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21-07-2011
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Spektr-R - RadioAstron Observatory in orbit

Submitter: Willem Baan & Lout Sondaar
Description: On July 18, 2011 at 08:31 local time the RadioAstron mission lifted off at launch pad 45 in the Baykonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After the launch with a Zenith-3M (2SB80) first stage and two firings of the Fregat-SB upper stage the satellite was put into its intended orbit at 10:06 local time. The initial orbit has an apogee of 340,000 km and a perigee around 750 km. All system checkouts of the spacecraft have been successful and on Friday 22 July, the 10m radio antenna will be deployed.

This historic launch signifies a new era of space research as it was the first launch of an observatory for Russia since the end of the Soviet era. Spektr-R, developed under Radioastron project in the framework of the Russian Federal Space Program, is a space telescope to conduct high resolution radio interferometer observations in conjunction with the global ground radio telescope network. Scientists expect to use this observatory to study quasars, astrophysical masers, and pulsars and other compact objects in the Milky Way. The spacecraft's operational lifetime will be no less
than five years and may extend to 9 years.

Spektr-R was built by the Roscosmosí company Lavochkin R&D. The scientific payload was developed by the Astro Space Center of Russian Academy of Sciencesí Lebedev Physical Institute and international partners. ASTRON and the EVN contributed to the early development of the project. The RadioAstron project has been under the inspiring leadership of Akademician Nikolay Kardashev since its inception many years ago. Although the many changes in Russia have caused a significant delay in the program, this launch is a great achievement for the RadioAstron Team at the AstroSpace Center. Congratulations.

The other astronomical observatories planned by Roscosmos are the Spektr-RG X-ray telescope (2013), the Spektr-UF ultraviolet observatory (2015), and the Spektr-M (MilliMetron) telescope (2017-2018).

Images provided by Lavochkin Association and Roscosmos.
Copyright: as noted
 
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