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Converted missile orbits six small satellites

Posted: July 29, 2009

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Six small satellites were launched Wednesday aboard a Dnepr rocket, delivering spacecraft into orbit for organizations in four countries.


Credit: TsENKI
The 111-foot-tall booster, a converted ballistic missile now used for satellite launches, shot out of the underground silo in Kazakhstan at 1846 GMT (2:46 p.m. EDT).

After reaching the surface, the Dnepr fired its first stage engines to propel the rocket toward space.

The three-stage launcher was aiming for a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of about 420 miles and an inclination of 98 degrees.

The Dnepr's third stage deployed the six satellites a few minutes later, completing the vehicle's 13th flight.

A spokesperson for Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., builder of two of the payloads, confirmed the Dnepr successfully released the satellites as planned.

Ground stations were expected to contact the spacecraft later Wednesday night.

Both SSTL-built satellites will join the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a fleet of small Earth-watching satellites designed to provide quick-response imagery to emergency managers worldwide.

The UK-DMC 2 and Deimos 1 satellites will gather wide-angle, medium-resolution images with optical payloads able to see objects about 72 feet across.

The spacecraft join four existing disaster monitoring satellites with less-capable imaging equipment. Those payloads are owned by agencies in the U.K., Nigeria, Algeria and China.

"The DMC has pioneered a new international partnership approach to Earth observation, providing unique data with high temporal resolution. The success of the first DMC is now leading to the next generation of more advanced satellites in the constellation," said Martin Sweeting, SSTL executive chairman.

UK-DMC 2 and Deimos 1 increase the fleet's total imaging capacity twenty-fold, according to DMC International Imaging Ltd., the firm that markets the constellation's products.

Officials use the constellation's images for mapping, urban planning, resource management, security and disaster relief purposes.

UK-DMC 2 weighs about 212 pounds and is a follow-on to a 6-year-old first-generation disaster monitoring satellite.

The 200-pound Deimos 1 spacecraft will be handed over to Deimos Space, a Spanish company that will operate the satellite during its mission.

Two Nigerian satellites, also built by SSTL, will join the DMC next year.

The Dnepr rocket also delivered DubaiSat 1 into orbit. The six-sided satellite, weighing about 420 pounds, will be operated by the Dubai-based Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology for up to five years.

About the size of a washing machine, the small craft is the United Arab Emirates' first satellite.

"DubaiSat 1 comes in line with the directions of our visionary leadership in enhancing knowledge and technological development, and embracing the latest achievements to position the UAE as the regional hub of the knowledge economy," said Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, EIAST board chairman. "The launch of DubaiSat 1 will pave the way for the further space projects that highlight the UAE's thought-leadership role in space technology research."

DubaiSat 1 was built by Satrec Initiative, a Korean company specializing in Earth observation satellites.

The spacecraft carries an optical imaging camera with a black-and-white resolution of about 8.2 feet and a color sharpness of 16.4 feet, according to EIAST.

DubaiSat 1 imagery will be used for urban development, scientific research, telecommunications, transportation, construction and mapping applications, according to EIAST.

Scientists will use the data for fog forecasts, predicting sand storms, water quality research and engineering tests, officials said.

Two 26-pound American communications satellites orbited by the Dnepr will provide tracking and data monitoring services for companies with remote or mobile assets.

The spacecraft are owned by Aprize Satellite Inc., a Virginia-based firm that hopes to lower the cost of satellite communications services.

A small testbed for the Spanish space agency was also launched Wednesday. Nanosat 1B, stretching about 20 inches in diameter, will demonstrate basic space technologies.