Spaceflight Now Home

Spaceflight Now +

Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.

Mike Griffin at KSC
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy chat with reporters at the Cape on a wide range of topics. The press event was held during Griffin's tour of the spaceport. (27min 48sec file)
 Play video

Delta rocket blasts off
The NOAA-N weather satellite is launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

 Play video:
   Liftoff | Extended clip
   Umbilicals | IR tracker

NOAA pre-launch
Officials from NASA, NOAA, the Air Force and Boeing hold the pre-launch news conference at Vandenberg Air Force Base to preview the mission of a Delta 2 rocket and the NOAA-N weather satellite. (29min 54sec file)

 Play video:
   Dial-up | Broadband

Countdown culmination
Watch shuttle Discovery's countdown dress rehearsal that ends with a simulated main engine shutdown and post-abort safing practice. (13min 19sec file)
 Play video

Going to the pad
The five-man, two-woman astronaut crew departs the Operations and Checkout Building to board the AstroVan for the ride to launch pad 39B during the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test countdown dress rehearsal. (3min 07sec file)
 Play video

Suiting up
After breakfast, the astronauts don their launch and entry partial pressure suits before heading to the pad. (3min 14sec file)
 Play video

Astronaut breakfast
Dressed in festive Hawaiian shirts, Discovery's seven astronauts are gathered around the dining room table in crew quarters for breakfast. They were awakened at 6:05 a.m. EDT to begin the launch day dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center. (1min 57sec file)
 Play video

Training at KSC
As part of their training at Kennedy Space Center, the Discovery astronauts learn to drive an armored tank that would be used to escape the launch pad and receive briefings on the escape baskets on the pad 39B tower. (5min 19sec file)
 Play video

Discovery's crew
Shuttle Discovery's astronauts pause their training at launch pad 39B to hold an informal news conference near the emergency evacuation bunker. (26min 11sec file)

 Play video:
   Dial-up | Broadband

Astronaut Hall of Fame
The 2005 class of Gordon Fullerton, Joe Allen and Bruce McCandless is inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Saturn 5 Center on April 30. (1hr 24min 55sec file)
 Play video

'Salute to Titan'
This video by Lockheed Martin relives the storied history of the Titan rocket family over the past five decades. (4min 21sec file)
 Play video

Titan history
Footage from that various Titan rocket launches from the 1950s to today is compiled into this movie. (6min 52sec file)
 Play video

Become a subscriber
More video

Launch date established for ambitious solar sail

Posted: May 23, 2005

A wait in excess of four years is almost over for scientists and engineers eagerly awaiting launch of the first test flight of a revolutionary solar sail. The spacecraft has been shipped from its factory to a port in far northern Russia to undergo final preparations for its submarine launch next month.

Cosmos 1 will be launched from a submarine aboard a Volna rocket. Credit: Michael Carroll, The Planetary Society
Planetary Society officials managing the Cosmos 1 mission announced the significant milestone and official target launch date on Monday.

"Reaching this milestone puts us on the doorstep to space," said Louis Friedman, Planetary Society executive director and Cosmos 1 project manager. "We are proud of our new spacecraft and hope that Cosmos 1 blazes a new path into the solar system, opening the way to eventual journeys to the stars."

Liftoff has been scheduled for the opening of a launch period on June 21 at 1946 GMT (3:46 p.m. EDT) from a Russian Navy submarine in the Barents Sea above the Arctic Circle. Its Volna rocket - a converted ballistic missile - will place the small Cosmos 1 solar sail into a suborbital trajectory where a boost module will fire to place the 90-pound craft into an 500-mile polar orbit.

The spacecraft has been under construction at the NPO Lavochkin facility in Moscow from its inception, and final vibration, thermal, and electrical tests took place earlier this year prior to its shipment to the port of Severmorsk, Russia, on the Barents Sea.

Upon its arrival, flight batteries will be installed and the pyrotechnic charges will be put in place for the deployment of the eight ultra-thin sail blades crucial to the mission. With the solar sail ready for launch, the vehicle will be mated with its orbital injection motor and shrouded within the tip of the Volna rocket.

The three-stage booster will then be loaded aboard the Russian Navy submarine about three days before liftoff for final integration, followed by the departure of the vessel to the launch zone.

An artist's concept shows the solar sail orbiting Earth. Credit: Babakin Space Center, The Planetary Society
In addition to work going on in Russia, other members of the operations teams in Moscow and Pasadena, California, will be rehearsing for different crucial aspects of the flight.

"We have to be ready for daily communications with the spacecraft and for receiving the data and images it returns from orbit," Friedman said.

Friedman wrote in an online update that he felt "pretty nervous, highly anxious, full of hope, and proud" as the moment of truth rapidly approaches. "We are poised for success."

The Cosmos 1 mission - first announced in early 2001 - has been postponed for various reasons, including the failure of two suborbital flights of its Volna launch vehicle and delays in the arrival of several critical parts. A scale model of the solar sail spacecraft flew on the Volna in 2001, followed a year later by a test of an unrelated inflatable heat shield. Neither craft was recovered.

A number of electronic components were delivered behind schedule due to testing failures, which also contributed to the large number of delays.

"We decided to launch when we are ready," Friedman wrote in an earlier update.