Russian rocket puts European satellite into orbit

March 18th, 2009 - 1:16 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, March 17 (RIA Novosti) A Russian Rockot launch vehicle successfully put into orbit Tuesday a European satellite, which will measure and map the Earth’s gravitational field, a spokesman for Russia’s Space Forces said.
The rocket was launched at 5.21 p.m. from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.

The satellite - Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) - was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide unique models of the Earth’s gravity on a global scale, and with unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution.

The Rockot launch vehicle is a modified version of the Russian RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It uses the original two lower stages of the ICBM, in conjunction with a Breeze-KM upper-stage for commercial payloads.

The contract to launch GOCE was concluded between the ESA and Eurockot Launch Services (GmbH), a joint venture of the Khrunichev center and EADS Astrium.

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