Russia launched four satellites to orbit on Saturday (Oct. 22), the nation's fifth liftoff in a two-week stretch.
A Soyuz rocket topped with three satellites for the Gonets-M communications constellation and a demonstration spacecraft called Skif-D lifted off Saturday at 3:57 p.m. EDT (1957 GMT; 10:57 p.m. Moscow time) from Vostochny Cosmodrome, in far eastern Russia.
All four satellites were deployed into their designated orbits as planned, according to Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency.
Each of the three Gonets-M satellites — Gonets-M33, Gonets-M34 and Gonets-M35 — weighs about 617 pounds (280 kilograms), according to Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com.
The trio just joined the Gonets-M ("Messenger-M") constellation, which circles Earth at an altitude of about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers). These satellites "are designed to transmit data and provide mobile satellite communications services to mobile and stationary subscribers anywhere in the world," Roscosmos officials wrote in a Telegram post shortly after Saturday's launch. (The post is in Russian; translation provided by Google.)
Skif-D went higher on Saturday; it's designed to operate in a near-polar orbit about 5,015 miles (8,070 km) above Earth, according to Zak.
The satellite is a demonstration craft, as indicated by the "D" in its name. Skif-D is "a prototype of the first Russian satellite for the broadband internet access in remote areas, such as Arctic regions of Russia," Zak wrote.
The Skif system is envisioned to eventually consist of 12 spacecraft, each of which will be able to beam down to Earth 100 gigabits of data per second, he added.
Saturday's launch continued a busy October for Russia, which now has five launches under its belt in the last two weeks.
A Soyuz launched a GLONASS navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, in Russia's northwest, on Oct. 9; a Proton rocket lofted a communications satellite for the Angolan government from the Russia-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 12; an Angara rocket launched the mysterious EMKA-3 military satellite from Plesetsk on Oct. 15; and a Soyuz launched two other clandestine military spacecraft from Plesetsk on Friday (Oct. 21).
Another liftoff is coming up soon as well: A Soyuz is scheduled to launch from Baikonur on Tuesday (Oct. 25) at 8:20 p.m. EDT (0020 GMT on Oct. 26), sending a robotic Progress cargo spacecraft toward the International Space Station. You can watch that liftoff live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.