Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Space Highlights - June 15, 2016

June 15, 2016

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) launched a new surveillance satellite this past week aboard a Delta 4-Heavy booster.

Lockheed Martin has completed launch preparations for the MUOS 5 (Mobile User Objective System) communications satellite for the U.S. Navy.  The satellite is expected to be placed into orbit later this month.

The launch of the Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) communications satellite was delayed by a week due to problems with a fluid connector in the Ariane 5 rocket scheduled to launch it into orbit.

NASA's Curiosity rover evaluated its 12th drill sample on Mars, as it prepares to ascend the slopes of Mount Sharp.

A recent study, building on results from the Curiosity rover, has concluded that rocks sampled by the rover in 2015 point to an origin in an explosive volcanic event billions of years ago.  Whereas most of the samples taken by the Mars rover have been focused on documenting evidence for surface water in Mars' early history, these rocks correspond to the mineral tridymite - which is associated with explosive volcanic events, such as seen at Mount St. Helens on Earth.  This was the first time that tridymite has been confirmed on the surface of Mars.

NASA is evaluating the possibility or including a scout helicopter as part of the future Mars 2020 rover mission.  As proposed, the solar powered helicopter would scout ahead of its rover, utilizing large diameter rotor blades to provide a few minutes of flight in the thin Martian atmosphere each day.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been awarded the Collier Trophy, as the first spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestial targets: the asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

Newly released enhanced color views highlight the jagged shoreline along Pluto's frozen nitrogen sea.

NASA's Kepler space telescope has confirmed the existence of a Jupiter-sized planet in orbit around two stars - a circumbinary planet sometimes also referred to as a "Tatooine" planet, after the fictional homeworld of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.  The planet, labeled Kepler-1647b is 3700 light years from earth.

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