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Russia launches new, improved rocket

Russia launches a new model of its workhorse Soyuz rocket after two postponements.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Russia launched a new model of booster rocket on Monday following two postponements, news agencies reported.

The Soyuz 2 rocket blasted off from the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia carrying a mockup of an unspecified "space apparatus," the Interfax news agency reported.

The launch was originally scheduled for Oct. 29, but was put off twice in order to correct software flaws and perform tests.

The booster is a modernized version of the Soyuz rocket, which has been a workhorse of the Soviet and then Russian space program since the 1960s and has a stellar safety record.

The new rocket is equipped with an updated digital control system, Interfax said. Additionally, fewer people are required to oversee its launch and monitor its control system. The rocket also has more power.

In addition to using the Soyuz 2 for its own manned and unmanned space program, Russia also plans to use the booster for commercial space launches from the Kourou launch pad in French Guiana, starting in 2006 under a deal reached with the European Space Agency.