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Shuttle mission STS-125

Atlantis readied for final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Shuttle mission STS-127

Endeavour's dual preps for standby rescue craft and June construction flight to space station.

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Shuttle mission STS-119

Take a loop around the International Space Station aboard the shuttle Discovery in stunning high definition.

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Launch of Kepler

Kepler planet-finder begins its mission to discover Earth-like worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy.

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LRO and LCROSS

NASA's new lunar orbiter and impactor experiment are being prepped for launch in May.

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Delta 4 and GOES O

A Delta 4 rocket has rolled out to launch a new geostationary weather satellite.

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Shuttle mission STS-126

High definition from orbit! New clips from Endeavour's mission to the space station.

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From the vault

Historical footage from the early days of the space program.

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Observation satellite launched into orbit by China
BY STEPHEN CLARK
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: April 23, 2009

China sent into orbit a clandestine remote sensing satellite Wednesday during a launch that was announced less than a day in advance.

A Long March 2C rocket blasted off at 0255 GMT Wednesday from the Taiyuan space base in northern China's Shanxi province. The two-stage booster, propelled by a noxious mix of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, deftly guided the secret Yaogan 6 satellite into orbit, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Tracking data indicate the rocket achieved a sun-synchronous orbit with an average altitude of about 300 miles.

China will use Yaogan 6 for land resource surveys, environmental surveillance, urban planning, crop yield estimates, disaster response, and space science experiments, Xinhua reported.

But Western analysts believe the spacecraft is actually a military reconnaissance satellite, possibly outfitted with a night-vision, cloud-piercing radar that can observe objects on the ground during darkness and all weather conditions.

The Yaogan series is likely a cover for a fleet of spy satellites carrying radars and digital optical observation equipment.

Yaogan satellites have been launched from Taiyuan and the Jiuquan space center.

The flight was the second space launch of the year for China, coming eight days after the launch of a new navigation satellite.


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