[SatNews] A Russian Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage and a Meridian communications satellite has been successfully launched from the Plesetsk space port.
“The airspace defence forces’ operational unit successfully launched the Soyuz-2.1a medium-class carrier rocket with a Meridian communications satellite from the Plesetsk cosmodrome at 04:43 Moscow time,” said Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Russian airspace defence forces, adding that the rocket had been blasted off in a regular regime. He also stated that the Fregat upper stage with a Meridian dual-use communications satellite had successfully separated from the third stage of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket. The Fregat upper stage will continue its mission to put the satellite onto its designated orbit.
The Meridian dual-use satellite is tasked to ensure communication with sea vessels and ice patrol aircraft along the Northern Sea Route. Flight tests of the Soyuz-2 spacecraft were kicked off at Plesetsk in November of 2004. Over the ten years since then, as many as 18 Soyuz-2 carrier rockets of various modifications - 1a, 1b, and 1v - have been launched. Rockets of the Soyuz-2 series replaced Soyuz-U launch vehicles used at Plesetsk from 1973 to 2012. Over this period, a total of 434 Soyuz-U boosters were launched to put into orbit about 430 spacecraft.
The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket was developed by the Progress Rocket and Space Centre and is equipped with upgraded digital control and radio-telemetric systems and unrated engines of the first and second stages.