MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - A Soyuz-2 carrier rocket, which was launched early Friday from the Plesetsk space center in north Russia, has put an advanced Meridian 2 military satellite into orbit, an aide to the Russian Space Forces commander said.
The Meridian-series communication satellites are designed to replace the older Molniya-series spacecraft and in addition to their military uses provide communication, navigation and surveillance services for civilian customers.
"A steady communication link has been established with the spacecraft. All on-board systems are performing normally," Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said.
The Soyuz-2 is an upgraded version of the Soyuz rocket, which has been a workhorse of Russia's manned and unmanned space programs since the 1960s.
It features upgraded digital flight control and telemetry systems, as well as a higher performance rating, and higher payload capacity than previous versions of the Soyuz rocket.
Along with carrying Russian satellites, it is also used for commercial space launches from the Kourou launch pad in French Guiana under a deal with the European Space Agency.
The Soyuz-2 is expected to replace the Molniya-M, Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG rockets in the future.