A Rokot carrier rocket with two European satellites is being prepared for a November 2 launch from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia, a spokesman for the Khrunichev center said on Tuesday.
The dry run, or dress rehearsal of the launch, began at the space center in early October, according to the schedule.
“The launch is scheduled for November 2. A deal to launch Rockot with the SMOS spacecraft [primary payload] and the Proba-2 mini-satellite was concluded between the ESA and Eurockot Launch Services GmbH [a joint venture of the Khrunichev center and EADS Astrium],” the spokesman said.
Once in orbit at an altitude of 756 km (470 miles), the 665-kg SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), will produce global maps of high resolution and sensitivity showing variations in soil moisture and saline levels in the world’s oceans. The mission is part of ESA’s Earth Explorer Envelope Program.
The 130-kg Proba-2 (Project for On-Board Autonomy) research satellite will test new technologies for autonomous space missions for ESA’s Technology Directorate.
The Rokot launch vehicle is a modified version of the Russian RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile. It uses the two original lower stages of the ICBM, in conjunction with a Breeze-KM upper-stage for commercial payloads.
This is the third Rokot launch of 2009. In March, a Rokot launch vehicle successfully put into orbit the European GOCE satellite, which will measure and map the Earth’s gravitational field. In July, a Rokot with three Russian Cosmos-series military satellites was launched by Russia’s Space Forces from the Plesetsk space center.