Russia has launched a surprise classified mission on behalf of the country’s Ministry of Defence. The mission was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome aboard the rarely used Soyuz 2.1v, a light-carrier rocket which ditches the four iconic Soyuz strap on boosters.
The Soyuz 2.1v equipped with a Volga upper stage was launched at 17:14 UTC Wednesday. According to Russian news agency TASS, the rocket carried four satellites for the country’s Ministry of Defence. The July 11 post confirmed that all four satellites were deployed successfully.
Although no public notices were filed, it has been reported that several days prior, the Russia Government quietly filed traditional notices to airmen and mariners warning of the impending launch. The stealth launch is not uncommon for Russia, which has launched several missions without much public fanfare in the past. However, over the last few years, the country has followed the United States in public announcing launches weeks or even months in advance.
Yesterday’s launch of the four Russian military satellites is only the fifth time the Soyuz 2.1v light-carrier rocket has been used, the last of which was launched on March 29, 2018, and carried the classified Kosmos 2525 satellite. The rocket is built around a heavily modified derivative of the Soyuz-2 first stage. The four-chamber RD-107 engine used in all other Soyuz-2 variants is dropped in favour of a single-chamber NK-33, an engine that was designed to power a second-generation iteration of the Soviet Union’s disastrous N1 moon rocket.
The next Russian launch is currently scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:31 UTC tomorrow (July 12). A Proton-M rocket is expected to carry the Spektr-RG Russian-German space observatory into orbit.