THE 400TH successful launch of a Cosmos booster from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on 24 January carried the US data-relay satellite, Faisat 1, into orbit, together with Sweden's 26kg Astrid science spacecraft and a national 810kg Tsikada navigation satellite.

The first commercial launch of a US satellite by Russia was conducted by Polyot Aerospace for Final Analysis of Greenbelt, Maryland, which plans to send a network of 25 more 114kg Faisat store-and-forward satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) by 2000. Final Analysis also hopes to negotiate more Cosmos launches.

The Faisat, which also carries a US Air Force technology experiment, is the first of the proposed US "Little LEO" data communications projects to be space-borne. The others include Orbital Sciences' Orbcomm.

Orbcomm and Italy's Nuova Telespazio have set up Orbcomm Europe to be the exclusive provider of Orbcomm Satellite-based messaging over mobile data communications in Europe.

Sweden's next science satellite the Odin, will be launched in 1997 by a Start 1 booster, marketed by Russia's Complex organisation.

Source: Flight International