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The launch of a Russian Rockot carrier rocket bearing Europe's first
The launch of a Russian Rockot carrier rocket bearing Europe's first GOCE satellite has been postponed, the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center said on Monday.

The decision to delay blast-off was made after a pre-launch inspection of the rocket showed glitches in one of the on-board devices. The new launch date will be announced shortly, Khrunichev said in its press release.

The carrier rocket, bearing a Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, had originally been scheduled for lift off on September 10.

The Rockot 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. (Russia launches RS-18 ICBM - Image gallery)

The launch will be carried out by Russia's Space Forces from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia and will put the GOCE satellite into a low earth orbit (LEO) of 270-300 km (170-186 miles).

GOCE, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), is the first European satellite designed to provide unique models of the Earth's gravity field on a global scale and with unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution.

The satellite, along with a host of support equipment, was delivered to the Plesetsk center from Amsterdam in July for pre-launch check and recently mounted on the rocket.

The contract to launch GOCE was concluded between the ESA and Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, a joint venture of the Khrunichev center (49%) and EADS Astrium (51%).

A total of seven launches of Rockot carrier vehicles have been made since 2000 under the Eurockot program, with 16 satellites owned by leading space agencies and organizations from the United States, Europe and Asia put into orbit.


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