A lightweight member of Russia's Angara rocket family launched its first orbital mission last week, sending a military payload aloft, according to reports.
The Angara 1.2 rocket launched on April 29 from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, which is roughly 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Moscow, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com (opens in new tab), which is run by Russian independent journalist Anatoly Zak.
Launch success was confirmed by Russian state media, but with few details. The state-run outlet TASS (opens in new tab) said the rocket was launched "in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry." The spacecraft has been designated Kosmos-2555 and is sending telemetry correctly, the ministry added in the report.
"The elegant, light Angara came through for us and successfully passed the test. I congratulate everyone involved with the successful launch," Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, wrote on Telegram, per a second TASS report (opens in new tab) April 29.
The satellite launched into a near-polar orbit. Its path has been confirmed by the U.S. Space Force, which found it in an inclination of 96.5 degrees to the equator, in an initial orbit that was 173 miles by 183 miles (279 by 294 km) in altitude.
Later observations, RussianSpaceWeb reported, "indicated that the stage had actually boosted its apogee to an altitude of around 500 kilometers [311 miles], probably simulating a future delivery mission to a higher orbit. The vehicle could then be deorbited over the Pacific."
The Angara 1.2 can lift up to 3.8 tons (3.4 tonnes) to low-Earth orbit, RussianSpaceWeb stated, a fraction of the estimated 24.5 tons (22.2 tonnes) of payload that the thrice-flown Angara A5 heavy-lift rocket can heft into space.
This is the second launch of the Angara 1.2 family overall, following a successful suborbital test of a modified version on July 9, 2014. The suborbital test carried a mass simulator on board that stood in place of a payload.
Angara 1.2 launches are marketed by International Launch Services (opens in new tab), a company that has historically advertised commercial missions for a variety of customers worldwide.
Russia, however, is under numerous international sanctions after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, with space entities around the world dissolving many of their partnerships with Russia.