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Soyuz rocket: Russia’s secret spy satellite mission revealed | World | News

Russia launches rocket on third test flight and misses intended orbit

NASA record-breaking astronaut Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth from the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with two Russian astronauts. Vande Hei’s return has been a source of ongoing disagreement in recent weeks, as relations between Russia and the US deteriorated after the invasion of Ukraine. Vande Hei’s stay on the ISS was extended in September to accommodate a select few tourists and a Russian film crew sent into space late last year.

The situation changed earlier this month when RIA Novosti, Russia’s state broadcaster, shared a satirical video depicting Vande Hei’s Russian comrades leaving him on the ISS.

After RIA Novosti described the video as a joke, Russia officially denied the speculation, saying the trio would return as scheduled on March 30.

Vande Hei and his colleagues boarded the Soyuz at around 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning, with a scheduled departure at around 8:20 a.m.

In the past year, the Soyuz was the most frequently used launch vehicle in the world, with more than 1,900 flights since its debut in 1966.

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Russian Soyuz rocket launch

Launch of Kosmos-2553. (Image: Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russian Soyuz rocket launch

Very few details have been released about the launch of the Soyuz. (Image: Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Soyuz was designed for the Soviet space program in the 1960s, and served as the only means of transporting crew to or from the ISS between 2011 and 2020.

Earlier this year, Russia launched a secret spy mission aboard a Soyuz rocket.

The launch of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket took place at 7 a.m. on February 5 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Plesetsk, located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Moscow, has been used as a launch pad for various types of rockets since the beginning of the space race.

Kosmos-2553 . rocket launch

The Russian team tracked the initial launch of Kosmos-2553. (Image: Russian Ministry of Defense)

US military tracking data confirmed the successful launch of the Soyuz, showing that it had reached an unusual orbit of more than 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) above Earth, an altitude that would allow it to circle the planet every 127 minutes.

Russian officials officially named the satellite Kosmos 2553, in line with Moscow’s military spacecraft naming scheme.

The Kremlin said Kosmos 2553 “is equipped with newly developed on-board instruments”.

Beyond this, however, very little is known.

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Soyuz . Rocket

The Soyuz is the world’s most used launch vehicle in 2021. (Image: GETTY)

Due to the secretive nature of the mission, Everyday Astronaut reports that it “could not be determined” exactly where the satellite went, and nothing is known about the satellite’s characteristics other than limited information provided by the Russian defense ministry.

According to Spaceflight Now, analysts believe Kosmos 2553 could become an imaging satellite for the Russian military – especially relevant given that Putin invaded Ukraine less than three weeks after the rocket was launched.

It has been speculated that it is the first in a new series of radar reconnaissance satellites called Neitron.

Radar satellites are able to collect satellite images of all weather both day and night.

NASA astronaut

The change of command ceremony on the ISS this week. (Image: NASA)

Neitron was originally due to launch in late 2018, but this was delayed, reportedly due to technical issues.

Russian forces have launched a number of new satellites in recent years, including the Pion-NKS and Lotos satellites — which are capable of intercepting radio transmissions and helping Russian intelligence locate foreign shipping traffic, including the navy.

US officials also believe Russian military spacecraft have tested anti-satellite capabilities in orbit.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven to be a major blow to the country’s space ambitions.

Moscow’s space chief Dmitry Rogozin admitted earlier this month that his country would “lose a few years” in its efforts to put a rover on Mars after the European Space Agency suspended work with Russia on the upcoming ExoMars mission.

Concerns also remain about the ongoing safety of the ISS, given that Russia controls several important aspects of the space station’s propulsion control system, which prevents it from being pulled into Earth’s atmosphere and slowly igniting.

Despite continued concerns, the ISS crew showed their unity this week ahead of the Soyuz’s scheduled return on Wednesday.

They had a change of command ceremony, with former commander Anton Shkaperlov handing the ropes to NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.

Shkaperlov hinted at geopolitical tensions on Earth during the ceremony, saying: “I [am] I’m proud to be the commander of this amazing crew.

“People have problems on Earth. In orbit… we are one crew. ”