MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has launched a new meteorological satellite on board a Soyuz 2.1b carrier rocket, a spokesman for the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Thursday.
The satellite has already reached orbit.
The launch of the Meteor-M satellite and five mini-satellites had been delayed twice for weather and technical reasons.
Meteor-M weighs about 2,700 kilograms (6,000 lbs) and has a service life of five years. It will orbit at an altitude of 830 kilometers (515 miles).
The second satellite in the Meteor series is expected to be launched in early 2010. A total of three Meteor satellites are due to be orbited under the program.
The satellite is designed to gather data for weather forecasts, to monitor the Earth's ozone layer and radiation conditions in the upper atmosphere, as well as to provide information on ice floe for maritime shipping in the polar regions.
At present, Russia does not have any weather satellites in orbit and uses meteorological data from U.S. and European weather agencies.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.