Russia launched its space satellite Arktika-M on Sunday on a mission to monitor the climate and environment in the Arctic amid a push by the Kremlin to expand the country’s activities in the region.
The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average over the last three decades and Moscow is seeking to develop the energy-rich region, investing in the Northern Sea Route for shipping across its long northern flank as ice melts.
The satellite successfully reached its intended orbit after being launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome by a Soyuz rocket, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, said in a post on Twitter.
Russia plans to send up a second satellite in 2023 and, combined, the two will offer round-the-clock, all-weather monitoring of the Arctic Ocean and the surface of the Earth, Roscosmos said.
In April 2018, Moscow-based RKS corporation announced that it had completed the production of the MSU-GSM scanning device for the first Arktika satellite and transferred it to NPO Lavochkin. By that time, the launch of the first spacecraft was promised in 2019, but by the middle of 2018, the first launch was pushed to the third or fourth quarter of 202o due to delays with the launch of the Elektro-L No. 3 satellite.
Because the performance of the imaging equipment aboard Elektro-L3 had to validate the design of the follow-on instruments aboard Arktika, engineers needed some time between the two missions to evaluate the quality of photos delivered by the third Elektro spacecraft. Still, the official schedule at the time called for the launch of Arktika in 2019.
By early 2020, the launch was set for December 9 of that year. Then, on September 14, RIA Novosti reported that the launch had been postponed until December 24; however, by early October 2020, Roskosmos indicated that the mission had slipped into 2021. By November 2020, the first launch was set for February 28, 2021, when everything was finally ready for a launch campaign. In December 2020, NPO Lavochkin declared vacuum testing of the first Arktika satellite inside the VK-600/300 chamber facility of NITs RKP centre in Peresvet successfully completed.