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Emily LakdawallaJune 10, 2005

"Our works with the spacecraft are finished successfully."

Here at Cosmos 1 Project Operations Pasadena -- or POP -- we are scrambling to get our mission operations plans and procedures ready for our launch, just 11 days from now. As we get ready, we are following what's going on with the spacecraft in Russia. It was shipped from its assembly facility at NPO Lavochkin in Khimki (near Moscow) on May 24. It reached a Russian Navy base at Severomorsk on June 1, where it's being attached to the Volna rocket that's going to launch it into Earth orbit. I still can't get over the fact that our delicate pinwheel of a spacecraft is going into space on top of something that was originally built to shoot warheads at us.

We just heard this morning from Viktor Kudryashov, the Project Manager for Cosmos 1 at Lavochkin; he's at Severomorsk overseeing the integration of the spacecraft onto the Volna rocket. Viktor just told us, "Now all is OK. The spacecraft was assembled with launch vehicle adaptor and with [the rocket's] 3rd stage. Makeev [State Rocket Center] and Navy will do their own works, our works with the spacecraft are finished successfully." It's a big moment when the people who build a spacecraft hand it over to the guys who are going to launch it. There is absolutely nothing more you can do to get your spacecraft any more ready between now and launch -- not if you want to stick to your launch date, anyway. Now it's up to Makeev to make sure the rocket works and the Russian Navy to get our baby into the right orbit.

Which isn't to say that we don't have plenty of work to do between now and launch. We're doing all kinds of rehearsals now, getting ready to respond to whatever happens on June 21 at 12:46:09 PDT (19:46:09 UTC). We have to finalize our plans for how we will deal with all the data our mission will generate -- from instrument data to Doppler tracking of the spacecraft in orbit -- and we have to figure where that data is coming from, when, which is not a simple task. The Russians will be tracking and communicating with the spacecraft from two of their own ground stations, and they are coordinating closely with a third, in the Czech Republic. Here at the Society, we've found help at two American stations, at the University of California - Berkeley and in Fairbanks, Alaska. On top of that, our spacecraft will be tracked by the U.S. Strategic Command, and they'll tell us where Cosmos 1 is, several times a day; and amateur observers around the world will be trying to catch pictures of Cosmos 1 in flight. All of this stuff -- data from the American ground stations, Strategic Command, and Solar Sail Watch -- flows through POP. The actual mission operations, like developing and sending commands to the spacecraft, are being conducted by Lavochkin (we refer to them as Mission Operations Moscow, or MOM). But the data we provide them will be critical to understanding what's going on with the Sail.

Read more: mission status, Cosmos-1

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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