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European experiments successfully launched aboard Foton spacecraft

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Old May 31st 05, 09:39 PM
Jacques van Oene
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Default European experiments successfully launched aboard Foton spacecraft

N 26-2005 - Paris, 31 May 2005

European experiments successfully launched aboard Foton spacecraft

An unmanned Foton-M spacecraft carrying a mainly European payload was put
into orbit by a Russian Soyuz-U launcher today at 14:00 Central European
Time (18:00 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Following the launch and nine minutes of propelled flight, the Foton-M2
spacecraft is now in low-earth orbit where it will remain for 16 days before
its reentry module lands close to the Russian/Kazakh border.

During the mission European experiments and equipment will be monitored by
ESA's Operations Team at the Payload Operations Centre based at Esrange near
Kiruna, Sweden. They will be responsible for receiving, evaluating and
disseminating scientific data generated by European payloads on Foton such
as the Fluidpac and Agat experiment facilities. During 6 of the 16 daily
orbits, the Foton spacecraft will be in a suitable orbital position for
Kiruna to receive signals from it. Should any experiment parameters need
adjustment, the commands will be sent direct from Kiruna to the specific
experiment facility.
The European payload carried by Foton-M2 covers a scientific programme
consisting of 39 experiments in fluid physics, biology, material science,
meteoritics, radiation dosimetry and exobiology. The European Space Agency
has been cooperating with the Russian Space Agency on this type of
scientific mission for 18 years. With 385 kg of
European experiments and equipment out of the overall payload of 600 kg,
this mission constitutes the largest European contribution that has been put
into orbit on such missions. The Foton-M2 mission provides reflight
opportunities for almost the entire Foton-M1 experiment programme lost due
to launcher failure on 15 October 2002.

Applied research plays a prominent role with heat transfer experiments in
the European FluidPac facility, chemical diffusion experiments in the SCCO
(Soret Coefficients in Crude Oil), and material science investigations in
the Agat and Polizon furnaces. These experiments are expected to contribute,
respectively, to new heat-exchanger designs, to more efficient oil
exploration processes, and to better semiconductor alloys.

As on previous missions, biological research receives a great deal of
attention, this time with the emphasis on fundamental questions about the
origin and spread of life forms in the universe. Biopan, which is hosting
most of these experiments, is making its fifth scientific flight on a Foton
mission. Education is also playing a part in the mission with a germination
experiment, which has come from ESA's student programme.

"Foton is one of the very important platforms that ESA uses for
experimentation in weightlessness," said Daniel Sacotte, ESA's Director of
Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programmes, "and with more
than half the total available payload being taken up by European experiments
and hardware, this shows the efforts that Europe is making to expand the
boundaries of research in space to help improve life on Earth."

The mission is being carried out under an agreement signed between ESA and
the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos on 21 October 2003 covering two Foton
flights (Foton-M2 and Foton-M3, scheduled for 2007), which will have a
combined total of 660 kg of ESA-supplied scientific payloads on board. The
agreement also ties in two Russian partner companies: TsSKB-Progress in
Samara and the Barmin Design Bureau for General Engineering
(КВОМ) in Moscow.

"This was the first Foton launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
as all previous launches have been from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia"
explains Antonio Verga, ESA's Project Manager for Foton missions. "The
Foton-M2 reentry module is expected to reenter earth's atmosphere on 16 June
and land in an uninhabitated area near the town of Orenburg, Russia, close
to the Russian/Kazakh border. The capsule and the experiments will be
recovered within a few hours of the landing. Time-sensitive ESA experiments
will be flown back immediately to Rotterdam via Samara and turned over to
researchers for analysis at ESA/ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands."

For more information on the Foton-M2 mission and the status of the ESA

For more information, please contact:
Franco Bonacina
Media Relations
ESA Public Relations Division
Tel: +33 1 5369 7155
Fax: +33 1 5369 7690

Dieter Isakeit
Erasmus User Centre and Communication Office
Directorate of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programmes
Noordwijk (The Netherlands)
Tel: +31 71 565 5451
Fax: +31 71 565 8008


Jacques :-)



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