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Solar sail launched, status unknown
Posted: Tue, Jun 21, 2005, 8:18 PM ET (0018 GMT)
Cosmos 1 solar sail A sub-based Russian booster launched an experimental solar sail satellite late Tuesday, but ground controllers have yet to establish contact with the spacecraft. The Volna rocket launched from a Russian missile submarine in the Barents Sea at 3:46 pm EDT (1946 GMT), carrying the Cosmos 1 spacecraft. The rocket was supposed to place the satellite into orbit, which would then establish radio contact with ground stations. However, the last data received from the mission was during an orbit insertion burn; ground controllers in Pasadena reported that the firing initially appeared normal but that data later became noisy before being lost altogether. Mission officials said late Tuesday afternoon that they don't know yet if there was a problem with the launch vehicle or the satellite, or even if the satellite is in orbit. Cosmos 1, a joint venture of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, is designed to be the first orbital test of a solar sail, using sunlight to gradually raise the spacecraft's orbit around the Earth. A suborbital test flight in July 2001 of the solar sail system used on Cosmos 1 also failed when the payload failed to separate from the Volna booster.
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