Russian Military Launches Secret Surveillance Satellite Into Orbit

A Russian Soyuz rocket launched a top-secret military satellite designed to scope out other satellites in space on Monday (Nov. 25), according to government reports.

The Soyuz-2.1v launch vehicle brought the satellite into orbit from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, which is roughly 500 miles or 800 kilometers north of Moscow, for the Russian Defense Ministry, the ministry said in a statement. The launch took place at 12:52 p.m. EST (1752 GMT or 8:52 p.m. local time).

"The spacecraft ... is launched into the target orbit from which the state of domestic satellites can be monitored," the ministry added. "The optical equipment of the spacecraft also allows you to take pictures of the Earth's surface."

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A Russian Soyuz 2.1v rocket launches a classified military satellite into orbit from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Nov. 25, 2019. The satellite can apparently track other satellites in orbit. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

The spacecraft — whose name is not yet disclosed by the ministry or the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) — is now under control of the Space Troops of the Aerospace Force. As of today (Nov. 26), it is functioning normally, the ministry said.

This is the fifth time a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle launched in 2019 from Plesetsk, Roscosmos said in their own statement (which translated into English using computer translation). Soyuz-2 is the next generation of rockets after Soyuz-U, which underwent 435 launches from Plesetsk between 1973 and 2012, Roscosmos added.

Russian authorities chose not to give notice of the launch ahead of time, but they did issue airspace warning notices of "drop zones" for rocket pieces as stages fell away from the Soyuz, according to SpaceflightNow. Trajectory information from these notices suggest that the Russians planned to launch a satellite into a near-polar orbit, which allows (over time) the satellite to view practically the entire Earth after several orbits.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • Science Rocketist
    Admin said:
    A Russian Soyuz rocket launched a top-secret military satellite designed to scope out other satellites in space on Monday (Nov. 25), according to government reports.

    Russian Military Launches Secret Surveillance Satellite Into Orbit : Read more
    Not that secret is it? If it is splattered large on your website!