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Converted Russian ICBM takes German satellite into orbit

RIA Novosti

07:01 21/06/2010 MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti) - A converted Russian intercontinental ballistic missile took Germany's TanDEM-X satellite into orbit on Monday, a military spokesman said.

The RS-20B carrier rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 6:14 Moscow time [2:14 GMT].

This is the 16th launch of an international satellite under the Dnepr program involving Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which converts RS-20 ICBMs (classified by NATO as the SS-18 Satan) into carrier rockets to put satellites into low Earth orbit. Around 50 satellites have been put into orbit so far.

"The RS-20B rocket took the TanDEM-X satellite into orbit," Col. Vadim Koval said.

The 1,350-kg TanDEM-X satellite, with a life span of five years, will survey the land surface of the Earth several times during its mission. The primary objective of the mission is to generate a consistent, highly-accurate global digital elevation model.

Russian-Ukrainian joint venture Kosmotras uses launch pads at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan and Russia's Strategic Missile Forces facilities equipped for RS-20 launches.

The RS-20 is the most powerful ICBM in the world. It was first launched in 1973 and is still in service with Russia's Strategic Missile Forces.

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