The SMAP satellite lifting off atop a Delta II rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite was launched on a Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 7320-10LC (SLC-2) of the base of Vandenberg, California. The spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage after almost an hour and was placed in a sun-synchronous almost polar orbit that will have an altitude between 660 and 685 km (between 410 and 426 miles).

Artistic concept of the ATV-5 cargo spaceship breaking the International Space Station

ESA’s 5-ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle 5) “Georges LemaĆ®tre” was used in a manner different from the usual. The cargo spacecraft is docked to the International Space Station since August 12 2014 and yesterday its thrusters were used to lower the Station about a kilometer. The purpose is to allow spaceships that reach it to carry a greater cargo.