Rockot Booster Hauls Three Russian Satellites Into Space

Threesmall communications satellite blastedoff Wednesday from northern Russia into low Earth orbit on a convertedballisticmissile.

The95-foot-tall Rockotlauncherlifted off at 0330 GMT Wednesday (11:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday)from Complex 133at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles north of Moscow.

Madeof retired missile parts, the Rockot'stwo core stages finished their work a few minutes after launch. ABreeze KMupper stage later injected the payloads in the planned orbit, accordingtoKhrunichev, the launch vehicle's prime contractor.

Spacecraftseparation was scheduled for 0514GMT (1:14 a.m. EDT), according to the Novosti news agency.

Itwas the 14th flight of the space-ratedRockot vehicle, which also launches international commercial andresearchsatellites.

Therocket was carrying three satellites forthe Russiangovernment, including the second civilian Gonets Mcommunicationsspacecraft designed to store and relay personal messages.

Gonetssatellites are built by InformationSatellite Systems Reshetnev Co.

The617-pound satellite was joined by twoRussian military payloads. Russia did not disclose the identity of theotherpayloads, but they are likely Strela communications satellites,militaryvariants of the Gonetssystem.

Wednesday'sflight was the 43rd space launchto reach orbit worldwide this year. It was the 20th successful Russianlaunchof 2010.

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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.