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Russia to launch two European satellites next month


An artist's conception of the SMOS satellite in orbit. Image credit: ESA

MOSCOW (BNS): Preparations are going on in full swing at the Plesetsk space centre in northwest Russia to launch two European satellites on board a Rockot carrier rocket on November 2.

The dry run or dress rehearsal for the launch began at the space centre early this month as per schedule, a spokesman for the Khrunichev centre said on Tuesday.

“The launch is scheduled for November 2. A deal to launch Rockot with the SMOS spacecraft (primary payload) and the Proba-2 mini-satellite was concluded between the ESA and Eurockot Launch Services GmbH (a joint venture of the Khrunichev center and EADS Astrium),” the spokesman was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

While SMOS – Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity – will provide high-resolution global maps, showing variations in soil moisture and saline levels in the oceans, the Proba-2 (Project for On-Board Autonomy) research satellite will test new technologies for autonomous space missions for European Space Agency's Technology Directorate.

The 130-kg Proba-2 is one of the smallest satellites ever built by the ESA. The 665-kg SMOS, also known as ESA’s ‘Water Mission’, is the first satellite dedicated to providing global measurements of soil moisture and ocean salinity.

Rockot, the carrier of the twin satellites, is a modified version of the Russian RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile. This will be the third launch of the vehicle this year.

In March, a Rokot launch vehicle successfully placed in orbit Europe’s GOCE satellite, which is designed to measure and map the Earth's gravitational field.

In July, the vehicle was launched with three Russian Cosmos-series military satellites from the Plesetsk space centre.

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