A Soyuz rocket launched a Russian military payload Friday on a secret mission, but observers believe the satellite carries a high-resolution camera to spy on other countries.
The defense satellite launched at 1500 GMT (11 a.m. EDT) Friday aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to the Novosti news agency.
U.S. tracking data indicates the Soyuz rocket deployed the payload in an orbit stretching from an altitude of 203 miles to 105 miles. The inclination is about 67.2 degrees.
The parameters closely match the orbits reached by previous Soyuz rockets carrying Kobalt optical reconnaissance satellites.
High-resolution cameras on Kobalt satellites snap pictures of locations around the world. Kobalt spacecraft reportedly carry canisters to return film to Earth during the satellite's mission, which will last at least several months.
The fresh satellite will be named Kosmos 2462 under the Russian military's nomenclature for defense satellites.
Friday's launch marked the 14th space launch to reach orbit worldwide this year. It was also the first launch from Plesetsk in 2010 and the third Soyuz rocket flight this year.
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