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Satellites are used for a large number of purposes. Common types include military (spy) and civilian Earth observation satellites, communication satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites.

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NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope...

Kepler Discovers

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star...

Pulverized Planet

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope....

Dark Asteroids

NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky things in the night sky -- among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth....

Space shuttle Discovery rode a brilliant trail of fire and smoke Thursday afternoon as it soared into orbit for an important mission to the International Space Station. The launch came after a last-minute technical glitch with the Air Force's Eastern Range that left only four seconds in the launch window and a practical limit of two seconds because of draining requirements with the external fuel tank.

"It was one more second than Mike Leinbach (shuttle launch director) needed to get the job done, so there was plenty of margin," said Mike Moses, chairman of the Mission Management Team. Still, he joked, "I could use a little less heart palpitations in the final seconds of the countdown."

Leinbach said launch simulations have conditioned the team of controllers to handle the pressures of last-second "go" decisions without jeopardizing a mission.

"This was one for the record books," Leinbach said. "It may have seemed a little rushed to people on the outside. It's a testament to the team that we have practiced for this."

The launch of the shuttle was not the only thing to happen in space exploration on launch day. Just as Discovery's tank finished being fueled, a cargo-carrying Automated Transfer Vehicle from the Eurpoean Space Agency docked to the station. The spacecraft, which carried no people, launched from South America last week on an Ariane V.

"This is a pretty tremendous day in spaceflight for us," said Bll Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations. "For us to be sitting here today with both of these events occurring as they did is pretty amazing."

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