Small Rocket Launches Russian Satellites

German Spy Satellite Launches into Space
A Kosmos 3M rocket launches the German-built SAR-Lupe 2 satellite into space the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on July 2, 2007. (Image credit: OHB-System AG.)

A Kosmos 3M rocket boosteda secret Russian military satellite and a civilian search and rescue spacecraftinto orbit early Tuesday.

The 106-foot-tall launcher lifted off at0357 GMT (11:57 p.m. EDT Monday) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northernRussia, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

The two-stage rocketdelivered the payloads to orbit about an hour later, the Novosti news agencyreported.

The Kosmos 3M booster,making its first flight of the year, was believed to be carrying a Parusnavigation satellite for the Russian Defense Ministry. Parus satellites circleEarth in 620-mile-high orbits over the poles.

The new Parus spacecraftwill likely be renamed Kosmos 2454 when it joins Russia's military satellitefleet.

A next-generation searchand rescue satellite was also launched Tuesday.

The Sterkh 1 craft is partof Russia's contribution to the COSPAS-SARSAT international satellite systemfor search and rescue. The 353-pound spacecraft will detect distress beacon signalsfrom land, sea and air, determine their location, and relay the information toemergency officials.

Tuesday's mission was the39th space launch to reach orbit this year, and the 17th orbital flightfrom Russia.

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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.