Military spacecraft launched by Russian forces

Posted: April 2, 2003

Russia successfully launched a military cargo into orbit Wednesday morning from its northern cosmodrome.

Launch was at 0153 GMT (8:53 p.m. EST Tuesday) from the Plesetsk space base in far northern Russia, wire reports indicated. Ground controllers made contact with the payload after it separated from the launcher's upper stage according to the Russian Information Agency Novosti.

The Molniya M booster carried a Molniya-type military communications satellite into a highly-inclined, egg-shaped orbit. The spacecraft will spend much of each orbit over certain selected strategic regions to relay commands and communications among military forces and other assets.

Molniya satellites spend much of their time seemingly "hanging" over the far northern regions of Russia, where users are out of range of other communications birds in the more traditional geostationary ring parked above the equator. The low end of their orbit is positioned so it will sweep quickly over the southern hemisphere.

The satellite was the first to be orbited from Plesetsk in 2003. It was also the first Russian military launch of the year.

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