On June 15, 2010 at 14:42 UTC a Soviet-era "Dnepr” ballistic missile blasted off from southern Russia. The "Dnepr” rocket launched from an underground silo at a space base near Yasny, Russia, a small community in the Orenburg region in the southern part of the country.
The rocket orbited a French spacecraft to observe the sun and a Swedish experiment to demonstrate orbital formation flying with two satellites.
The launch was the 15th flight of the Dnepr rocket, a converted Ukrainian SS-18 rocket built for the Soviet Union's military missile forces. Fourteen Dnepr missions have been successful.
The "Picard” satellite is commencing a two-year mission to watch the sun with three instruments. Scientists hope the satellite will provide insights into the sun's variability and its link to Earth.
CNES is also managing the Picard mission with the help of Belgium, Switzerland and French research institutions. The cost of the mission is 70 million euros.
The mission is named for Jean Picard, the French astronomer who first accurately measured the sun's diameter in the 17th century.
The Dnepr rocket also launched the Prisma mission into space.
Consisting of two satellites, Prisma will attempt a daring demonstration of new technologies for automated formation-flying and rendezvous of spacecraft in orbit.
Prisma's Mango and Tango spacecraft, bolted together for the launch, will separate Aug. 3 to begin their trials. Playing the role of the active satellite, Mango will repeatedly approach and back away from Tango for up to ten months, demonstrating each of the technologies one-by-one.
Swedish Space Corp. built the satellites for the Swedish National Space Board. The mission cost Sweden about $50 million, but that figure doesn't include contributions from European partners.