Russia’s Soyuz rocket has returned to flight with the successful launch of a Lotos reconnaissance satellite Thursday, two weeks after its failed launch of the Soyuz MS-10 mission. Soyuz lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 03:15 Moscow Time (00:15 UTC) on Thursday, deploying its payload into orbit about ten minutes later.
Thursday’s launch has deployed Lotos-S1 No.804, the fourth satellite in the Russian military’s Liana signals intelligence (SIGINT) programme. Liana consists of two families of satellite – Lotos and Pion – however, all of the satellites launched to date have been part of the Lotos series.
The Liana programme began in the 1990s as an effort to replace Soviet-era Tselina and US-PM spacecraft. Lotos replaces the Tselina series – these spacecraft are used for electronic surveillance, intercepting and collecting radio signals that are relayed back to Russia for analysis. Pion will be more specialized for naval reconnaissance, using radio signals and radar to track vessels. Pion has been heavily delayed, and it is unclear when the first satellite will be launched.
Russia’s KB Arsenal design bureau is the prime contractor for both Lotos and Pion and is responsible for building and integrating the satellites’ reconnaissance payloads. The spacecraft themselves ...