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By | August 6, 2007

      Lander Spacecraft Streaks On Mission To Arctic Region Of Mars

      The Phoenix spacecraft lifted off at 5:22 a.m. ET Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a 422 million-miles, 9.5-months dash to Mars, where a lander will separate and alight in the arctic region of the red planet.

      There, Phoenix will dig into the soil to check for ice or water, and to examine the soil.

      Phoenix, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], was lofted into space by a Delta II rocket developed by The Boeing Co. [BA] that was provided by United Launch Alliance, a joint launch venture of Boeing and Lockheed.

      Phoenix separated from the Delta II, and ground controllers at the NASA Deep Space Network acquired its signal and began assessing its health. Solar panels to power Phoenix in its cruise phase will be deployed and the craft will be pointed to best receive solar power and communicate with Earth.

      The space traveler oriented itself to the sun as it was programmed to do. It will use solar panels to generate electricity during the nine-month coast to Mars. A separate set of solar arrays is attached to the lander itself.

      Phoenix is scheduled to arrive at Mars on May 25, Lockheed noted.

      The Phoenix mission is led by principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona at Tucson, Ariz., with project management at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Lockheed is handling Earth operations controlling the spacecraft. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the Max Planck Institute (Germany) and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

      Robotic Progress Freighter Launches From Baikonur

      The ISS Progress 26 (P26) craft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

      Loaded with 5,111 pounds of food, fuel, air, water and supplies, the Progress P26 then docked with the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday.

      Earlier, ISS Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Olog Kotov reconfigured the Kurs automated rendezvous system in the Zvezda Service Module in preparation for the P26 docking.

      Also last week, the old Progress 24 freighter undocked from the ISS. While a problem meant Progress 24 didn’t execute the separation burn, it did execute the deorbit burn as scheduled.

      That sent the old freighter and its load of trash from the space station toward the atmosphere, to burn up during the heat of reentry.

      Flight Engineer Clay Anderson conducted routine periodic inspections of the station’s smoke detectors and Kotov did routine air sampling in the station.

      Yurchikhin and Anderson continued to pack items no longer needed on the station for return aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour during its STS-118 mission. (Please see separate story on Endeavour.)

      NGA Prepared Should NextView Satellites Fail, Official Says

      By Geoff Fein

      As DigitalGlobe prepares for the launch of its WorldView satellite and GeoEye [GEOY] readies for a 2008 lift-off of GeoEye-1, the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA) has in place contingency plans should either of the two launches encounter problems, the agency’s director said.

      “We have mitigation strategies for just about anything,” Vice Adm. Robert Murrett, director of NGA, told reporters during a briefing last week.

      Colorado-based DigitalGlobe will launch its WorldView satellite aboard a Boeing Co. [BA] rocket next month.

      “We just shipped WorldView to Vandenberg Air Force Base and it is scheduled for mid-September on a Boeing Delta 2,” Chuck Herring, DigitalGlobe spokesman, said.

      Virginia-based GeoEye has moved their launch date from fall 2007 to early 2008, Mark Brender, company spokesman, said to Defense Daily, sister publication of Space & Missile Defense Report.

      “We expect to launch late first quarter or early second quarter 2008. Integration and testing is taking longer than we expect,” he said.

      According to GeoEye’s K-8 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, the company continues to make progress toward completion of the GeoEye-1 satellite.

      “We have encountered typical technical issues during the testing phase and are taking a deliberate and thorough approach to address and resolve these issues. To date we have uncovered no substantial design issues, but have had some individual component and piece-part problems.

      “As testing continues, we expect to uncover other issues, some of which may affect schedule,” the company reported. “We previously indicated that we expected the launch of GeoEye-1 to occur in the fourth quarter of 2007. The effect of slower than anticipated progress on the satellite has resulted in our not being able to accept a fourth quarter 2007 launch slot. The official launch manifest has not been released by Boeing. We believe we are fourth in line to launch, which means we expect the GeoEye-1 launch to occur in the late first quarter or early second quarter 2008 time frame.”

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