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    MOLNIA BOOSTER BLASTS OFF FROM PLESETSK

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    PLESETSK SPACE CENTER/MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Molnia booster carrying a military communications satellite lifted off from the Plesetsk launch pad in Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had arrived in Plesetsk the day before, attended the launch.

    The Russian Space Forces press service reported the event as the first launch of a military spacecraft in 2004.

    According to the Space Forces command post, the press service said, the medium-class booster passed all pre-launch procedures and blasted off in normal mode. Ground-based tracking systems keep a constant check on the spacecraft and will watch the satellite put into orbit.

    The Molnia-M was first launched on February 19, 1970 from Plesetsk. Since then, 223 such boosters have been launched.

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