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NASA plans Alaska satellite launch

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Nov 15, 2010
NASA says it is preparing to launch two scientific satellites loaded with experiments, including a solar sail prototype, from its Alaska launch facility.

The satellites will be aboard a Minotaur 4 rocket set to blast off from the Alaska Aerospace Corp.'s Kodiak Launch Complex Friday, reported.

The experiments on board the two spacecraft involve technology demonstrations and research objectives, as part of a NASA effort to explore opportunities to conduct research in space cheaply and reliably, agency officials said.

"We wanted to enable a low-cost platform into orbit," said Mark Boudreaux, project manager for one of the satellites at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "We're very excited about that."

The FASTSAT satellite, short for Fast, Affordable Science and Technology Satellite, is a 325-pound craft the size of a washing machine containing six scientific payloads.

One payload is the NanoSail-D, an 8.5-pound probe intended to eject from FASTSAT and deploy a solar sail in orbit.

Catching photons from the sun in the same way a ships' sails catch the wind, solar sails could provide spacecraft with a lightweight and extremely efficient propulsion mechanism.

The second satellite, about the size of a microwave oven and weighing just 12 pounds, will study how microbes reproduce and grow in space, NASA said.

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