MOSCOW: A carrier rocket with two European satellites has been successfully launched from the Plesetsk space centre in northwest Russia, a spokesman for the Russian Space Forces said Monday.
"A Rokot carrier rocket with the SMOS spacecraft and the Proba-2 mini-satellite, developed under European Space Agency's initiative, has been successfully launched," Aleksei Zolotukhin said, adding the launch took place at 4.50 a.m.
Once in orbit at an altitude of 756 km, the 665-kg SMOS spacecraft will produce global maps of high resolution and sensitivity showing variations in soil moisture and saline levels in the world's oceans. The mission is part of ESA's Earth Explorer Envelope Programme.
The 130-kg Proba-2 (Project for On-Board Autonomy) research satellite will test new technologies for autonomous space missions for ESA's Technology Directorate.
The Rokot launch vehicle is a modified version of the Russian RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile. It uses the two original lower stages of the ICBM, in conjunction with a Breeze-KM upper-stage for commercial payloads.
This is the third Rokot launch of 2009. In March, a Rokot launch vehicle successfully put into orbit the European GOCE satellite, which will measure and map the Earth's gravitational field. In July, a Rokot with three Russian Cosmos-series military satellites was launched by Russia's Space Forces from the Plesetsk space centre.