A $14 million satellite released from the space shuttle Discovery focused on the sun's searing corona Wednesday to help unlock mysteries about solar winds.
Astronaut Susan Helms used Discovery's robot arm to release the 2,800-pound satellite, named Spartan, on Tuesday for two days of free flight. It will focus on the streams of charged particles that rush through the solar system and are sometimes visible on Earth as beautiful auroras, also called "northern (or southern) lights."Video images beamed from the shuttle showed the boxlike satellite drifting into a parallel orbit 160 miles above the Indian Ocean.
Although the release itself was flawless, the shuttle radar system failed, and commander Richard Richards couldn't track Spartan as it floated away. The radar finally locked onto the satellite an hour later, but distance measurements were off by 2,000 feet.