Russia launched an early warning satellite Tuesday, deploying the first in a new fleet of military satellites to detect missile launches heading for Russian territory.
The secretive payload blasted off at 0634 GMT (1:34 a.m. EST) aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a military facility in northern Russia’s Arkhangelsk region, according to a statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry.
The launcher flew in the modernized Soyuz-2.1b configuration with an upgraded third stage engine and a digital flight control system. A Fregat upper stage was programmed to fire multiple times to guide the mission’s satellite payload, believed to be the first EKS-class missile warning platform, into an elliptical Tundra-type orbit positioned over high latitudes.
The defense ministry declared the flight successful in its statement after the launch.
“All the required procedures and the Soyuz-2.1b space rocket launch were carried out as planned,” the defense ministry said.
Russia did not release the satellite’s orbital parameters or data on its specifications and capabilities, but U.S. military tracking assets indicated the spacecraft was placed in an orbit with a low point of approximately 1,626 kilometers (1,010 miles), a high point of 38,550 kilometers (23,953 miles) and an inclination of 63.8 degrees.
Russian authorities officially named the new EKS satellite Kosmos 2510, keeping with the country’s nomenclature for defense-related spacecraft.
EKS is a Russian acronym that translates to integrated space system, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com. The EKS satellites replace Russia’s Oko early warning system, which had its last satellite launch in 2012.
RussianSpaceWeb.com reported the last Oko satellite failed in orbit in 2014, leaving ground-based radars as the Russian government’s only way to detect incoming missiles.
Russia’s Novosti news agency reported last year that 10 EKS satellites will be launched by 2018 to complete the space-based early warning network.
Tuesday’s launch marked the sixth space mission to lift off from Plesetsk this year, and the fourth using a Soyuz booster. It was the 13th launch of the Soyuz rocket family worldwide in 2015.
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