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SpaceX rocket lifts off for space station cargo run

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday to deliver a cargo capsule to the International Space Station for NASA. The 208-foot (63-meter) tall rocket, built and operated by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, bolted off its seaside launch pad at 3:25 p.m. EDT/1925 GMT, darting through overcast skies as it headed toward orbit.

US defence meteorological satellite launched from California

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A U.S. military weather satellite was successfully launched into orbit early Thursday, the Air Force said. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the 19th Defence Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft blasted off at 7:46 a.m. PDT and quickly rose into the cold, clear sky above the launch site on the Pacific coast about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. About 18 minutes later, the satellite successfully separated from the upper-stage rocket.

Comet-probing robot to wake from hibernation

A fridge-sized robot lab hurtling through the Solar System aboard a European probe is about to wake from hibernation and prepare for the first-ever landing by a spacecraft on a comet. The delicate operation, starting Friday, marks the next phase in the European Space Agency's billion-dollar mission to explore one of these ancient wanderers of our star system. Sent to sleep in 2011 to save energy, the lander will start a weeks-long process of progressively waking up, checking and updating its systems ahead of its historic rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Mars on Earth: vacuum chambers mimic the Red Planet

Scientists have built Mars here on Earth -- at least within the walls of a simulation chamber that mimics conditions on the Red Planet down to its Martian dust, according to a paper out Tuesday. The Spanish researchers built a vacuum chamber to reproduce conditions including temperature, pressure, gas composition and radiation on Mars, to help test gear designed for missions to the fourth planet from the sun. The rovers -- and their advanced sensors and instruments -- are being used in NASA missions aimed at discovering whether the planet could ever have supported life.

Hispasat satellite launched into orbit from French Guiana

Kuru, French Guiana, Mar 23 (EFE).- Two satellites, including one belonging to Spain's Hispasat, were carried into orbit by an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency's Kuru complex in French Guiana. The rocket lifted off at 2205 GMT on Saturday after several launch postponements. The launch was originally scheduled for Nov. 6, 2013, but it was cancelled when officials concluded that further tests were needed on the rocket.

Malaysia says French satellite detects debris in plane search area

Malaysia said Sunday it had received new satellite data from France indicating floating objects in the search area for a missing Malaysian jet in the southern Indian Ocean. The Transport Ministry said the information had been passed on to Australian authorities who are coordinating the search for the plane, now focused on a remote stretch of ocean 2,500 kilometres (1,562 miles) southwest of Perth.

Analysis of possible plane debris slowed by vast size of satellite data

By Andrea Shalal and Jane Wardell WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Delays in identifying satellite images that may show debris of a missing Malaysian plane in the southern Indian Ocean were due to the vast amounts of data that needed to be analyzed, Australian authorities and the U.S. company that collected the images said.

Mercury, the incredible shrinking planet

Beneath its Sun-scorched exterior, the planet Mercury is cooling, which is causing it to shrink ever so slightly, scientists said Sunday. Over the last 3.8 billion years, the planet has shrunk by up to 14 kilometers (8.8 miles) to reach its present diameter of 4,800 km (3,032 miles), they said. Mercury, like Earth, is believed to have a superhot metallic core. But unlike Earth, it has no tectonic plates which bump and jostle and slide in response to the stress that heat loss causes on the planet's crust.

Satellite guardians join search for missing plane

A fleet of Earth-monitoring satellites has joined the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the organisers of the satellite pool said on Wednesday. China on Tuesday requested activation of the so-called International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, the organisation said on its website. Under the agreement, 15 space agencies or national space institutes help emergency or relief efforts by passing on images from satellites flying over the location.

Europe sets plans for 2024 planet-hunting mission

Europe on Wednesday unveiled plans to launch a major space observatory in 2024 aimed at finding planets orbiting other stars, one of the new frontiers of astronomy. An unmanned probe named PLATO -- for PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations -- will look for telltale wobbles in starlight that point to an "exoplanet" moving in front of its host star, the European Space Agency (ESA) said. The six-year mission has a budget of 600 million euros ($821 million), ESA said. Equipped with 34 small telescopes and cameras, PLATO will scrutinise thousands of star systems.
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