Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Space Highlights - April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017

After successfully launching a satellite last week aboard a used Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX successfully recovered the used booster a second time, and brought it back into port for refurbishment this week.

United Launch Alliance has won three launch contracts from the U.S. government - one each for the Delta 4, Atlas 5-551, and Atlas 5-401 launch vehicles.  The planned launches include the NROL-82 spy satellite, a weather satellite, and one undisclosed payload.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has completed 50,000 orbits of the red planet to date, accumulating a catalogue of some 90,000 images.

Evidence collected from NASA's Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft suggests that some 90 percent of the Martian atmosphere was lost to space over the span of a few hundred million years, leaving the Martian surface the dry, barren environment that we know today.

The Cassini spacecraft is expected to begin its "Grand Finale" this month, diving inside of Saturn's rings for the first time.  The spacecraft is also expected to have a final, close encounter with Saturn's largest moon, Titan, before burning up in Saturn's atmosphere.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now mid-way between Pluto and its next target: Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.

Four objects have been flagged by researchers for follow-up study as possible candidates for the proposed Planet Nine.

A recent study into the orbits of the Milky Way galaxy's dwarf satellite galaxies suggests that these structures can be explained only if similarly sized, dark matter dwarf galaxies likewise exist to stabilize the observed orbits.

A group of researchers is preparing to use a global network of radio telescopes to peer into the inner regions of the Milky Way galaxy, in an attempt to produce the first ever "image" of the region surrounding the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

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