Foton-M No.4

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Foton-M No.4
Mission type Microgravity research
Operator Roskosmos
COSPAR ID 2014-041A
SATCAT № 40095
Mission duration 60 days planned
44 days achieved
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type Foton-M 34KSM
Manufacturer TsSKB Progress
Launch mass 6,840 kilograms (15,080 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date 18 July 2014, 20:50:00 (2014-07-18UTC20:50Z) UTC
Rocket Soyuz-2-1a
Launch site Baikonur 31/6
End of mission
Landing date 1 September 2014, 09:18 (2014-09-01UTC09:19Z) UTC
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 254 kilometres (158 mi)[1]
Apogee 531 kilometres (330 mi)[1]
Inclination 64.88 degrees[1]
Period 92.28 minutes[1]
Epoch 1 September 2014, 03:20:32 UTC[1]

Foton-M No.4 is a Russian microgravity and bioscience research spacecraft launched in July 2014 as part of the Foton programme. It is the fourth spacecraft in the Foton-M series, and the first to use the 34KSM configuration incorporating the equipment module from a Yantar satellite in place of that of a Zenit on earlier missions.[2] [3]

Foton-M No.4 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 18 July 2014, atop a Soyuz-2-1a carrier rocket.[4] The launch was completed successfully, with the satellite separating from its rocket and beginning data transmission to its controllers. However, after four orbits, it ceased responding to commands issued to it from the ground. As a consequence of this, the spacecraft did not perform an orbit-raising maneuver that had been scheduled to occur shortly after orbital insertion. Satellite control was regained on 26 July by which time some of the microgravity experiments had already begun.[3] On 1 August the head of Roskosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, was quoted as saying that the satellite will fly its entire two-month mission as originally planned, despite the cancellation of the orbit-boosting maneuver. However, all of the experiments completed by 27 August, and the Russian space agency decided to return the spacecraft to Earth on 1 September, two weeks earlier than the original 15 September target landing date.[5][6]

Aboard the spacecraft are specimens for research on the biological effects of zero gravity and cosmic radiation. The specimens include geckos, silkworm eggs, dried seeds,[7] fruit flies, and mushrooms.[8] The geckos are part of biology experiments by Russia’s Institute of Medico-Biological Problems on the effects of weightlessness on mating.[8] Initial reports after the payload's return indicate that all five of the geckos launched in the experiment had died. Investigation is underway to determine the cause of death.[6] However, the fruit flies did survive the trip and were able to breed and develop successfully.[9]

Another experiment aboard the spacecraft is designed to measure the effects of microgravity on semiconductor crystal growth, with the ultimate goal of producing higher-quality crystals for use in electronics.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Peat, Chris (1 September 2014). "FOTON M4 - Orbit". Heavens-Above. Retrieved 15 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Launch Calendar: The Year's Space Mission Schedule". Retrieved 2 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Krebs, Gunter. "Foton-M 4, 5 (34KSM)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 25 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Graham, William (18 July 2014). "Soyuz 2-1A launches Foton-M with a crew of creatures". Retrieved 25 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Zaks, Anatoly (2 August 2014). "Roskosmos restores control over Foton-M4". Retrieved 14 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Russian Foton-M #4 Research Spacecraft successfully returns to Earth". Spaceflight101. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Clark, Stephen (24 July 2014). "Officials unable to contact animal-carrying spaceship". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 25 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Russian Gecko sex satellite lost in space". IANS. 25 July 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Kramer, Miriam (2 September 2014). "Russia's Space Sex Geckos Found Dead After Landing". Retrieved 19 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>