Russia launched Artika-M last Sunday, February 28, to monitor the climate and environment in the Arctic Ocean. Kazakhstan’s Soyuz rocket from its Baikonur launchpad sent out the satellite after successfully hitting its assigned orbit, according to a tweet by Russia’s Roscosmos space agency head Dmitry Rogozin. Artika-M is expected to cover the Arctic by navigating above the high northern altitudes and take photos every 15-20 minutes. As part of the Cospas-Sarsat international satellite-based research and rescue network, the satellite is also capable of sending distress signals in remote locations.

Russia intends to send a second satellite in 2023. According to Roscosmos, the satellites will conduct continuous surveillance of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic has warmed more than 50% faster than the global average over the past 30 years. “As more activity takes place in the Arctic and as it moves into higher latitudes, improving weather and ice forecasting abilities is crucial,” said geographer Mia Bennette of the University of Hong Kong.