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Venus Express Spacecraft To Lift Off November 9

Illustration of Venus Express.
Moscow (AFP) Oct 31, 2005
Venus Express, the European Space Agency's first mission to explore Earth's closest neighbour, will be launched November 9, after the lift-off was postponed earlier this month, the Russian space agency said Monday.

"The launch is planned for November 9 at 6:33 am Moscow time (0333 GMT) from the Russian cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan," Roskosmos agency said in a statement.

Before then, "experts from the Russian space agency will fix faults which have been discovered and rerun the cycle of launch preparations," said Roskosmos.

It said the new launch date was set during a meeting of a state commission grouping Russian space sector officials and the decision was taken in consultation with the European Space Agency.

Venus Express, designed to monitor the planet's unusual atmosphere, was to have been launched by a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket, operated by the company Starsem, from Baikonur on October 26.

But the European Space Agency (ESA) said five days earlier that "contamination" had been detected inside the fairing -- the bullet-shaped hood that covers the payload on the top of the rocket -- in final checks at Baikonur.

It did not give details.

The 1.27-tonne unmanned orbiter is equipped with seven instruments, is intended to map the Venus surface and weather system, looking at temperature variation, cloud formations, wind speeds and gas composition.

Its main goal is to help understand why Venus fell prey to runaway global warming.

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is similar in size, mass and age to Earth, but the two planets are otherwise quite different.

The so-called Evening Star has clouds of suffocating gas driven by hurricane-force winds, as well as a surface pressure and temperature high enough to crush and melt lead.

Venus Express is a sister to Mars Express, an orbiter that is now circling the Red Planet.

The launch postponement had been announced less than two weeks after a disastrous launch involving an ESA satellite and a Russian rocket.

CryoSat, an ice-monitoring satellite costing 140 million euros (170 million dollars), was lost on October 8, after the booster stage failed following lift-off from a base at Plesetsk, northern Russia.

Its carrier was a converted Soviet-era SS-19 ballistic missile, Rockot, operated by Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, a joint venture of EADS SPACE Transportation and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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Launch Of European Mission To Venus Is Postponed
Paris (AFP) Oct 22, 2005
The launch of Europe's first mission to Venus, due to have taken place next Wednesday, has been postponed by several days, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

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