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Rockot hauls three Russian satellites into space

Posted: September 8, 2010

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Three small communications satellite blasted off Wednesday from northern Russia into low Earth orbit on a converted ballistic missile.

The 95-foot-tall Rockot launcher lifted off at 0330 GMT Wednesday (11:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday) from Complex 133 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles north of Moscow.

Made of retired missile parts, the Rockot's two core stages finished their work a few minutes after launch. A Breeze KM upper stage later injected the payloads in the planned orbit, according to Khrunichev, the launch vehicle's prime contractor.

Spacecraft separation was scheduled for 0514 GMT (1:14 a.m. EDT), according to the Novosti news agency.

It was the 14th flight of the space-rated Rockot vehicle, which also launches international commercial and research satellites.

The rocket was carrying three satellites for the Russian government, including the second civilian Gonets M communications spacecraft designed to store and relay personal messages.

Gonets satellites are built by Information Satellite Systems Reshetnev Co.

The 617-pound satellite was joined by two Russian military payloads. Russia did not disclose the identity of the other payloads, but they are likely Strela communications satellites, military variants of the Gonets system.

Wednesday's flight was the 43rd space launch to reach orbit worldwide this year. It was the 20th successful Russian launch of 2010.