Thursday, August 27, 2015

Space Highlights - August 27, 2015

August 27, 2015

India's 25th communications satellite - the GSLV-D6 - is scheduled to be launched later today.  The 4667 lb (2117 kg) satellite, developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is expected to lift off at 4:52 pm local time from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh, on its way to geostationary orbit.

Earlier this week, China launched what is being described as a "research satellite" for "land survey" and "crop yield assessment" from its Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, aboard a Long March-4C booster.  The satellite is believed to be part of the YG-8/15/19/22 series of electro-optical observation satellites.

Boeing has announced plans to lay-off several hundred employees from its satellite launch division in El Segundo, California.

NASA's Cassini probe made what is expected to be its last close-up pass of Saturn's moon Dione, as the space probe winds down its mission.  Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, but has gradually exhausted the fuel for its thrusters.  The space probe came within 295 miles (470 km) of Dione for its final pass.  Close passes at several other moons are expected before the probe exhausts its remaining fuel sometime in 2017.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took an unusual, low-angle "selfie" this week.  The self-image also highlighted wear and tear on the rover's six wheels, with at least one martian rock embedded in one of the probe's aluminum wheels.  The self image was captured on Sol 1065 (1065th martian day) of the mission.

The first images from Pluto since late July are expected to be downloaded from the New Horizons spacecraft late next week.  The probe flew past Pluto on July 14th, but due to the vast distance from earth, download rates for images and other data are exceedingly slow.  Only seven close-up images have been returned to date.

India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has returned 3D views of Ophir Chasma, part of the Valles Marineris canyon system.

New images from Ceres from NASA's Dawn space probe reveal what is being described as a pyramid-shaped mountain with a flat top.  Scientists continue to puzzle over the origin of the unusual feature.  Ceres is the largest of the asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, and has been classified as a "dwarf planet."

The European Rosetta space probe, in orbit around Comet 67P, made its closest approach to the sun this past week, as the comet spewed plumes of gas and dust.

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