Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Space Highlights - September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015

The European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft is ready to be shipped to French Guiana in preparation for launch in November.  The LISA space probe is designed to detect gravitational waves.  Once launched, it will be maneuvered to the first Earth-Sun Lagrange point to begin its measurements.

The Inmarsat-5 F3 satellite was launched into orbit on August 28th, aboard a Russian Proton booster.  The launch marks the first flight of the Russian heavy-lift booster since a May 16th mishap that resulted in the loss of Mexico's Cenenario communications satellite.

A falling Russian satellite created a light show in the skies over Hawaii this past Sunday night.  The Cosmos 1315 signals intelligence satellite was originally launched by the Soviet Union on October 14, 1981, but has been dormant for over a decade.

An Atlas V booster successfully placed a U.S. Navy communications satellite into orbit on September 2, 2015.  This was the fourth Mobile User Objective System satellite to be placed into orbit.

NASA is exploring the possibility of developing a new space probe to hunt for signs of life on Saturn's moon Enceladus.  Composed mostly of ice, Enceladus is heated by tidal forces to produce water geysers that were identified by the Cassini space probe.  A return mission, if approved, would be launched in 2021.  Known as the Enceladus Life Finder, or ELF, the mission would be similar to a proposed mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, which also has a liquid ocean beneath its icy surface.  NASA is expected to cull down proposed missions into a smaller pool of finalists, before down-selecting to one or two funded programs in September 2016.

A newly released video stitches together images from the New Horizons' July 14th fly-by of Pluto, to provide a probe's eye view of the encounter.

While the New Horizons spacecraft continues to transmit data from its fly-by of Pluto in July, NASA has already selected a likely candidate for its next encounter: a Kuiper Belt object labeled as 2014 MU69.  At 30-miles across, the Kuiper Belt object would take another four years for the probe to reach.

The ESA's Rosetta probe captured images of a boulder buzzing by Comet 67P, as the comet passes its closest approach to the sun.

As we approach the first anniversary of Curiosity's successful landing on Mars, various news outlets are already beginning to release photo retrospectives for the rover's first (Earth) year on the red planet.

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