France launches spy satellites

Updated: 2011-12-17 16:12


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KOUROU, French Guiana - A second Russian-built Soyuz rocket to be launched from French Guiana blasted-off late on Friday carrying six military spy satellites, space officials said.

The rocket blasted-off at 11.03 pm (0203 GMT Saturday) from a launch pad at the European Space Agency's (ESA) launch centre near Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America.

Approximately an hour after launch, five of the satellites separated from the rocket.

First to separate was Pleiades, a one metric tonne observation satellite to be used by the French Defence Ministry.

Several minutes later, four ELISA (Electronic Intelligence by Satellite) demonstrator satellites to test space-based mapping of radar transmitters globally for France's Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) were released by the rocket.

A sixth satellite for Chile's armed forces will be rleased later.

The satellites will also have non-military civilian applications.

The launch was carried out by France's Arianespace company.

This mission was the second time that Soyuz, which first flew in 1966 and traces its roots back to the earliest Cold War intercontinental ballistic missiles, has been launched from outside its former Soviet bases.

The first French Guiana-launched Soyuz rocket orbited the first two of Europe's Galileo global positioning satellite constellation last October.