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Russia launches carrier rocket bearing European GOCE satellite

RIA Novosti

17/03/2009 18:54 MOSCOW, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has successfully launched a Rockot carrier rocket bearing Europe's first GOCE satellite.

The Rockot was launched by Russia's Space Forces from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia at 5.21 p.m. Moscow time (14.21 GMT).

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite is designed to measure the Earth's gravitational field.

GOCE, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), is the first European satellite designed 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. It uses the two original 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 (49%) and EADS Astrium (51%).

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