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    MOSCOW, APRIL 7. /RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT ALEXANDER KOVALEV/ -- The first launch of the new carrier rocket Soyuz 2-1A, having digital control and the updated first and second stages, is scheduled for October 15, 2004 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome (the Arkhangelsk region, Russia's North-Western federal district), Alexander Chechin told RIA Novosti in an interview. He is the first deputy general designer of the Progress Central Specialised Design Office, based in Samara.

    This first offspring of the new Soyuz family will also have an enlarged four-meter nose cone, increasing the payload by over 300 kilogrammes. In its first test launch, the Soyuz 2-1A will put into orbit the Russian Oblik spacecraft. "It is actually a satellite built many years ago, whose launch has been delayed for financial reasons. It is only a dummy payload because its service life has expired", said Valeri Abrashkin, deputy head of a Progress section. The Oblik is stuffed with the required test equipment. "It has up-to-date vibration and temperature gages to check operation of the updated engines of the first and second stages", Abrashkin said.

    For the time being, all of Russia's manned, cargo and some commercial launches will as before be made with Soyuz-FG boosters. "Nobody is going to reject the modern carrier having new burner plates. Eight such launches, three of them manned, have been made to success", Abrashkin said.

    He also said that the Russian launch complex, to be built by the Progress office at the Kourou space centre in French Guiana, will orbit new Soyuz craft of the STK version. They will first make several successful launches from Russian launch sites and amass the required flight performance statistics.

    Since 1959 the State Scientific Industrial Space Rocketry Centre Progress has created and commissioned eight carrier rocket modifications. With their help 1,750 craft, of which over 950 are their own, have been put into orbit. It is almost two thirds of the total number of launches made by the USSR and the Russian Federation.

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