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French satellites rocket blasts off

A Soyuz rocket carrying six satellites has launched from French Guiana in the Russian-built rocket model's second mission this year.

It will first release a French Earth observation satellite, Pleiades 1.

Next to come will be four French micro-satellites and a Chilean Earth observation satellite is to be released last.

Pleiades 1 is designed to provide images to military and civilian customers, while the four smaller satellites will be used to gather electronic intelligence for the military, according to Arianespace.

The Chilean satellite will take images for mapping, agricultural monitoring and the management of natural resources, said Arianespace, the commercial arm of the 13-country European Space Agency.

The satellites weighed a total of more than 4,400lb.

The mission was the final one this year for Arianespace.

A Soyuz rocket first launched from Arianespace's complex in French Guiana in late October, carrying the first two satellites of the European Union's Galileo navigation system.

It was the maiden voyage of the Russian rocket outside the former Soviet Union.

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