A Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying two satellites made by Dauria Aerospace successfully lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9.36 a.m. on Friday.

The Soyuz launch vehicle being readied for takeoff at the Baikonur cosmodrome this week. Photo: Roscosmos.

The two MKA-N 1 6U CubeSats (miniature satellites made up of multiple cubic units) were designed and built by Dauria under commission from Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation. They were launched as part of a secondary payload accompanying the primary payload, Roscosmos’ Kanopus-B-IK Earth observation satellite.

Dauria’s MKA-N medium resolution earth observation satellites provide the same functions as large remote-sensing satellites, but are significantly smaller and lighter, weighing about 10 kilograms. They are equipped with a triple-axle stabilisation and orientation system, which makes it possible to direct the satellite’s camera at the required sites on the Earth’s surface with a high degree of precision. 

Friday’s launch was the first in Russia of satellites commissioned by the state – Roscosmos – and built by a private company, Dauria. The nano- and small-class satellite-maker became the first private space company to sign a partnership agreement with Roscosmos when it won a state contract back in 2012 worth 310 million rubles ($5.1 million at current exchange rates) to build the two MKA-N satellites.

The path to cooperation between the state and Russia’s burgeoning private space startups has not been an easy one, but progress is being made, and in this respect, Friday’s launch marked a milestone.

Models of the Dauria satellites launched Friday can be seen at the MAKS international aviation and space salon on July 18-23 in the Moscow region city of Zhukovsky.  

In total, 72 smallsats piggybacked onto the launch of Kanopus-V-IK on Friday, making it a record in terms of the number of smallsats to be injected into several target orbits during one mission. The other satellites included a Flying Laptop microsatellite made in Germany, and CubeSats made in the U.S. and at three Russian universities. The Mayak (Lighthouse) satellite made at Moscow Polytechnic University raised 5 million rubles ($84,000) for its production via crowdfunding, and will become the brightest object in the night sky once it enters orbit, visible from all of Earth’s cities.

Models of the Dauria satellites launched Friday can be seen at the MAKS international aviation and space salon on July 18-23 in the city of Zhukovsky in the Moscow region, at the Skolkovo Foundation’s joint stand, presented together with the Moscow government under the brand Made in Moscow.  

Three of Dauria’s satellites – two Perseus-M nanosatellites and a DX-1 microsatellite – are already operating in orbit. Friday’s launch was the third space launch of satellites developed and built by Skolkovo residents: in 2014, fellow space cluster resident Sputnix launched Russia’s first private remote sensing microsatellite, the Tablesat-Aurora.