Friday, December 26, 2014

Russia Launches New Military Satellite into Orbit

Soyuz-2.1b launch with Lotos-S satellite on Dec. 25, 2014. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia’s Soyuz-2-1b rocket conducted its penultimate flight of the year on Thursday morning, successfully carrying the second Lotos-S reconnaissance satellite into orbit in a morning launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Liftoff was on schedule at 06:01 local time (03:01 UTC). According to the Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin, the satellite was put in orbit at 06:16 a.m. local time. “Stable telemetric communications has been established and is maintained with the satellite. Its onboard systems are working normally,” he said.

The rocket used in Thursday’s launch was a Soyuz 2.1b modification - the second version of the Soyuz-2 rocket family, which uses a more advanced third-stage engine than its 2.1a predecessor.

“It was the sixth launch of the medium-class Soyuz 2 rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome by the Aerospace Defense Forces in 2014,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The previous launch was on December 1, when a second Glonass-K satellite of the Russian global positioning satellite system joined the orbital constellation.”

Lotos-S No.802, which will likely be known as Kosmos 2503 now it has reached orbit, is part of Russia’s Liana programme, which is intended to modernise the country’s electronic signals intelligence (ELINT) capabilities.

Once operational Liana will consist of two series of satellites; Lotos will be used to intercept radio communications while Pion-NKS satellites will perform naval reconnaissance duties.

The Lotos-S satellites are stripped-down versions of the Lotos design, intended to allow in-orbit testing and provide an initial operational capacity ahead of fully operational satellites being deployed.

Kosmos 2455, the first Lotos-S satellite, was deployed by a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from Plesetsk in November 2009. One of the spacecraft’s instrument panels or antennae was reported to have not deployed properly at first, however by the end of November this had rectified. Subsequently there were unconfirmed reports that the spacecraft had ceased to function in late 2011.

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