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ESA to orbit three satellites with Russian rockets in 2009

RIA Novosti

18/03/2009 15:50 MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - The European Space Agency (ESA) has plans to orbit three research satellites in 2009 using Russian carrier rockets, ESA Director Jean Jacques Dordain said on Wednesday.

A Russian Rockot launch vehicle successfully put into orbit on Tuesday the European GOCE satellite, which will measure and map the Earth's gravitational field.

He said the next Earth Explorer, named SMOS, could also be launched aboard a Rockot vehicle mid-year. The SMOS has been designed to detect soil moisture and saline levels in the world's oceans.

The third launch is expected to take place in late 2009.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was developed by the 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. It uses the original two lower stages of the ICBM, in conjunction with a Breeze-KM in the upper stage for commercial payloads.

The contract to launch the 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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