Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cosmos 1 'Lost in Space'

Cosmos 1
Credit: Rick Sternbach, The Planetary Society

Success of Solar Sail Launch Unknown

By Stephen Clark
Spaceflight Now
6-21-05

     Russian sailors launched the world's first solar sail from a nuclear submarine today, but the Cosmos 1 craft went missing a short time later and has not been located in orbit. Russian news services reported the rocket's first stage experienced an engine problem, suggesting that the sail either shot into the wrong orbital perch or never achieved orbit at all.

     The Volna rocket -- a converted ballistic missile -- blasted out of its launch tube aboard the Borisoglebsk at 1946 GMT (3:46 p.m. EDT). The Russian Navy submarine was stationed underwater in the Barents Sea offshore Russia's northern coast.

     The Planetary Society responsible for the mission provided online updates as reports came into their project operations center in Pasadena, California, this afternoon. The day began with nervous optimism, but that evolved into frustration and confusion following the launch.

     Officials had set up two portable UHF communication stations at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula in far eastern Russia and on the island of Majuro in the Pacific's Marshall Islands. Neither facility reported any direct telemetry contact with the spacecraft during the first half-hour after launch.

     However, a Doppler tracking signal did momentarily track the spacecraft at Petropavlovsk a little over ten minutes into the flight. The signal was then lost, possibly due to the planned burn of the orbital injection kick motor.

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1 comment :

  1. Apparently a signal was picked up but the excat location of the craft is still not known. They do believeit did reach some sort of orbit however.

    Here is the update posted on Spaceflight Now

    "Update for June 22 @ 1 a.m. EDT: Mission controllers revealed a short time ago that weak blips of data believed transmitted from the Cosmos 1 spacecraft have been found in recordings at tracking station passes immediately after launch. The Planetary Society originally said that no signals were heard. If the new revelation is true, it suggests that the solar sail did reach some sort of orbit around Earth despite what Russian media reports indicate was a rocket engine problem during ascent. However, the U.S. military's space tracking network has not found the craft and its current orbit is unknown. "So now we search. It could take days to find," the Society said in a statement."

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