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Cosmos 1 May be Lost, But the Search Continues


Mat Kaplan
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

At 12:46 PM (PDT) on June 21, 2005, Cosmos 1, a project of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, was launched from a submerged Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea. Cosmos 1 is the first solar sail spacecraft and is designed to sail on light, using photons for propulsion in Earth orbit.

The following is a statement regarding the current known status of the mission as of Wednesday, June 22 at 10:30 AM PDT:

In the past twenty-four hours, the Russian space agency (RKA) has made a tentative conclusion that the Volna rocket carrying Cosmos 1 failed during the firing of the first stage. This would mean that Cosmos 1 is lost.

While it is likely that this conclusion is correct, there are some inconsistent indications from information received from other sources. The Cosmos 1 team observed what appear to be signals, that looks like they are from the spacecraft when it was over the first three ground stations and some Doppler data over one of these stations. This might indicate that Cosmos 1 made it into orbit, but probably a lower one than intended. The project team now considers this to be a very small probability. But because there is a slim chance that it might be so, efforts to contact and track the spacecraft continue. We are working with US Strategic Command to provide additional information in a day or so.

If the spacecraft made it to orbit, its autonomous program might be working, and after 4 days the sails could automatically deploy. While the chances of this are very, very small, we still encourage optical observers to see if the sail can be seen after that time.

The Planetary Society will continue to post updates on its website at as information on the status of the spacecraft becomes available.

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