Russia launches military communications satellite (reports)

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Russia has just launched a military communications satellite, according to media reports.

A Soyuz rocket topped by a spacecraft called Meridian-M launched today (March 22) from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia, rising from the pad at 8:48 a.m. EDT (12:48 p.m. GMT ), according to the state news agency Ria Novostiwhich quoted Russian military officials.

“Satellites of the ‘Meridian’ series provide communication between seagoing vessels and ice reconnaissance aircraft in the area of ​​the Northern Sea Route with coastal and land stations,” wrote Ria Novosti (in Russian; translation provided by Google). “In addition, the devices expand the capabilities of satellite communication stations in the northern regions of Siberia and the Far East.”

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Today’s launch is Russia’s second since invade Ukraine on February 24. On March 18, a Soyuz launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, sending cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov to the International Space Station.

The trio entered the orbital lab hours later dressed in yellow and blue flight suits, the national colors of Ukraine. This prompted some people to speculate that the cosmonauts might have expressed their support for the invaded nation. Russian space officials have rejected this interpretationNevertheless.

There was also supposed to be another takeoff from Baikonur this month; a Soyuz operated by the French company Arianespace was due to launch 36 Internet satellites on March 4 for the London company OneWeb.

But the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmosdemanded that OneWeb guarantee that its satellites would not be used for military purposes and that the UK divest OneWeb, which it helped buy out of bankruptcy in 2020. These demands have not been met and the Soyuz was removed from the pad shortly before liftoff.

However, OneWeb has already found another way to get its satellites up. On Monday (March 21), the company announced that it had signed a launch agreement with SpaceX.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.

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