Soyuz 2-1b Rocket Launches Classified Military Payload

Last Minute Glitch Prevents European Weather Satellite Launch
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. (Image credit: Eumetsat.)

Russia launched a military reconnaissance satellite Saturday using amodernized 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 newseries of spy satellites, reached orbit about nine minutes later, according tothe Interfax news agency.

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

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

Saturday's launch was the first flight of the Soyuz 2-1brocket from Plesetsk. The updated version of the venerable launcher was firstflown from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodromein 2006.

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

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

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Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at and on Twitter.