Friday, November 19, 2010

"Rocket Loaded With Solar Sail and Satellites Blasts Off From Alaska"

This is all kinds of good news.
A rocket carrying seven different satellites, including one that will attempt to deploy a small solar sail into orbit, successfully blasted off from an island in Alaska tonight (Nov. 19).

The Minotaur 4 rocket launched at 8:24 EST (0124 Nov. 20 GMT) from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex. The rocket's many different payloads will attempt to demonstrate several new space technologies, including novel command and control frameworks and satellite propulsion systems — all while keeping costs down.

"This provides a low-cost, rideshare capability," Mark Boudreaux of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told reporters last week. Boudreaux is project manager of FASTSAT, one of the satellites that launched today.

Built by the Virginia-based company Orbital Sciences, Corp., the Minotaur 4 rocket is expected to deliver all seven satellites, which carry a total of 16 separate experiments among them, to an orbit about 404 miles (650 kilometers) above Earth. The $170 million mission, STP-S26, is part of the Air Force's Space Test Program.

That's some good science going on, there. And did you even know there was a launch facility in Alaska? Florida and California, sure -- but Alaska? I can't believe I've never heard of it before now.

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