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Supply ship docking
The 18th Progress resupply ship launched to the International Space Station is guided to docking with the Zvezda service module's aft port via manual control from commander Sergei Krikalev. A problem thwarted plans for an automated linkup.

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Shuttle collection
As excitement builds for the first space shuttle launch in over two years, this comprehensive video selection captures the major pre-flight events for Discovery and her seven astronauts.
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House hearing on ISS
The House Science Committee, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, begins its hearing on the International Space Station. (29min 59sec file)
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Phillips testifies
House members question Expedition 11 crew member John Phillips living on the International Space Station. (16min 33sec file)
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Past ISS astronauts
The hearing continues with questioning by House members of former station astronauts Peggy Whitson and Mike Fincke. (31min 33sec file)
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Station update
A status report on the Expedition 11 crew's mission aboard the International Space Station is given during this news conference Monday. (55min 54sec file)

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Tropical Storm Arlene
A camera on the International Space Station captured this view of Tropical Storm Arlene moving into the Gulf of Mexico as the orbiting complex flew above the weather system at 2:33 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 10. (3min 06sec file)
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Pioneering solar sail experiment launches today

Posted: June 21, 2005

Editor's note: The Planetary Society confirms that launch has occurred. However, the lack of communications from the solar sail spacecraft is preventing any confirmation of a successful ascent to orbit. There's no news from the latest opportunity for contact as it flew over Europe at 2121 GMT (5:21 p.m. EDT). The next shot comes at 0423 GMT (12:23 a.m. EDT) tonight. See a full story here. Below you will find a thorough preview of the mission.

The world's first foray into a new generation of space propulsion is riding on the wings of the Russian Navy and a converted ballistic missile that now stands ready for the command to shoot into orbit from an underwater submarine.

An artist's concept shows the solar sail orbiting Earth. Credit: Babakin Space Center, The Planetary Society
Loaded in a launch tube aboard the Borisoglebsk, a Russian Delta III nuclear submarine stationed in the Barents Sea, the 45-foot Volna rocket will be ordered to ignite and launch at around 1946 GMT (3:46 p.m. EDT). The retired warrior's first three stages will place the pioneer Cosmos 1 solar sail into a suborbital trajectory.

A specially-designed kick motor will then fire for almost four minutes to finish the task of placing Cosmos 1 into an orbit about 500 miles in altitude with an inclination of 80 degrees.

Cosmos 1 will attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of using solar light energy to propel spacecraft without the need to carry large rockets and chemical fuels on possible future long-distance space journeys.

The Planetary Society is in charge of project management, and funding for the privately-run space mission came largely from Society members, private donors, and the commercial media company Cosmos Studios that focuses on science-based entertainment.

In the works for over four years, Cosmos 1 has overcome many hurdles on the road to launch. The 220-pound satellite was built by NPO Lavochkin at a factory near Moscow, where it stayed during most of its development since the project's inception.

A test flight of a scaled version of the solar sail system failed due to trouble with its Volna rocket in 2001. That prompted an extensive review of the launch vehicle which took over a year to complete. In addition, hardware delivery delays also pushed back the completion of assembly on Cosmos 1.

Project Director Louis Friedman reported from Russia that all final preparations have gone as planned. Testing at the naval base at Severmorsk in far northern Russia revealed no problems with the spacecraft or its Volna rocket. At the port, technicians charged the craft's flight batteries, conducted various electrical tests, and installed the pyrotechnic devices that are essential to the success of the mission.

"The feeling here is the usual one before a space mission, ranging from nervousness to optimism. The group here is extremely professional and experienced -- they have done this before," he said.

Cosmos 1 was mated to the Volna booster -- formerly of the Russian military's nuclear arsenal -- on about June 10, Planetary Society officials told Spaceflight Now. The rocket and attached payload were then placed into its launch submarine last week.

Cosmos 1 will be launched from a submarine aboard a Volna rocket. Credit: Michael Carroll, The Planetary Society
This mission marks the first use of the Volna rocket in an orbital flight. Earlier civilian launches carried dummy payloads and test vehicles on suborbital trajectories for recovery thousands of miles downrange.

In the final steps before launch, the Russian Navy submarine Borisoglebsk will depart its port in Severmorsk inside the Arctic Circle in the evening Tuesday, local time. Officials say it will then make its way to the launch point, which is expected to be about 15 miles offshore.

A Russian sailor will then send the command for one of the submarine's missile tubes to open, followed by the launch of the Volna rocket into the frigid sea before it emerges at the surface.

Three stages of the liquid-fueled Volna booster will complete their job just over six minutes after liftoff. The third stage will then jettison, followed by the release of the protective payload fairing that shielded the Cosmos 1 spacecraft during its launch through the lower atmosphere.

Thrusters are then slated to fire to spin up the solar sail to about 22.5 revolutions per minute for stabilization prior to the kick motor's ignition to inject Cosmos 1 into its 500-mile high orbit. That will come at a point 15 minutes, 45 seconds into the flight, while cutoff is expected almost four minutes later.

Maneuvering jets will then slow Cosmos 1's spin rate before the kick motor separates from the spacecraft. The satellite's four small solar panels are scheduled to deploy almost 44 minutes after launch.

Ground station coverage throughout the launch will track the performance of the Volna rocket, according to Planetary Society officials. However, the first primary contact for Cosmos 1 will occur about ten minutes into the flight as it passes over a portable communications facility on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula near the Pacific Ocean. Another pass above the Marshall Islands after orbital insertion begins about 24 minutes after liftoff.

Permanent ground stations located in the Czech Republic and Russia could hear from the spacecraft near the end of its first 100-minute orbit, but the initial high-quality pass does not occur until the fifth orbit some eight-and-a-half hours after liftoff when Cosmos 1 flies above the Tarusa and Bear Lakes facilities in Russia.

Deployment of the eight ultra-thin solar sail blades will not occur before Sunday to allow time for ground controllers in Russia to fully test the performance of the craft. Once unfurled, the blades will stretch about 100 feet tip-to-tip.