MOSCOW, May 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Photon M, an orbital research laboratory of Russian design and manufacture, will be launched tomorrow in the Russian-rented Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The craft will have snails and tritons on board. The animals are to spend sixteen days in the harsh conditions of weightlessness and high irradiation before coming back to Earth, June 16.
"The landing unit capsule will carry several ribbed newts and edible snails in it," said an expert of Russia's Institute of Medico-Biological Problems.
"The unit is expected to land in Kazakhstan. We shall be controlling the landing operation to correct it, if necessary," added Valeri Lyndin, Mission Control Center spokesman.
The Progress R&D bureau-a major space rocket design and manufacturing center, based in Samara on the Volga-intends to build two Photon M craft within a few years, Valeri Abrashkin, deputy manager of one of its departments, said to Novosti. "A maiden laboratory launch is due just now. Another is expected for October 2006."
The launch, with a Soyuz booster rocket, has been shifted from Plesetsk, in European Russia's north, to Baikonur. "That was a Federal Space Agency resolution," said Mr. Abrashkin.
The Photon M craft is designed for research and technological experiments, and manufacture of materials and biotechnological preparations for many fields of industry and research, he went on.
A Photon M orbit will have a 300-370 kilometer altitude, with a threshold altitude within 260-266 kilometers. A Photon weighs 6.5 tons, out of which research gadgetry accounts for 850-1,200 kilograms.
Photon Ms will be orbited by Soyuz booster rockets.