March 29, 2018
Image above: File Image of a Soyuz 2-1v Rocket blasting off from Plesetsk. Image Credit: Russian MOD.
Russia conducted a secretive launch out of the country’s primary military spaceport on Thursday, involving what is officially only known as a Small Experimental Satellite going by the acronym EMKA and suspected to be a former remote-sensing satellite design turned into a black project by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
EMKA lifted off atop the fourth Soyuz 2-1v rocket at 17:38 UTC according to multiple Russian news outlets citing officials within Russia’s Space Forces that control military missions out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Navigational warnings indicated the vehicle was heading north on a flight path consistent with a mission to Sun Synchronous Orbit or another type of polar orbit – the preferred orbital vantage point for imaging satellites of all types.
Soyuz 2-1v Rocket. Image Credit: TsKB Progress
Confirmation of successful orbital insertion was provided around 16 minutes after the evening liftoff and tracking data collected by the U.S. revealed the satellite and the rocket’s upper stage in an extraordinarily low Sun Synchronous Orbit of 316 x 318 Kilometers, 96.64°.
Soyuz 2-1v – developed as a light-lifter to take over after the limited supply of Rockot boosters runs out – has conducted four launches to date, debuting in December 2013 as the third member of the Soyuz 2 family.
Since then, Soyuz 2-1v has exclusively launched missions of a military or intelligence-gathering nature, lifting the ill-fated Kanopus-ST mission in 2015 and launching the still-mysterious three-satellite mission around Kosmos-2519 in June 2017.
Kanopus Satellite. Image Credit: VNIIEM
Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Spaceflight101/Orbiter.ch Aerospace.