Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Space Highlights - April 27, 2016

April 27, 2016

India's ISRO has begun countdown for a planned April 28th launch of its IRNSS-1G navigation satellite.

A second EU Sentinel radar imaging satellite was launched from French Guiana aboard a Soyuz booster.  The Sentinel satellites are expected to monitor shipping lanes as well as investigating evidence for landslides and other subsidence on land.

Russia's GLONASS-M navigation satellite has been delivered for launch preparation.  The satellite is expected to be sent into orbit in May.

U.S. policy makers continue to debate current bans on the use of India's PSLV booster, as well as a ban on the use of retired ICBMs for satellite launch, both seen as measures to protect the U.S. launch industry from outside competition.  The counter argument is that greater access to the PSLV and other small boosters would improve the business case for small satellite developers.

China is moving forward with plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020.

Detailed studies from the final orbits of the ESA's Venus Express orbiter, which plunged into the atmosphere of Venus in 2014, reveal that although the surface temperature across most of Venus can top 850 F (450 C), the poles of Venus are actually far cooler, with surface temperatures of -250 F (-150 C).  The studies also indicate that the polar atmosphere is far less dense than expected.

NASA is evaluating whether there might be enough fuel on board the Dawn spacecraft to send it to a third asteroid after its mission at Ceres is completed.  Dawn has already mapped the surface of the asteroid Vesta, and is currently in orbit around Ceres, the largest of the asteroids.

Scientists are struggling to understand the origin of "halos" that have been seen around craters in the Vega Terra region of Pluto.  The bright rings are composed of methane ice - but have not been observed in other regions of the dwarf planet.

NASA team that supported last year's flyby of Pluto has officially proposed extending the New Horizons mission to perform a flyby of a second Kuiper Belt object, beyond Pluto's orbit.  The spacecraft is already on coarse to intercept 2014 MU69 in January 2019, but telemetry and ground support for the flyby still need to be officially approved by the agency.

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