The Defense Ministry of Russia stated that its Soyuz-2.1 b rocket that was topped with a Fregat upper stage took off from Northern Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome with its military payload. The defense ministry has not specified details of the payload but details about the rocket’s trajectory which were sent out as warning notices to pilots and marine firms suggest that the satellite was like Tundra, Russian military’s missile warning satellite. Orbital tracking of the rocket by US military showed that the payload was delivered into an elliptical orbit which is inclined at 63.8 degrees to the equator and has altitude range of 1022 miles to 23945 miles.
The Molniya type orbit which is slightly in the shape of an egg is similar to the orbits of two previous EKS type Early Warning Satellite (EWS) launched by Soyuz/Fregat rockets during 2015 and 2017. The rocket Soyuz-2.1b flew in a south-easterly director from Plesetsk and shed its four first stage boosters a couple of minutes after takeoff. The launcher then shed its payload and core stage while the third stage of the Soyuz deployed upper stage of Fregat into a suborbital trajectory within nine minutes of starting the mission.
The upper stage Fregat fired its rockets multiple times for placement of the satellite payload into targeted orbit. It took several hours for the spacecraft to get separated from Fregat space tug. The defense ministry official stated that ground controllers managed to get a stable connection with the spacecraft and gauged that its systems are functioning as required. The new generation satellite will replace Russia’s Oko series of spacecraft that used to provide missile warning as the last one was launched during 2012. The spacecraft’s Molniya style orbits allow their thermal infrared sensors longer views over northern hemisphere in each of their 12 hour loop around the earth. The orbits enable satellites to detect missile launches from North American and detect missile that may threaten Russia.