Soyuz Rocket Launches Russian Military Satellite

A Soyuzrocket launched a Russian military payload Friday on a secret mission, butobservers believe the satellite carries a high-resolution camera to spy onother countries.

The defense satellitelaunched at 1500 GMT (11 a.m. EDT) Friday aboard a Soyuz rocket from thePlesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to the Novosti news agency.

U.S.tracking data indicates the Soyuz rocket deployed the payload in an orbitstretching from an altitude of 203 miles to 105 miles. The inclination is about67.2 degrees.

Theparameters closely match the orbits reached by previous Soyuz rockets carrying Kobaltoptical reconnaissance satellites.

High-resolutioncameras on Kobalt satellites snap pictures of locations around the world.Kobalt spacecraft reportedly carry canisters to return film to Earth during thesatellite's mission, which will last at least several months.

The freshsatellite will be named Kosmos 2462 under the Russian military's nomenclaturefor defense satellites.

Friday'slaunch marked the 14thspace launch to reach orbit worldwide this year. It was also the firstlaunch from Plesetsk in 2010 and the third Soyuz rocket flight this year.

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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.