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MOSCOW, September 17 (Itar-Tass) — A Soyuz-2 modernized carrier rocket is to blast off from the Baikonur space launch center on Monday to deploy a European MetOp-B weather satellite into orbit.
An official in the press service of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has told Itar-Tass that "The carrier rocket Soyuz-2 is to be launched with a Frigate acceleration unit at 20:28, Moscow time".
The Soyuz-2 space rocket was developed and made at the Samara-based State space research center "Cskb-Progress". In combination with the Frigate acceleration unit, the rocket makes it possible to deploy spacecraft into every kind of orbits: low, medium, high-elliptical, sun-synchronous, geotransfer and geostationary ones.
The first commercial launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket with a European meteorological spacecraft MetOp was effected on October 19, 2006. The MetOp-B satellite, which is to be launched Monday, will be a second one made by the EADS Astrium Company for the European Space Agency and the European Organizations of Satellite-aided Meteorology EUMETSAT. There will be three spacecraft in this series, all in all.
The MetOp system is European contribution to the programme for the development of a polar satellite system which is being implemented jointly with the United States. It is aimed at improving meteorological observation of the Earth's regions which now remain outside the field of vision of most of satellite systems. The spacecraft of the MetOp series will operate as the so-called morning ones. A Roscosmos official pointed out that "By virtue of the peculiarities of the subpolar helio-synchronous orbit, they will pass over all the observable regions at about one and the same time -- in local morning hours, wheres American satellites will ensure noon-time coverage".
The satellites carry American-made equipment which ensures compatibility of meteo observation data with the currently existing formats, as well as new-generation European-made sensors that make it possible to determine the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere, ozone content in it, wind velocity, and direction of the movement of air masses.
The MetOp-B satellite is expected to operate in space for not less than five years.