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Russia launches missile with possible satellite payload
Posted: Sun, Dec 7, 2003, 4:58 PM ET (2158 GMT)
Russia launched an ICBM Friday on a test flight, but it was uncertain whether the vehicle placed a satellite into orbit. The SS-19 launched from a silo at Baikonur at 1:00 am EST (0600 GMT) Friday, according to Russian reports. However, those reports are unclear whether the rocket was launched simply on a suborbital test flight or if the vehicle placed a satellite into orbit. Reuters quoted a Russian military official who said the missile put a small satellite, whose exact mass was not disclosed, into a very low orbit only 120-160 km high. Other Russian reports, though, made no mention of the satellite launch or claimed that the launch carried a dummy warhead towards the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. These have been efforts to convert the SS-19 into a low-cost launcher, the Strela; this launch would be the first, if in fact it was a Strela flight. SS-19 missiles are already converted into Rockot launch vehicles, part of a joint venture between Russian and German companies.
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