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Atlas 5 launches ASTRA
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket blasts off with the European ASTRA 1KR television broadcast satellite right on time April 20 from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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STS-51A: Daring mission
Soon after the Palapa and Westar communications satellites got stranded in worthless orbits following their deployment from shuttle Challenger in February 1984, planners began devising a rescue mission to launch that November. The STS-51A flight of shuttle Discovery is arguably one of the most daring and complex space missions ever attempted. The crew successfully launched two communications satellites and then retrieved Palapa and Westar during extraordinary spacewalks using jet-propelled backpacks and hands-on muscle power. Watch the amazing flight unfold with narration by the crew in this post-flight film.

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Memories of STS-1
In the continuing 25th anniversary celebration of STS-1, this program looks at the engineering challenges behind development of the space shuttle and performing the first flight from Mission Control. This panel includes Milt Heflin, the STS-1 ascent/entry electrical power system flight controller, former space shuttle program manager Bob Thompson, former orbiter project manager Aaron Cohen, Neil Hutchinson, the STS-1 ascent flight director, and astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen.

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Remote sensing spacecraft launched on Chinese rocket

Posted: April 26, 2006

China's first space launch of the year came today when a multipurpose remote sensing satellite was carried into orbit to begin a mission to aid scientific users and serve economic needs.

Called Remote Sensing Satellite-1 in reports by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the nearly 6,000-pound spacecraft was launched from the Taiyuan launch center in the highlands of northeastern China's Shanxi province. The Long March 4B rocket lifted off at 2248 GMT (6:48 p.m. EDT), or just after sunrise Thursday morning at the launch site.

The launcher's three liquid-fueled stages injected the payload into its planned orbit, Xinhua said. The payload was likely released into a near-polar orbit some 375 miles high.

Official media reports said the satellite was largely developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. Objectives of the craft's mission include a slate of scientific experiments, land and agricultural surveys, and disaster monitoring, according to Xinhua.

Several more launches are scheduled for later in the year with research and communications satellites, said a Chinese space official quoted by Xinhua. Wednesday evening's flight marked the 15th space launch of the year to reach orbit from locations worldwide.

China claims the liftoff marked the 47th consecutive successful space launch dating back to October 1996. It was the first launch for the nation's space program since the two-man Shenzhou 6 capsule conducted its five-day mission last October.

The next crewed mission could occur in September 2008 near the time of that year's Summer Olympics in Beijing, according to officials cited by state media. That flight - called Shenzhou 7 - will carry three astronauts and could attempt the country's first spacewalk.