Russian booster lifts Japanese satellite into near-Earth orbit

Service-1, a Japanese satellite, lifted off at 16:43 today from the Plesetsk Space Testing Center here, powered by light-class Rokot missiles, the press service of the Space Command announced.

This was the fifth launch from Plesetsk in the Rokot booster program, which has been running in tandem with the Rokot's summer testing schedule. The launch was made from a mobile container from the No. 1 ground emplacement (the space station's field No. 133), used earlier for the Cosmos-3M launch. The Rokot was created at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre on the basis of the SS-19 and is designed for putting small communications and research spacecraft into low-level circular and elliptical near-Earth orbits (the Rokot is a two-stage booster missile with a Breeze acceleration component; it is about 28 metres long and has a maximum diameter of 2.5 metres and a mass at start of about 107 tonnes). According to information from the testing center, the liftoff went by the book. The expected separation time for Service-1 from the acceleration component is 18:20 Moscow time.

Service-1 is testing everyday electronics-portable computers, mobile phones and the like-in the conditions of space. Service-1 has a mass of 840 kilograms. The Japanese Institute for the Study of Free Flights of Unpiloted Spacecraft is the lead organization for the project and contracted for the launch. In the view of Space Command, the Rokot program is particularly important in that it has been monitored for its ecological effects by specialists, including specialists from conservation organizations in the Arkhangelsk and other regions of Russia, and the Plesetsk launches have been confirmed as presenting no threat to the environment.

On Wednesday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov spent the day at the space center and personally supervised the preparation of the Rokot and Service-1 for liftoff. Because of weather conditions, the launch was made on the prepared backup day.

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