Sunday, October 2, 2011

International Space Launches

Proton Rocket Blastoff.

Well, it seems the Russians feel everything is safe to resume launches again. International Launch Services (ILS) launched their Russian-made Proton-M rocket to carry a satellite into orbit. Blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome, the rocket lifted the QuetzSat-1 communication satellite into orbit for the Mexican government.

Promotional Poster for Mexican Satellite.

A satellite for Europe, the EutelSat, was lifted into orbit on Saturday aboard a Zenit 3SL rocket. This unusual launch occurred thanks to SeaLaunch, a company that uses the sea itself as it's launchpad. From a ship located at the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, the Zenit rocket is lowered into the water from the boat and uses buoyancy and stabilizers to position the rocket for launch.

From the waters of Earth to the vacuum of space...

SeaLaunch recently recovered from bankruptcy to rebuild their company and restart operations again. Looks very successful so far. By using a ship to launch the rocket, SeaLaunch can send its rockets aloft from any water space on the planet and meet its customers' needs.

By far the most impressive launch recently shows that the Chinese are indeed serious about progress in space exploration.

China televised launch of their first space lab.
Credit: Chinese television

Using a Long March 2F rocket, on September 29th China sent up an unmanned space lab module to orbit. The Tiangong-1 lab is not intended for permanent occupation, like the ISS, but will instead be man-tended. Chinese astronauts will practice rendezvous and docking with the lab, and occasionally visit it to keep experiments working. China plans to first send a couple of unmanned capsules to dock with the lab, followed by Shenzou-10, a manned mission, which may include the first Chinese woman astronaut.

Illustration of potential docking.
Credit: China Manned Space Engineering Office.

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