Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Space Highlights - November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016

The launch of NASA's GOES-R weather satellite was delayed for a second time, this time due to "technical issues" with the United Launch Alliance booster rocket.

Space-X has confirmed that it has determined the cause of its Falcon 9 booster explosion on September 1st, attributing the launch failure to an unexpected interaction between supercooled solid oxygen and the carbon-fiber materials that make up the tank.  The event occurred while filling the booster's liquid helium tanks - which are used to maintain pressure in the liquid oxygen and fuel tanks during launch.

Despite confirmation that SpaceX has identified root cause for the Falcon 9 launch explosion in September, European satellite provider Inmarsat is examining alternative venues for launching its next communications satellite.

China successfully launched its first Long March 5 rocket this past week, introducing China's heaviest booster yet into service, with more than twice the launch capacity of prior Chinese rockets.  Among other objectives, the Long March 5 is expected to launch China's future Mars probes in 2020.  This first launch this past week carried the Shijian-7 satellite on its way towards geosynchronous orbit.

The latest time-lapse video from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveals the formation, movement and dissipation of methane clouds in the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

NASA's Opportunity rover has begun what is expected to be the final two years of its mission to Mars, after spending the month of October studying the geology of the Wharton Ridge, on the western rim of Endeavour Crater.  The rover is expected to drive into the crater in coming weeks - from whence it is unlikely to be able to climb back out again.

NASA is investigating a possible link between thruster problems with the Juno spacecraft, in orbit around Jupiter, and malfunctions of a similar thruster aboard a recently launched Intelsat satellite.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has identified a mysterious landslide at the edge of a 10-km wide impact crater, labeled Oxo, on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.  The landslide is believed to hold clues into the structure of Ceres' surface.

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