Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Space Highlights - April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016

ISRO plans to launch India's next military surveillance satellite, the CartoSat-2C in May. The satellite carries a multispectral and panchromatic camera that is expected to have a resolution of 0.65 meters.  This will be India's third dedicated military surveillance satellite.

The first satellite to carry a D-STAR (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) payload is due to be launched on April 22nd aboard a European Ariane rocket.  The payload is being carried aboard the OUFTI-1 (Orbital Utility for Telecommunication Innovations) CubeSat - one of three such CubeSats developed by student teams under an ESA program.

China successfully launched the SJ-10 microgravity experimental satellite on April 6th.  The satellite carries 19 experimental payloads, including experiments in fluid physics, combustion, and fire safety.

Facebook plans on launching its first, dedicated internet communications satellite in the coming months.  Facebook has purchased channels on the upcoming AMOS-6 communications satellite, being built in Israel, to provide internet service to sub-Saharan Africa.

TerraBella, previously known as Skybox Imaging, has announced plans for the launch of 19 satellites in 2016 - 11 of which have already contracted launch vehicles.  The earth observation satellites will join two others already in orbit.  TerraBella is owned by Google, and will provide images for Google's mapping service, among other customers.

DARPA's experimental spaceplane, the XS-1 program, has entered Phase 2 of development.  The unmanned aircraft is expected to bring a small payload to near-orbital speeds, before releasing the satellite and rocket booster to complete the trip to orbit.  The sub-orbital spaceplane would then return and land for reuse.  The goal is to eventually be capable of launching a 3,000-lb payload.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) presented the first findings from its Akatsuki Venus orbiter this past week, revealing details of Venus' cloud patterns not previously seen.  The images include long-range infrared (LIR) and 2-micrometer infrared (IR2) images, providing detail not visible to ordinary cameras.

Officials at NASA have denied reports from French researchers, asserting that the trajectory of the Cassini space probe might have been perturbed by a hypothetical Planet Nine.

NASA is investigating the cause of an anomaly that led the Kepler space observatory to enter an "emergency mode" last week.  Among other things, the emergency mode uses fuel much faster than ordinary operations, reducing the useful life of the spacecraft.  Kepler has been the most successful exoplanet hunter yet sent into orbit, cataloging 1,013 confirmed exoplanets in 440 star systems.  Another 3,199 unconfirmed planet candidates await further investigation.

The New Horizons spacecraft has downloaded additional photographs of Pluto's largest moon, Charon.  The spacecraft is now headed towards its extended-mission target, Kuiper belt object 2014MU69, which it should reach in January 2019.

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