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Russian Dnepr rocket launches satellites for France, Sweden

Dnepr rocket launched from an underground silo at a space base near Yasny, Russia.

PARIS (BNS): A former Soviet ballistic missile (SS-18) blasted off from southern Russia on Tuesday with a French spacecraft to observe the Sun and a Swedish experiment to demonstrate orbital formation flying with two satellites, a media report said.

The Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket lifted off at 1442 GMT from Yasny, southern Russia, the France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) said in a press release.

The three-stage booster was expected to haul the two payloads into sun-synchronous orbit 440 miles high and deploy the satellites within 16 minutes of liftoff.

CNES confirmed that the two payloads Picard and Prisma are moving in accurate position in the orbit.

Picard is commencing a two-year mission to watch the sun with three instruments. Scientists hope the satellite will provide insights into the Sun's variability and its link to Earth. The 315-pound spacecraft is based on a micro-satellite platform developed by CNES, the French space agency.

Prisma will attempt a daring demonstration of new technologies for automated formation-flying and rendezvous of spacecraft in orbit.

Autonomous formation-flying and rendezvous applications include orbital maintenance, automatic docking and scientific missions tying together multiple satellites to form a massive telescope to study distant stars.

The Dnepr rocket also launched the Prisma's Mango and Tango spacecraft which will separate about a month after launch.

NATO code-named the SS-18 as ‘Satan’ at the time of Cold War.


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