Research hardware implemented onboard Foton-M №4

16 july 2014

On the 16th of July research hardware was implemented onboard Foton-M №4 and after it was tested.

There were installed 22 units of research hardware onboard spacecraft, in all. It was developed by leading research companies of Russia such as: GRC RF IMBP RAS, FSUE TsNIIMash, subsidiary of FSUE TsENKI-NIISK, SSAU aft. S.P.Korolev, IPUSS RAS and others.

Research carried onboard spacecraft has several purposes:

Research of physicotechnical bases of space technology and production;

Application of technological process and units;

Experimental reception of materials and substances in flight;

Biotechnological experiments;

Researching the effects of outer space on bioobjects.

Traditionally most of the research hardware implemented into Foton-M № 4 is meant for experiments in the field of space technology. Experiments with life forms will also be continued. Geckos, fruit flies, microorganisms and seeds of higher plants will be put into space. Research on gravitational physiology, exobiology, biotechnology, radiobiology and radiation dosimetry will be carried out, as well.

V.N.Sychov, deputy director of RAS IMBP, commented on scientific importance of the experiments: Experiments which we carry out, help us to obtain more information about effects influencing on human being in flight as well as help us to understand ways to secure cosmonauts against such effects. Such data are of great importance for people who are in outer space. Flights of Bion and Foton spacecraft are our contribution to future».

Information about Foton-M № 4

From the beginning of space age it became necessary to carry out actual testing of new structural materials, equipment, units and system in order to approve their operability under influence of space flight factors. From the other hand, it is necessary to study features of flight environment and for this purpose it is required comprehensive research of cosmic rays, X-rays and gamma radiation, electric-field variations and mechanisms of their appearance, etc.

In 1970th a new trend of science was developed. It was space technology. Weightlessness and vacuum became unique environment to improve features of existing materials and to obtain new materials. There was a possibility to obtain features of crystals, metals, composite materials and biological materials using outer space which is not possible to achieve in the laboratory.

Specialists of TsSKB and Progress plant developed Foton spacecraft to solve such problems.

The spacecraft, used as research laboratory, has some advantages if compared with orbital station. As there is no interference created by a crew onboard spacecraft, the microgravity level for experiments is more stable and optimal during the whole flight: up to 700 kg of equipment and obtained samples are received back inside descent module; the spacecraft allows to meet requirements necessary to carry out experiments; advanced TM system allows to control and correct time of experiments from ground stations. Moreover, it is possible to begin experiments on the ground, before launch, after it, or even at the time of descent, like Meteorit experiment carried out onboard Foton-M №4.

The first Foton SC was launched in 1985 and was in orbit for 13 days. The experiments results were in great demand and from 1985 till 1999 12 Foton SC were operated successfully i.e. launches were performed annually. Duration of flight is 13-18 days. Descent module landed at specified area with the help of soft landing system. Research in the field of semiconductor and optical materials, biotechnology, cell biology, space factors effects on returned samples and in the other areas of science was made onboard Foton in the meantime. Results of experiments performed onboard Foton SC brought new scientific knowledge about features of technological processes in space that is used on the ground. SC of Foton and Foton-M type is developed and produced at SRC Progress, onboard systems are developed by FSUE General Engineering Design Bureau (now subsidiary of FSUE «TsENKI» - NIISK), TsNIImash and by other companies. SC is assembled and tested at SRC Progress and also research hardware is tested there. Final preparation of SC and implementation of research hardware are performed at cosmodrome.

Beginning with Foton №5 mission foreign scientists and specialists have been participating in experiments. Foton-M №1 SC with advanced performance characteristics was developed in 2002. Foton-M №2 and №3 were successfully launched in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Launches of Foton SC were performed from Plesetsk cosmodrome. Foton-M № 2 and № 3were launched from Baikonur.

Foton-M № 4 differs fundamentally from its previous versions. Actually, structure of descent module is the same; the only deference is a composition of onboard and research hardware. Structure of Foton-M № 4 is similar with structure of Bion-M № 1, except for life support system, implemented onboard spacecraft, necessary for life forms. Foton-M № 4 is not equipped with such system; life forms will consume oxygen reserve of the descent module.

Developers of the spacecraft had to increase operating life and improve onboard microgravity characteristics. For this purpose power supply system and propulsion system were changed.

Power onboard Foton used to be supplied with electrochemical power source and when the power was spent, the flight was terminated. As a rule, duration of flight was no more 20 days. Batteries onboard Foton-M № 4 are charged with solar batteries and it increases operating life in orbit depending on program of experiments. In this case operating life is 60 days. Average day power supply of SC is increased up to 1400 Watt because of the solar batteries (average day power supply of the equipment – up to 500 watt, average day power supply of the research hardware – up to 900 Watt).

The second difference of Foton from its previous version is a combined propulsion system. It is possible to change SC orbit parameters after separation from the launcher with the help of such propulsion system. SC used to be operated in orbit where it was injected by launcher (about 300 km), but now it is possible to change orbit altitude. After Foton-M № 4 separation from the launcher, propulsion system is activated and it is possible to inject SC into higher circular orbit (altitude of 575 km, inclination of 64,90) and it helps to improve microgravity level up to 10-6.

Moreover, with the help of possibility to correct an orbit, combined propulsion system ensures more accurate landing at specified areas where searching and evacuation means have to be brought. It is more efficient work procedure which enables considerably to reduce delivery time of experiments results to customers.

Structure of Foton-M № 4 consists of descent module (DM), instrumental module (IM) and propulsion module (PM).

Descent module is a main module of SC. It is a pressurized module equipped with research hardware and equipment necessary for descent and landing of the module. Research hardware is to be brought back inside descent module after experiments completion. Descent module is a sphere with a diameter of 2,2 m covered with heat-resistant shield against aerodynamic heating at the time of re-entry. DM is equipped with hatches used for assembly and maintenance of research hardware and equipment at producer-plant, cosmodrome and at landing site. Research hardware is being implemented inside module and outside, well as. Total mass of returned research hardware inside the module is up to 421 kg.

Instrumental Module is equipped with hardware meant for SC operability: command radio link, TM system, control system, power-supply system.

Propulsion module is equipped with combined propulsion system and rechargeable batteries of power-supply system.