellite needs about 12 hours for one orbit around the earth. Arktika-M will provide round-the-clock continuous monitoring of the northern territory of Russia and the seas of the Arctic Ocean.

“With this elliptical orbit, the satellite can monitor the Arctic every 15 to 30 minutes and capture images that cannot be continuously observed by satellites orbiting the Earth above the Earth’s equator,” Roscosmos said.

Russia plans to put a second satellite into orbit in 2023. Together, the two satellites will provide round-the-clock monitoring of the Arctic Ocean and the Earth’s surface. (Photo: Roscosmos)

The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average over the past three decades and the government in Moscow is trying to develop the energy-rich region. The economic exploitation of the Arctic is one of the main goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the Arctic has huge oil and gas reserves. It also aims to make the Northern Sea Route more accessible and safer for shipping. For this purpose, weather data on the land and sea areas of the Arctic are important.

According to Roscosmos, however, at least two satellites are needed to achieve complete monitoring. The second Arktika-M satellite is not scheduled to be launched until 2023. Three more satellites will follow in 2024 and 2025.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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