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    RUSSIAN SATELLITE REACHES PRESET ORBIT

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 18 (RIA NOVOSTI) - A Molniya launch vehicle lifted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia today, subsequently orbiting a Cosmos military-communications satellite. The launch was observed by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.

    Talking to reporters, space center officials noted this satellite was already being tracked by the main test center of Russia's Space Forces.

    In other words, the satellite's antennas have unfolded; moreover, its communications networks are already operating.

    According to the Space Forces press center, communications satellite No. 2,405 was orbited at 11.03 a.m. Moscow time.

    This is the first spacecraft to lift off from Plesetsk in 2004, a press center spokesperson noted; the launch was an unqualified success.

    An RS-18 missile was also launched from the Baikonur space center during a regular exercise February 18, press center people added.

    Vladimir Putin watched that launch live on TV.

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