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ESA launched its two new satellites from Russia

The SMOS and Proba-2 lift off, on 2 November 2009 at 02:50 CET from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Image credit: ESA

MOSCOW (BNS): Russia successfully launched a Rokot carrier rocket with two European satellites from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia, a media report said.

"A Rokot carrier rocket with the SMOS spacecraft and the Proba-2 mini-satellite, developed under European Space Agency's initiative, has been successfully launched," RIA Novosti quoted Aleksei Zolotukhin as saying, adding the launch took place at 4:50 a.m. Moscow time (1:50 GMT) on Monday.

He said the SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) spacecraft will be put into orbit at 6:00 a.m. Moscow time (3:00 GMT), and the Proba-2 mini-satellite at 7.50 a.m. Moscow time (4:50 GMT).

According to the report, once in orbit at an altitude of 756 km (470 miles), the 665-kg SMOS spacecraft will produce global maps of high resolution and sensitivity showing variations in soil moisture and saline levels in the world's oceans. The mission is a part of the ESA's Earth Explorer Envelope Program.

SMOS will play a key role in the monitoring of climate change on a global scale. It is the first ever satellite designed both to map sea surface salinity and to monitor soil moisture on a global scale.

The 130-kg Proba-2 (Project for On-Board Autonomy) research satellite have a launch mass of 135 kg. Proba-2 is a much smaller satellite, but like its predecessor Proba-1, it will test new technologies for autonomous space missions for ESA's Technology Directorate.

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

This is the third Rokot launch of 2009. In March, a Rokot launch vehicle successfully put into orbit the European GOCE satellite, which will measure and map the Earth's gravitational field. In July, a Rokot with three Russian Cosmos-series military satellites was launched by Russia's Space Forces from the Plesetsk space center, it said.

SMOS is a 658-kg satellite developed by ESA in cooperation with France’s CNES and Spain’s Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI).

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