Kosmos rocket launched
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: December 21, 2005
Two Russian government satellites were delivered to space by a Kosmos-3M rocket flown from the country's northern space base on Wednesday, in the midst of a day that included three orbital launches after launch pads around the world were silent for over a month.
Liftoff of the 48th space mission of the year was at 1934 GMT (2:34 p.m. EST), reports from the Russian news agency Itar-Tass said. The two-stage booster delivered the dual payloads into a circular high-inclination orbit about 900 miles high just short of an hour later to complete the flight.
The launch was postponed for 24 hours after a Tuesday attempt was scrubbed when engineers noticed a failure in the second stage power supply system. News agencies quoted an official as saying workers had to replace batteries in the system before the launch could proceed.
Aboard the rocket was the first in a modernized series of Gonets civil security communications satellites that will operate for a longer period of time than its predecessors. Called Gonets-D1M, the new generation of spacecraft will continue services provided by older members of the constellation.
Those duties include communications relays for over 30 Russian agencies, according to Itar-Tass. Variants of Gonets satellites - translated in English as "messenger" - have been in space since 1992, scattered in groups throughout different orbital planes to ensure reliable and consistent communications with users across Russia.
The 500-pound satellite will primarily work to rapidly transmit and collect information such as short messages like e-mail, and can follow the path of various objects fitted with tracking devices, details from RIA Novosti indicated.
Also sent into orbit on the Kosmos-3M was a defense ministry craft known as Rodnik, but it is expected to be renamed in the Russian military identification scheme as Kosmos 2416. Experts believe the craft could be similar to Gonets, but a version to instead be used by military forces.
Kosmos 2416 also carried notes written by Russian children describing their dreams for the New Year. Winners of a contest had their messages hauled into the final frontier where they will stay for many generations to come.