Credit: Rick Sternbach, The Planetary Society
Success of Solar Sail Launch Unknown
By Stephen Clark
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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