[See important update]
On May 23, 2008 crews of the Russian Space Forces carried out a launch of a Rockot space launcher with a Briz-KM booster. The launch was performed at 19:20:09 MSK (15:20:09 UTC) from the launch pad No. 3 of the launch complex No. 133 of Plesetsk. The satellites delivered into orbit are three
Gonets-M communication spacecraft - Cosmos-2437, Cosmos-2438, and Cosmos-2439 - and one small spacecraft, Yubileiny.
According to NORAD data, the
Gonets-M satellites, which received NORAD catalog numbers 32954, 32955, and 32956 and international designations 2008-025B, 2008-025C, and 2008-025D, were deployed in almost circular orbits with altitudes of about 1500 km, inclination of 82.5 degrees, and orbital period of about 116 minutes. The Yubileny spacecraft, apparently designated 32953/2008-025A, was deployed in a near circular orbit with altitude of about 1500 km. Previous launch of Gonets-M satellite, which was the first one in the series of modified spacecraft of the Gonets series, took place in December 2005 . At the time appeared that the Gonets-D1M system, which it started, would be a civilian counterpart of the military Strela-3 system. Accordingly, that satellite did not receive a Cosmos designation. This time, however, the new satellites seem to have both kinds of names - Gonets-M No.2, No. 3, and No. 4 as well as Cosmos ones.
This was the first time the Rockot launcher (modification of a SS-19 missile) was used for a launch of
Gonets Gonets-class satellites. Until 2002 Strela-3 and Gonets launches used Tsyklon-3 launchers, and after that - Kosmos-3M launchers.
UPDATE 05/25/08: Error in the launch site corrected.
UPDATE 06/03/08: Corrected to correspond NORAD designations of the satellites - Yubileiny is listed as 32953/2008-025A, not 32956/2008-025D as I initially reported.
UPDATE 06/19/08: The entry is corrected to reflect the fact that Cosmos satellites in this launch are not Gonets-M. See the update.