The capstone of a fleet ofGerman military satellites rocketed into space from Russia early Tuesday,completing a series of five launchings of spacecraft designed to scoutlocations around the world.
The SAR-Lupe 5 satellite, a1,700-pound craft (771-kg) outfitted with cloud-piercing and night-visionradar, launched aboard a Russian Kosmos 3M rocket at 0240 GMT Tuesday (10:40p.m. EDT Monday), according to news reports.
The 105-foot (32-meter) tallbooster tookoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a space base in far northern Russia nearthe Arctic Circle.
The rocket successfullyreleased SAR-Lupe 5 into an orbit 300 miles (482 km) high about a half-hourlater, according to OHB-System, the satellite's prime contractor.
The spacecraft carries alarge dish antenna connected to a powerful X-band radar system. The syntheticaperture radar signals can see through clouds and observe ground objectsaround the clock.
Optical reconnaissancesatellites are hampered by weather and darkness, significantly reducing theireffectiveness in spying on enemy activity.
Imagery produced by theinstrument will show objects as small as three feet, according to OHB-System.
The five satellites arespread among three orbital planes to provide regular global coverage,OHB-System officials said.
SAR-Lupe launches began inDecember 2006. Subsequent satellites were launched in July 2007, November 2007and March.
The German military, whichtook control of SAR-Lupe satellite operations in December, will use the systemfor the next ten years.
The SAR-Lupesystem is part of an international intelligence-sharing agreement betweenGermany and France. France will receive SAR-Lupe radar imagery and Germany willreceive data from the French Helios optical and infrared reconnaissance network.
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