Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Space Highlights - July 6, 2016

July 6, 2016

China launched a new electronic intelligence satellite this past week, labeled the Shijian 16, aboard a Long March 4B booster.  It is the second electronic signals intelligence spacecraft of its type launched by China.

China also launched an experimental satellite aboard a Long March 7 booster, that it reports is intended to collect space debris from low earth orbit.  Others have contended that the satellite, with its robotic arm, could be also intended to interfere with functioning, foreign satellites during wartime.

A complete space debris collection satellite, which would examine multiple strategies for collecting and eliminating unwanted debris, is being developed by the Surrey Space Centre in partnership with Airbus.  The European spacecraft is intended to examine multiple methods for de-orbiting unwanted debris.

NASA's Juno spacecraft successfully executed a rocket motor burn this week, placing it in orbit around Jupiter.  The solar-powered spacecraft is now in a 53-day, elongated elliptical orbit around Jupiter.  A second orbital burn is scheduled for October, when the spacecraft will adjust to a 14-day orbital period.  Juno is equipped with a series of instruments intended to penetrate Jupiter's thick cloud cover to map its interior structure.

NASA officials have rejected proposals to have the Dawn spacecraft make a flyby of a third asteroid, choosing instead to leave it in orbit around Ceres for continued observation.  Dawn has already orbited two asteroids: Vesta and its current home, Ceres.

NASA has formally approved budget to extend the mission of the New Horisons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto last year.  New Horizons is currently on course to flyby another Kuiper belt object, 2014 MU69 in January 2019.

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