MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia successfully launched six U.S. communications satellites into orbit Thursday, officials said.
The Kosmos-3M booster rocket blasted off from the Kapustin Yar launchpad in southern Russia carrying the satellites, owned by ORBCOMM Inc., into orbit, said Vadim Koval, a spokesman for Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, which conducted the launch.
ORBCOMM said in a statement that the launch will enhance its satellite network performance, providing faster message delivery for the company's customers.
It said the satellites are equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS) payloads to receive and report transmissions from AIS-equipped ships. ORBCOMM said it intends to market this AIS data to U.S. and international coast guards and government agencies, as well as to companies whose businesses require such ship tracking and other navigational activities.
The Fort Lee, N.J.-based company said the satellites represent the first stage of ORBCOMM's multiyear satellite upgrade plan and will make ORBCOMM the only satellite company providing worldwide commercial AIS data services.