Launches of two classified military satellites by a Russian Soyuz rocket

What the spacecraft will be performing in orbit is unknown.

On Friday, October 21, Russia launched two more military satellites into orbit, continuing a busy period for spaceflight for the country.

Two classified payloads were launched into orbit on a Soyuz-2-1v rocket on Friday at 3:20 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT; 10:20 p.m. Moscow time) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia.

On RussianSpaceWeb.com, Anatoly Zak writes, “According to unofficial posts on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki web site, the rocket was anticipated to deliver a pair of new-generation military satellites with the designations 14F164 and 14F172” (opens in new tab).

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The intended mission of the satellites was unclear on the eve of the launch because these indices were not connected to any publicly disclosed projects, Zak continued.

According to astronomer and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the payloads could be “an experimental pair of military satellites, possibly to test out satellite inspection techniques,” according to his Friday speculation on Twitter(opens in new tab).

Evidently, Russia has experience with inspection technology. U.S. military officials denounced the launch of its Kosmos 2558 spacecraft on August 1 to an orbit that is extremely similar to that of an American espionage satellite dubbed USA 326.

Russia had its fourth launch on Friday in the last 12 days. On October 9, a Soyuz rocket launched a GLONASS navigation satellite from Plesetsk; on October 12, a Proton rocket launched a communications satellite for the government of Angola from the Russia-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan; and on October 15, a tiny, enigmatic EMKA-3 military satellite was launched from Plesetsk by an Angara rocket.

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And over the following two days, there will be more liftoffs from Russia. On Saturday (Oct. 22), three Goniets communications satellites and a demonstration broadband craft are set to launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome. On Tuesday (Oct. 24), a robotic Progress freight spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Baikonur (Oct. 25).

“Out There(opens in new tab)” is written by Mike Wall and published by Grand Central Publishing in 2018 with illustrations by Karl Tate. On Twitter, he is @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter at @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab).

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