Molniya satellite deployed from Plesetsk spaceport

Posted: June 20, 2003

Russian space forces successfully launched a military communications satellite into orbit from its northern cosmodrome Thursday, wire reports said.

Liftoff of the Molniya-M rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in far northern Russia was at around 2000 GMT (4:00 p.m. EDT). The spacecraft was injected into the correct orbit less than an hour later, Itar-Tass reported.

The payload was a Molniya communications satellite -- the second to be launched so far this year. Molniya spacecraft circle the Earth in highly inclined elliptical orbits that have an apogee over the far northern hemisphere. This allows them to linger high above locales that are too far out of reach for communications through satellites in geostationary orbit parked above the equator

The Molniya constellation's purpose serves primarily to relay communications for Russian government and military authorities.

Thursday's launch marked the fourth Russian military launch so far this year. Overall, it was the 29th orbital launch of 2003.

It was also the 1,680th flight of a Soyuz family launch vehicle dating back nearly a half-century.