Soyuz 2-1b Rocket Launches Classified Military Payload
A Soyuz-2 rocket carrying the MetOp-A weather satellite stands poised to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Oct. 17, 2006. The attempt was scrubbed secons before liftoff.
Credit: Eumetsat.

Russia launched a military reconnaissance satellite Saturday using a modernized version of the Soyuz rocket, according to news reports.

The Soyuz 2-1b rocket lifted off at 1831 GMT (2:31 p.m. EDT) from Complex 43 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The rocket's payload, believed to be the first in a new series of spy satellites, reached orbit about nine minutes later, according to the Interfax news agency.

The new satellite series, called Persona, features updated imaging technology and an extended lifetime of up to seven years.

The first Persona spacecraft was renamed Kosmos 2441 in the Russian military's nomenclature for satellites.

Saturday's launch was the first flight of the Soyuz 2-1b rocket from Plesetsk. The updated version of the venerable launcher was first flown from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2006.

The Soyuz 2-1b booster includes an advanced digital control system and a more powerful third stage engine to increase performance.

The mission marked the 37th space launch to reach orbit so far this year. It was also the fourth space launch of the year from Plesetsk.