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A pair of Russian spacecraft launched by small rocket

Posted: July 21, 2009

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A Kosmos 3M rocket boosted a secret Russian military satellite and a civilian search and rescue spacecraft into orbit early Tuesday.

The 106-foot-tall launcher lifted off at 0357 GMT (11:57 p.m. EDT Monday) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

The two-stage rocket delivered the payloads to orbit about an hour later, the Novosti news agency reported.

The Kosmos 3M booster, making its first flight of the year, was believed to be carrying a Parus navigation satellite for the Russian Defense Ministry. Parus satellites circle Earth in 620-mile-high orbits over the poles.

The new Parus spacecraft will likely be renamed Kosmos 2454 when it joins Russia's military satellite fleet.

A next-generation search and rescue satellite was also launched Tuesday.

The Sterkh 1 craft is part of Russia's contribution to the COSPAS-SARSAT international satellite system for search and rescue. The 353-pound spacecraft will detect distress beacon signals from land, sea and air, determine their location, and relay the information to emergency officials.

Tuesday's mission was the 39th space launch to reach orbit this year, and the 17th orbital flight from Russia.