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STS-121: The mission
Tony Ceccacci, the lead shuttle flight director for STS-121, provides a highly informative day-by-day preview of Discovery's mission using animation and other presentations. Then Rick LaBrode, the lead International Space Station flight director during STS-121, explains all of the activities occurring onboard and outside the outpost while Discovery visits.

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Detailing the EVAs
Discovery's STS-121 mission to the International Space Station will feature two scheduled spacewalks and perhaps a third if consumables permit. Spacewalkers Mike Fossum and Piers Sellers will test whether the 50-foot inspection boom carried on the shuttle could be used as a work platform for repairing the heatshield and conduct maintenance chores outside the space station. Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, the mission's lead spacewalk officer, details all the three EVAs in this pre-flight news briefing.

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Russia launches secret reconnaissance satellite

Posted: June 25, 2006

A top-secret Russian military spacecraft was delivered to its perch in the high frontier after a successful launch today. The payload is believed to be an electronic surveillance satellite for the Russian government.

The classified satellite was launched atop a Ukrainian-built Tsyklon 2 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff was at 0400 GMT (12:00 a.m. EDT), and the craft separated from the booster's second stage about five minutes into the flight, Russian news reports said. The payload's on-board propulsion system was supposed to fire just minutes later to nudge the satellite into its final circular orbit with an inclination of around 65 degrees.

The rocket's cargo was a US-PU reconnaissance satellite that will provide the Russian Navy with electronic intelligence data for military operations at sea. The most recent launch of a similar payload was in May 2004, but that spacecraft was destroyed as it fell from orbit after ceasing operations in late April, according to the Kommersant newspaper. The satellite orbited during today's launch will replace the spy satellite lost two months ago.

After achieving orbit, the craft was officially named Kosmos 2421 in the Russian nomenclature for military satellites. Kosmos 2421 was the second Russian military payload launched this year.

The launch was the first for the Tsyklon rocket family since December 2004, when a three-stage Tsyklon 3 launcher was flown. The most recent use of the two-stage Tsyklon 2 booster came in May 2004.

Today's mission marked the 26th space launch to reach orbit in 2006. It was also the 106th flight of the Tsyklon 2 vehicle in almost 40 years of service.