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Tank modifications
The space shuttle external fuel tank was redesigned following the Columbia accident. This video looks at some of the key changes. (2min 30sec file)
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Tank processing
What are the steps to preparing a space shuttle external fuel tank for launch? This video narrates the process using footage from Discovery's launch campaign. (5min 50sec file)
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Discovery's payloads
Scott Higginbotham, the STS-114 payload manager, narrates video of space shuttle Discovery's payloads being prepared for the return to flight mission. (11min 53sec file)
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Next mission to Mars
NASA's next voyage to the Red Planet is introduced by project managers and scientists in this news conference from 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 21. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will launch in August on a mission to provide the sharpest images ever taken of Earth's neighboring planet. (34min 10sec file)

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Atlantis preps
Space shuttle Atlantis is hoisted upright and moved into position for mating with the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters for the second post-Columbia mission, now scheduled for September. (5min 48sec file)
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Astronauts return
Space shuttle Discovery's seven astronauts arrive at different times on Friday, July 22 at Kennedy Space Center to resume launch preparations.

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Technicians work inside shuttle Discovery's cramp aft compartment to troubleshoot the engine cutoff sensor problem. (2min 22sec file)
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Soyuz moved
Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and science officer John Phillips undock their Soyuz capsule from the Pirs module at 6:38 a.m. EDT, back 82 feet away, fly sideways for 45 feet and then guide the craft to docking with the Zarya module at 7:08 a.m. (30min 57sec file)
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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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'Land Launch' venture books first commercial mission

Posted: July 28, 2005

Sea Launch announced Thursday it has received its first payload contract to use its new "Land Launch" concept to begin commercial flights originating from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2007, bringing the provider into a new medium-class market for communications satellites.

This illustration shows the three-stage Land Launch vehicle. Credit: Sea Launch
PanAmSat signed a multiple-launch agreement with Sea Launch earlier this month for the launch rights to three satellites scheduled to fly by the end of 2007.

Included in the contract was the PAS-11 spacecraft, due for liftoff in the second quarter of 2007, for the maiden flight of Sea Launch's "Land Launch" program to begin flights from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The 5,500-pound satellite is currently undergoing construction and assembly at an Orbital Sciences factory in Virginia before being shipped to central Asia prior to the launch campaign. Once in space, PAS-11 will be operated in geostationary orbit at 43 degrees West longitude to cover users across Latin America.

The company first revealed its Land Launch plans in late 2003, allowing Sea Launch to enter the now-lucrative market to launch satellites to geostationary orbits whose mass cannot be easily accommodated aboard the provider's offering from its launch platform in the Pacific Ocean.

Other rockets openly competing in the worldwide commercial launch services market such as the European Ariane 5 booster sometimes combine such mid-range satellites to launch in tandem on one flight if a large payload is not available to fulfill the rocket's capability.

"The Land Launch system is well positioned to reliably and efficiently serve the emerging market requirement for medium weight commercial satellites," said Jim Maser, Sea Launch's president and general manager. "We are proud to have PanAmSat as an established, highly valued customer on our first Land Launch mission."

"They have enjoyed working with our mature, proven Sea Launch system and team on three successful missions to date and, now, they are extending their trust to include Land Launch."

"The use of smaller satellites can significantly improve the industry's return on investment, provide higher reliability, and enable manageable contingency and recovery plans which allow for a more robust network architecture," said PanAmSat president and chief operating officer Jim Frownfelter.

Sea Launch also announced their intent to launch another pair of PanAmSat spacecraft -- Galaxy 16 and Galaxy 18 -- aboard the Zenit 3SL from its primary site on the Odyssey platform in the Pacific Ocean.

The initiative would see the company launch derivatives of its Zenit 3SL workhorse from the current Zenit complex at Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in the remote steppes of central Kazakhstan. The pad, called launch complex 45, has supported 36 Zenit 2 missions in the past, dating back to the debut of the Zenit family in 1985.

Included in that number was one failed commercial launch of twelve Globalstar mobile communications satellites in 1998, while the rest of the Zenit flights from pad 45 have been for Russian or Ukrainian customers.

Rockets and payloads will also be processed and prepared for liftoff in existing facilities at Baikonur.

Two different variants are on the table to be flown under the auspices of the Land Launch scheme. One would be a similar design to that currently being launched from the company's ocean-going Odyssey launch platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, but with a four-meter payload fairing provided by the Russian firm NPO Lavochkin, instead of the Boeing-built shroud used on the standard Zenit 3SL.

Using the Russian-made Block-DM upper stage, the Zenit 3SLB vehicle could deliver almost 8,000 pounds to a geostationary transfer orbit from Baikonur, or over 5,000 pounds less payload capacity than when launched from Odyssey, which takes advantage of the Earth's faster rotation at the equator for an extra boost to low inclination orbits.

Another option is a two-stage booster almost identical to the heritage Zenit 2 rocket, which could loft about 28,600 pounds to lower Earth orbits.

The first and second stages of the Zenit are developed and manufactured by the Yuzhnoye design bureau of the Ukraine, while the Block-DM upper stage is from RSC Energia, based in Moscow. These companies, along with others responsible for ground hardware and infrastructure, form Space International Services -- a cooperative organization in charge of launch operations for Land Launch.

The Sea Launch company and partner Boeing handle contracting, mission management, quality assurance issues for the new system.