Russia Launches Military Satellite Into Orbit

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Russia launched a military satellite Friday, a day after the launch of a rocket carrying a European weather satellite was postponed indefinitely because of a problem discovered minutes before liftoff, officials said.

The military satellite was launched atop a Molniya-M booster rocket that blasted off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia, Space Forces spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin said.

There were no problems with the launch, but the rocket was to put the satellite in orbit outside the zone where it could be monitored by Russian tracking facilities, forcing officials to wait for it to move within range to determine the success of the mission, Zolotukhin said.

According to the ITAR-Tass news agency, Russia has 94 satellites in orbit, including more than 50 military satellites, but only 12 of those are still operational.


The Space Forces commander, Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, has said that the military does not have enough reconnaissance satellites and that a program to replace "old generation" military satellites with new satellites that will function for 7-10 years should be completed over the next two years or so, the agency reported. Russia's last military satellite launch was in May.

On Thursday, authorities indefinitely postponed the launch of a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket that was to have put a European Space Agency weather satellite, MetOp-A, in orbit. Preliminary investigations showed that a problem arose in the rocket's ground support system at the launch facility in Kazakhstan, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites said in a statement posted on its Web site.