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Shuttle history: STS-49
This video retrospective remembers the first flight of space shuttle Endeavour. The maiden voyage set sail in May 1992 to rescue the Intelsat 603 communications spacecraft, which had been stranded in a useless orbit. Spacewalkers attached a rocket booster to the satellite for the critical boost to the correct altitude.
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Shuttle history: STS-109
This video retrospective remembers the 2002 mission of Columbia that made a long distance service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, giving the observatory a new power system and extending its scientific reach into the Universe. Astronauts performed five highly successful spacewalks during the mission.
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Shuttle history: STS-3
This retrospective remembers the third voyage of space shuttle Columbia. The March 1982 mission served as another developmental test flight for the reusable spacecraft, examining performance of its systems while also conducting a limited science agenda. STS-3 is distinguished by making the first landing at Northrup Strip in White Sands, New Mexico.
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Planet discovery
Astronomers announce major findings about planets outside our solar system at this Spitzer Space Telescope science news conference on March 22 from NASA Headquarters. (21min 22sec file)

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Story of NASA-Ames
The storied history and achievements of NASA's Ames Research Center are remembered in this narrated movie about the California facility. (23min 40sec file)
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Launch of Atlas 5!
The fifth Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket blasts off to deploy the Inmarsat 4-F1 mobile communications spacecraft into orbit. (2min 35sec file)
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Extended launch movie
An extended length clip follows the Atlas 5 launch from T-minus 1 minute through ignition of the Centaur upper stage and jettison of the nose cone. (6min 43sec file)
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Onboard camera
An onboard video camera mounted to the Atlas 5 rocket's first stage captures this view of the spent solid-fuel boosters separating.
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Press site view
This view of the Atlas 5 launch was recorded from the Kennedy Space Center Press Site. (1min 27sec file)
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First solar sail continues methodical launch checklist

Posted: March 26, 2005

The world's revolutionary first solar sail - named Cosmos 1 - is creeping closer to flight as tests are checked off one-by-one in advance of its launch aboard a converted ballistic missile in the next one to two months.

An artist's concept of the solar sail. Credit: Babakin Space Center, The Planetary Society
In the latest update provided by The Planetary Society, executive director Louis Friedman outlined where the project stood in its final stages of testing and what challenges still lie ahead.

Over the past few months, the solar sail has been undergoing final assembly operations and a series of test to ensure the spacecraft is operating as expected. Final launch vibrations tests were wrapped up earlier this month to make sure Cosmos 1 will survive its fiery blastoff and ascent into orbit.

The eight ultra-thin solar sail blades are also now being packed into their deployment canisters for flight. Friedman said this process was put off as long as possible in the processing flow to minimize the amount of time the blades are kept folded before being unfurled in space.

Once in orbit these blades will be deployed from their small casings to span about 100 feet tip-to-tip and cover 2,000 square feet, about the area of an average house. They will then act as sails to utilize light pressure from the Sun as a means of propulsion. This theory is the one to be tested by this first-of-a-kind satellite.

Cosmos 1's electrical systems are being checked out this week, along with propulsion and attitude control system tests. Once this is complete, officials say the spacecraft will be ready to be packed into a transport canister and shipped to Severmorsk in far northern Russia. It will then be attached to its kick motor and then to the upper stage of its Volna rocket - a converted submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Final checks and pre-launch operations at the port of Severmorsk will take about a month. Pyrotechnic devices will be installed, flight batteries will be charged, the final integration of the vehicle will take place. The rocket will be loaded aboard its Russian navy nuclear submarine, which will then set sail about a half-day before liftoff.

Launch from the Barents Sea is expected some time between April 20 and May 30, but an official date will likely be announced when the solar sail is shipped from Moscow.