The first Amateur Radio satellite to employ the D-Star digital voice and data format — D-Star One — was among about 20 secondary payloads lost on November 28 after an otherwise nominal launch of a three-stage Soyuz 2.1 booster from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far reaches of eastern Russia. The mission carried the Russian Meteor M2-1 satellite — the primary payload — as well as a Canadian Telestar experimental satellite, and 17 other secondary payloads, including D-Star One. According to reports, a fault occurred in the sophisticated and autonomous Fregat upper stage, which, after separating from the launch vehicle, inserts multiple spacecraft into their respective orbits. A so-called “space tug,” Fregat has been in service for nearly 2 decades and has suffered three previous failures. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the Fregat failure.
D-Star One, the first German commercial CubeSat, carried four communication modules, two designated for Amateur Radio use. It was developed by German Orbital Systems in cooperation with the Czech company iSky Technology as part of a plan to eventually assemble a low-Earth orbit communication network.
“Hopefully, we’ll get another chance to utilize D-Star communications with a satellite repeater sometime in the future,” Wayne Day, N5WD, commented on the AMSAT-BB.
The Fregat upper stage functions as an orbital vehicle in its own right to access a range of orbital configurations through a series of “burns.” Made up of 6 spherical tanks arrayed in a circle, Fregat is “independent from the lower three stages, having its own guidance, navigation, control, tracking, and telemetry systems,” according to Gunter’s Space Page.
The November 28 launch was only the second from the new cosmodrome.