Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Swedish satellite launched aboard Cold War relic

Posted: February 20, 2001
Updated: 1500 GMT

A decommissioned ballistic missile lifted off today from the Svobodny Cosmodrome in Russia's far east, carrying a small Swedish scientific satellite.

The solid-fueled Start-1 rocket roared into life at 0848:27 GMT (3:48:27 a.m. EST), at the opening of a 10-minute launch window.

The Swedish Odin spacecraft separated from the fourth stage of the launch vehicle at 0904:35 GMT (4:04 a.m. EST). It was expected to reach a 606 by 630-kilometer circular orbit with an inclination of 98.73 degrees. The 550-pound satellite is to spend at least two years in orbit making atmospheric and astronomy studies.

An artist's impression of Odin in space. Photo:Swedish Space Corporation
Odin will study the causes and locations of ozone depletion throughout Earth's atmosphere by using complex instruments to scan the stratosphere by altitudes. The work will focus on the southern hemisphere during August through November and on the northern hemisphere from December to February. The craft will scan through the atmosphere at least several times per orbit.

Astronomy studies will share the spotlight craft's focus along with the aeronomy atmospheric mission. Star formation processes, the composition of comets, the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, remnants of dying stars, and the search for unobserved molecules in the galaxy will highlight the astronomy role of the mission.

Officials from the Swedish Space Corporation say that one of the key driving points behind Odin's international mission -- which includes Sweden, Canada, Finland, and France -- was cost. Odin also had to be small in size and developed by the same standards that earlier Swedish small satellites were built.

Odin also heavily relies on the Start-1 launch system because the spacecraft contains no propulsion system. This is yet another attempt to make the mission cheaper and easier to carry out.

The satellite will store data from the aeronomy and astronomy observations aboard mass memory units for later transmission to a high-latitude ground station in northern Sweden. The attitude control system will have the important job of keeping Odin pointed accurately using reaction wheels.

The Swedish Space Corporation instituted several cost-saving methods to try to keep the project cost down. The Odin team consists of only 10 committed people, the development time was shortened, and proven technology was employed to achieve this goal.

With lower costs and a small project team, people cannot help but think that this would translate to increased risk.

"On the contrary, we regard our approach as a low-risk one, with careful selection of suppliers and a strong emphasis on thorough testing," an Odin fact sheet stated.

The Odin platform could be applied for use in future missions all around the world, officials say. Possibilities include adding a more advanced power system and an orbital transfer propulsion system. The European Space Agency is already studying the possible use of the platform on one of their future missions.

The Start-1 launch vehicle is based on the SS-25 ICBM, includes four stages, all of which are fueled by solid propellants. Start-1's last launch was in December.

Anatoly Zak contributed to this report.