December 12, 2017

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks December 13–14

This should be a good year for the Geminids. There’s almost no moonlight to interfere with observing, and the shower reliably produces a high meteor count. Start looking for them about 2 hours after sunset. Image Credit: Sky & Telescope / Gregg Dindermann

December 12, 2017 – If it’s clear Wednesday night and Thursday before dawn, keep a lookout high overhead for the “shooting stars” of the Geminid meteor shower. That’s the peak night for this annual display. Read More

AZUR SPACE Selected By Sierra Nevada Corporation To Build Dream Chaser Spacecraft Solar Panels

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser Cargo variant. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

December 12, 2017 – AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH, a leading provider of high-efficiency solar cells, assemblies and panels for both space and terrestrial power applications, announced today that it was chosen from a competitive procurement to provide solar panels for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) first Dream Chaser spacecraft. Read More

Does New Horizons’ Next Target Have A Moon?

On three occasions in June and July 2017, New Horizons mission team members attempted to track a small, distant Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, as it passed in front of a star – an event known as an occultation. The colored lines mark the path of the star as seen from different telescopes on each day; the blank spaces on those lines indicate the few seconds when MU69 blocked the light from the star. Scientists are using these observations to craft a picture of MU69 and any companion bodies. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/James Tuttle Keane

December 12, 2017 – Scientists were already excited to learn this summer that New Horizons’ next flyby target – a Kuiper Belt object a billion miles past Pluto – might be either peanut-shaped or even two objects orbiting one another. Now new data hints that 2014 MU69 might have company: a small moon. Read More

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IMPACT Center – Industry Open House Event
Source: LASP/CU Boulder

With funding from NASA, the Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT) studies the dusty plasma environments around airless bodies within the interplanetary medium, and includes partnerships with LASP, CU Boulder’s departments of physics and aerospace engineering sciences, the Colorado School of Mines, and international collaborators. At the core of the IMPACT facilities is 3 MV linear electrostatic dust accelerator which is used for a variety of impact research activities as well as calibrating dust instruments for space applications. The dust accelerator is equipped with a 3 MV Pelletron generator capable of accelerating micron and submicron particles of various materials to velocities approaching 100 km/s. The January 30 Industry Open House event provides an opportunity for aerospace contractors with high-speed impact testing needs to view the Lab’s facilities.

Space Elves
Source: ESA

The Christmas elves worked hard to have the chassis of the Orion service module ready before the end of the year. Engineers at Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, have spent recent months assembling elements of the second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion vehicle – which will carry up to four astronauts on a voyage beyond the Moon.

Orbital ATK Announces U.S. Air Force Contract For Long Duration Propulsive ESPA Spacecraft
Source: Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced it has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missiles Center (AFSMC) to build LDPE, or the Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) space platform. The innovative platform, positioned between the launch booster and a primary space vehicle, is used to carry small payloads or deploy small satellites. Under the contract, Orbital ATK will design and manufacture the LDPE using its ESPAStar™ platform.

NASA Visits Colorado To Discuss Deep Space Mission
Source: KDVR FOX31 Denver

NASA visited Colorado on Monday to check in with two local companies who are helping build technology for the Orion spacecraft. The companies (EnerSys in Longmont and SEAKR in Centennial) are designing, manufacturing and testing flight hardware for Orion and NASA’s new Space Launch System (which will be the most powerful rocket in the world).

China And US Quietly Hold Third Civil Space Dialogue, Discuss Exploration Plans And Cooperation
Source: gb times

Beijing quietly hosted the third China-US Civil Space Dialogue on November 30, with the two sides exchanging plans for human and robotic space exploration, and discussing engagement through multilateral mechanisms. The meeting was co-chaired by Tian Yulong, secretary-general of China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Jonathan Margolis, assistant secretary of state of the US Department of State.

Air Force Space Command Wants A Stable Budget
Source: Denver Post

To say there’s a lot riding on taxpayer funds that continue to flow to Air Force Space Command — from both a national security standpoint and a Colorado economy standpoint — may be selling it short. The command, headquartered at Colorado Springs’s Peterson Air Force Base, leads U.S. military efforts in space and cyberspace. Its four facilities in the state, including Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, employ a combined 28,000 enlisted personnel, officers and civilians.

NOAA/NASA’s Suomi NPP Satellite Provides Copious Information On California’s Fires
Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The Thomas fire, the fifth largest in California’s history, continues to creep towards Montecito and Santa Barbara, and is currently 234,200 acres in size. That is about 4,200 acres larger than yesterday. Reports today are citing the fire at 20 percent containment per Inciweb. Because the region was relatively cloud free last night, NOAA/NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) observed smoke over Santa Barbara using its Day Night Band.

Galileo Launch Brings Navigation Network Close To Completion
Source: ESA

Europe has four more Galileo navigation satellites in the sky following their launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. After today’s success, only one more launch remains before the Galileo constellation is complete and delivering global coverage.

Telescopes Team Up To Study Giant Galaxy
Source: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

Astronomers have used two Australian radio telescopes and several optical telescopes to study complex mechanisms that are fuelling jets of material blasting away from a black hole 55 million times more massive than the Sun. In research published today, the international team of scientists used the telescopes to observe a nearby radio galaxy known as Centaurus A.

Life’s Building Blocks Observed In Spacelike Environment
Source: American Institute of Physics

Where do the molecules required for life originate? It may be that small organic molecules first appeared on earth and were later combined into larger molecules, such as proteins and carbohydrates. But a second possibility is that they originated in space, possibly within our solar system.

Saturn’s Rings Cast Shadows, Affect The Planet’s Ionosphere
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Data collected by the Cassini spacecraft, before it was deliberately crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere in September 2017, show that the planet’s illustrious rings are casting a shadow in ionized particles over the planet. Cassini has transmitted a hoard of valuable data from Saturn since it arrived at the planet in 2004. In its final months, the probe was sent on a series of orbital dips within the rings that reached very close to the planet itself.

Blue Origin Launches New Shepard Suborbital Spaceship On Test Flight
Source: GeekWire

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture, Blue Origin, launched the latest version of its New Shepard suborbital spaceship today for the company’s first test flight in 14 months, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The uncrewed, straight-up, straight-down trip was conducted at Blue Origin’s testing ground amid the ranchlands of West Texas.

Saturn’s Rings Are A Recent Addition To The Solar System, Cassini Observations Show
Source: Science

The rings of Saturn seem like permanent fixtures in the solar system, firing the imagination of poets and scientists alike. But observations made this year, in the final months of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, and reported here at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) show they are surprisingly youthful: Until a few hundred million years ago, they did not exist.

Rocket Lab Launch Aborted Seconds From Launch
Source: Radio New Zealand

New Zealand company Rocket Lab’s launch of a 17-metre-long rocket from Māhia Peninsula was aborted at the last moment this afternoon. The test flight – which is nicknamed ‘Still Testing’ – was set to launch at 4:50pm. The launch was aborted two seconds before take-off.

The Road To Deep Space Begins In Colorado With Orion
Source: Coloradoan

From the first test flight of Orion, to the return of manned moon missions, to the first human on Mars and beyond, it all starts with companies like EnerSys in Longmont, Colorado. EnerSys is one of 250 Colorado businesses working on the Orion Spacecraft.

Chandra Reveals The Elementary Nature Of Cassiopeia A
Source: NASA

Astronomers have long studied exploded stars and their remains — known as “supernova remnants” — to better understand exactly how stars produce and then disseminate many of the elements observed on Earth, and in the cosmos at large. Due to its unique evolutionary status, Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is one of the most intensely studied of these supernova remnants.

Ariane 5 ES Lofts Another Set Of Galileo Quadruplets

An Ariane 5 ES rocket has lofted another four Galileo satellites from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Tuesday. The launch – the 11th of the year for Arianespace – of the FM-15 through FM-18 involves the second use of the Ariane launch vehicle for a Galileo launch, following a previous run with the Soyuz rocket. Launch was on schedule at 18:36 UTC.

Global Positioning System: Better Planning And Coordination Needed To Improve Prospects For Fielding Modernized Capability
Source: United States Government Accountability Office

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) acquisition of the next generation Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, known as GPS III, faces a number of acquisition challenges, but these challenges do not threaten DOD’s ability to continue operating the current GPS system, which DOD refers to as the constellation, in the near term.

Powering The Future Of Location Intelligence: Earth Imaging Basics
Source: DigitalGlobe

We’ve all interacted with imagery of our planet in one form or another. Whether on our mobile devices, televised news coverage, in-dash navigation screens, even gaming platforms – viewing the earth from above has become commonplace.

Electrical And Chemical Coupling Between Saturn And Its Rings
Source: Institutet för rymdfysik

A Langmuir probe, developed in Sweden and flown to Saturn on the Cassini spacecraft, has made exciting discoveries in the atmosphere of the planet. Jan-Erik Wahlund at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Uppsala and his colleagues show that there is a strong coupling, both chemically and electrically, between the atmosphere of Saturn and its rings. These research results have now been published in the well-respected journal Science.