A converted RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile, better known as the SS-18 Satan during the Cold War, has successfully launched a number of foreign satellites, including as cluster of minature cubesats for American university students.
This morning’s launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan also returns the ‘Dnepr’ launch vehicle to flight, following a previous failure. However, another Dnepr launch – this time for Bigelow Aerospace – has been delayed until next month.
The seven CubeSat mini-satellites have been developed under a project by California Polytechnic State University and Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Lab. More than 60 universities and high schools are participating in the CubeSat program.
The MAST experiment consists of three GPS receiver-equipped picosatellites stacked for launch into a volume about the size of a loaf of bread. Once in orbit, two of the satellites will separate and deploy a 1,000 meter long version of the company’s patented Hoytether(TM) structure.
A third picosatellite, dubbed ‘Gadget,’ will then crawl slowly along the tether’s length, recording and transmitting images of the tether to enable detection of any damage to the tether. The MAST picosatellites were developed by TUI in collaboration with Stanford University.
‘During the final testing of the Dnepr launch vehicle in Baikonur, Kosmotras discovered improvements and upgrades that should be made to enhance the system’s efficacy and reliability,’ said Robert Bigelow in a statement. ‘These upgrades are being made to all Dnepr launch vehicles and will increase the chances of achieving our primary goal of mission success. < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
‘However, making these improvements will take time. Bigelow Aerospace now expects that the Genesis II launch will take place in late May.
‘Testing and preparatory work on the Genesis II spacecraft itself will be completed this week at the Yasny Launch Base. Weâ€™re proud to report that the spacecraft is in excellent condition and ready for integration with the Dneprâ€™s Space Head Module as soon as Kosmotras is able to proceed.
‘No one ever wishes for a delay, but discovering problems and making the relevant fixes are a normal part of every launch campaign. Bigelow Aerospace supports ISCK’s prudent decision to take the necessary time to enhance the Dnepr’s systems.’