Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Space Highlights - November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015

SpaceX has won its first military contract for the launch of GPS satellites on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, after the only other competitor bowed out of the competition, citing a U.S. ban on business with Russia.  United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, had to withdraw from bidding due to the Russian rocket engines that have been used since the 1990s to propel its Atlas booster.

Russia launched an early warning satellite this past week from its Plesetsk spaceport.  Labeled Kosmos 2510, the spacecraft is intended to be the first of 10 new early warning satellites for detecting rocket launches.

NASA has released a stunning image of Saturn's moons Dione and Enceladus captured by the Cassini space probe as it winds down its mission to Saturn.

The Cassini space probe has detected a giant ice clous in Titan's lower stratosphere, hovering over the moon's south pole.  This is the first time that scientists have been able to observe the onset of winter weather on Titan's southern hemisphere.

The ESA's Rosetta mission recently celebrated its one-year anniversary of the landing of its Philae probe on Comet 67P.

Within a few days, NASA's Curiosity rover will become the first rover on Mars to visit a field of active sand dunes.  The rover is expected to visit the edge of the dunes on its way to higher elevations on Mount Sharp.

NASA has released a false color image of Pluto, used to highlight the different terrains on the dwarf planet.  The surprising variety of surface features underscores that Pluto has been geologically active to a degree that had not been imagined prior to the fly-by of the New Horizons spacecraft.

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