MOSCOW, November 14 (Itar-Tass) — A Soyuz-2.1a booster rocket with the Russian satellite Meridian blasted off from the 43rd site of the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region on Wednesday. "The rocket was launched in the normal operation mode at 15:42, Moscow time," spokesman for the aerospace defence troops Col Alexei Zolotukhin told Itar-Tass.
"At 15:45, the facilities of the G.S.Titov test space centre began to track the Soyuz-2.1a booster. Taking control of the Meridian unit is scheduled for 18:02, Moscow time, in the radio visibility zone of the ground facilities of the automated control complex," Zolotukhin said.
"The first launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket of stage 1a was performed from the Plesetsk cosmodrome on November 8, 2004, and the stage 1b Soyuz-2 booster soared aloft from the Baikonur cosmodrome on December 27, 2006.
Russia has launched 20 Soyuz-2 boosters since /10 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, 7 from Baikonur and 3 from the Kourou space centre in Guiana/.
"Meridian" is a dual purpose unit. It is intended for providing communication between sea-going vessels and ice patrol planes in the North Sea Way with coastal stations, and expanding the network of satellite communication in the northern part of Siberia and the Far East.
The cluster of Meridian satellites, developed and produced by the Reshetnev information satellite systems is being deployed to replace three different communications systems: Molniya-3, Molniya-1 and Parus.
The first Meridian satellite was put in orbit by means of Soyuz-2 booster's Fregat accelerator unit on December 24 2006. The second was launched on May 22, 2009. The launch was partially successful: because of Fregat failure, the satellite failed to reach the designated orbit. The third satellite of this series was successfully placed in orbit on November 2, 2010.