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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 (opens in new tab). 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."

Related: The Most Dangerous Space Weapons Concepts Ever (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) (which Space.com 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 (opens in new tab). 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, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.

  • 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!
    Reply