December 11-17, 2017 / Vol 36, No 50 / Hawai`i Island, USA

New Directions for American Space Policies in the New Year

The revived U.S. National Space Council (NSC) chaired by Vice President Mike Pence is calling for a Human Return to the Moon, and initial comments indicate the potential for stronger, streamlined commercial and international collaborations, as well as accelerated SLS / Orion development. Further NSC meetings, the awaited full senate vote for NASA Administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine potentially on December 11, and inputs from acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, commercial space enterprises and International Space Exploration Coordination Group will help shape the future of America in Space. An updated Global Exploration Roadmap produced by ISECG is expected to be published in January 2018. It will include common goals stated by NASA and 14 international space agencies to extend presence in LEO, develop a cislunar habitat / Deep Space Gateway, accomplish Human Moon missions and eventually explore Mars. The  International Institute of Space Law and Secure World Foundation are holding Dec 13 the 12th Annual Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law examining the role of the Outer Space Treaty while developing new policies for space exploration and commercialization under NSC. Featured speakers are NSC Executive Director Scott Pace, Congressman Lamar Smith, IISL President Kai-Uwe Schrogl and representatives from multiple Universities, New Zealand Government,  UAE Space Agency, Planetary Resources, SpaceX, NanoRacks, NASA, FAA, NOAA and FCC. On Dec 12 the Space Transportation Association is hosting a Luncheon with Robert Lightfoot in Washington DC to discuss prospects for Space Exploration in 2018 and provide an update on 2017 NASA programs. (Image Credit: NASA, Joel Kowsky, IISL, GWU, IAF, ESA, Erik Almas)


Dec 11 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 53 to change to Expedition 54 this week as Commander Randy Bresnik hands over ISS command to Alexander Misurkin, 3-member crew returns to Earth, Dragon CRS-13 set to arrive by Friday; new study shows there are 1,000, and potentially up to 4,000 microbe species at ISS.

Dec 11 — NewSpace: Equatorial Launch Australia planning to begin construction of launch base in NE Australia next year; B612 Foundation virtual Asteroid Institute providing collaborative analysis of interstellar object ‘Oumuamua; Asgardia-1 satellite now in LEO for ‘1st Nation in Space’.

Dec 11 — Solar System: Mars evolving dark streaks along slopes may be granular flows of dry sand and dust; Cassini ground-system components being decommissioned as data archiving and new data discoveries continue; new color enhanced images of Jupiter made available.

Dec 11 — Galaxy: SETI Institute team using Allen Telescope Array  to examine neighborhoods of 20 thousand red dwarf stars in search for alien signals; high-velocity hydrogen clouds moving through Milky Way being mapped.

Dec 11 — Global: Reports of Russia advancing Luna-25 Moon South Pole Lander for 2019 and Luna-26 orbiter for Feb 29, 2020; UrtheCast of Canada and Twenty First Aerospace Technology of China sign partnership for daily med-resolution images of Earth; ISRO hopes to launch at least one rocket a month in 2018; UAE opens Astronaut Program.

Dec 11 — USA: FAA proposing ’21st century licensing process’ for commercial space to National Space Council; Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 program seeking input on ISRU technologies; NASA James Webb Telescope launch may be delayed beyond Spring 2019; UT Dallas researchers make Apollo mission audio available to public.

Dec 11 — Hawai`i: Gemini North telescope aids discovery of most distant and oldest supermassive black hole ever observed; Caltech astronomers use Keck Observatory to image 3 planetary-mass companions.

Dec 11 — Rocket Lab, Launch Electron “Still Testing”, Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand: Second test launch of Electron planned for today 14:30 local time, with launch window extending until Dec 18.

= All times

for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Evening Planets: Uranus (SE), Neptune (S); Morning Planets: Mars (ESE), Jupiter (ESE).

Launches to Flare Up Across the Globe this Week

First, on Monday December 11 CNSA launches Alcomsat 1 communications satellite for the government of Algeria onboard a Long March 3B-G2 rocket toward geostationary orbit from Xichang, China. The 5,200-kg spacecraft is built on the DFH-4 Bus and is equipped with Ku-band and Ka-band transponders for civil applications as well as X-band, UHF and EHF for military and strategic applications. It will be operated from purpose built ground stations in Medea, south of Algiers, and Ouargla, in the Sahara Desert. SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of CRS 13 resupply to the ISS is tabled for Dec 12. Also on Dec 12 Arianespace launches the VA240 Ariane 5 ES rocket from Kourou, French Guiana carrying four ESA Europe Galileo-Full Operational Capability navigation constellation satellites. The batch is numbered 19-22 with each unit having mass of 733 kg and lifespan of 12+years. There are 12 additional Galileo satellites projected for the future. United Launch Alliance is set to launch NROL-47 classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office atop a Delta 4 rocket on Dec 13 out of Vandenberg AFB in California. Finally, on Dec 17 Roscosmos is set to launch of Soyuz MS-07 on ISS 53S mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan to deliver astronauts Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai, Alexander Skvortsov to the International Space Station. (Image Credit: CNSA, SpaceX, Arianespace, ULA, Roscosmos, Elizabeth Weissinger)

Dec 11 — CNSA, Launch Long March 3B / Alcomsat 1, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China: China Long March 3B rocket to launch Alcomsat 1 geostationary communications satellite for government of Algeria.

Dec 11 — U.S. Senate, Washington DC: Full Senate vote for NASA Administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine expected on / around this date.

Dec 11 — NASA, NextSTEP, Washington DC / Online: Virtual Industry Forum for NextSTEP-2 ISRU Technology Broad Agency Announcement; 13:00 EST.

Dec 11-14 — United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Matieland, South Africa: United Nations/South Africa Symposium on Basic Space Technology.

Dec 11-14 — Applied Technology Institute, Columbia MD: ATI Course: Rockets & Launch Vehicles: Selection & Design; instructors Edward Keith and Daniel Moser.

Dec 11-15 — American Geophysical Union, New Orleans LA: 2017 Fall Meeting of AGU; one of the leading Earth and Space science meetings in the world.

Dec 11-15 — National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Playa del Carmen, Mexico: Conference: Deciphering the Violent Universe.

Dec 11-15 — University of Groningen, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, European Research Council, Bariloche, Argentina: Conference: Distant Galaxies from the Far South.

Continued from…

NET Dec – Feb 2018 — CNSA, Tiangong-1 Earth Atmosphere Reentry, LEO: China 1st Space Lab to disintegrate during Earth atmosphere reentry; predicted to reenter between 43°N and 43°S latitudes during this time frame.

Dec 10-16 — National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), National Institute of Nuclear Research (ININ), Punta Mita, Mexico: Meeting: VII Essential Cosmology for the Next Generation – Cosmology on the Beach.


Dec 12 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / CRS 13, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch 15th Dragon spacecraft on 13th operational cargo delivery mission to ISS from Launch Complex 40; scheduled to arrive 2 days later.

Dec 12 — Arianespace, Launch Ariane 5 / Galileo 19-22, Kourou, French Guiana: Arianespace Ariane 5 ES rocket, designated VA240, to launch four Galileo full operational capability satellites for Europe Galileo navigation constellation.

Dec 12 — Space Transportation Association, Washington DC: STA Luncheon With Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot; addressing prospects for Space Exploration in 2018, and providing a year end wrap up on NASA programs in 2017.

Dec 12-15 — Vietnam National University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, JAXA, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: International Conference in Vietnam: Space Science and Technology.

Dec 12 — Moon: 6.8° NNE of Spica, 16:00.

Dec 12 — Mercury: At perihelion, 0.3075 AU from Sun, 02:00.

Dec 12 — Amor Asteroid 2017 VS14: Near-Earth Flyby (0.041 AU).

Dec 12 — Amor Asteroid 2017 WE13: Near-Earth Flyby (0.042 AU).


 Dec 13 — ISS, Expedition 53 / Soyuz MS-05 Undocking, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 52/53 crew members Ryazanskiy, Bresnik, Nespoli scheduled to return to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-05; undocking live coverage starts 23:45 ET; to land in Jezkazgan, Kazakhstan ~3.5 hours later.

Dec 13 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Delta 4 / NROL-47, Vandenberg AFB CA: ULA Delta 4 rocket to launch classified spacecraft payload for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Dec 13 — 45th Observation of Last Human to Walk on Moon (Apollo 17), Worldwide: As 2018 approaches, commercial enterprises are looking to land craft on Moon surface and international countries plan Human Moon missions, observations of Apollo 17 and Astronaut Gene Cernan (Last Man on Moon) take place today.

Dec 13 — International Institute of Space Law, Secure World Foundation, Washington DC: 12th Annual Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law: Implementation of the Outer Space Treaty – Issues for the New United States Space Council; featuring Executive Director of the US National Space Council Scott Pace and Congressman Lamar Smith.

Dec 13-15 — ESA, Space Telescope Science Institute, NASA, CSA, Noordwijk, Netherlands: Meeting: Planning Solar System Observations with JWST.

Dec 13-14 — Geminids Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from constellation Gemini, shower can produce 80-130 meteors per hour; bright, medium-slow meteors (35 km/sec), few leave persistent trains.

Dec 13 — Moon: 3.9° NNE of Mars, 09:00.

Dec 13 — Aten Asteroid 2015 YA: Near-Earth Flyby (0.060 AU).

Dec 13 — Apollo Asteroid 2009 QL8: Near-Earth Flyby (0.088 AU).


Dec 14 — Chang’e-3 Lander, Guang Han Gong, Sinus Iridum / Mare Imbrium, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Spacecraft begins 5th year on Moon; landed 2013.

Dec 14 — NEOWISE, LEO: NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft (redubbed Near-Earth Object WISE – NEOWISE) begins 9th year in Space; launched 2009.

Dec 14, 15 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech/NASA, Pasadena CA: 2017 von Kármán Lecture Series: Weight Watching from Space – Tracking Earth’s Water Cycle with GRACE Follow-On; Felix Landerer, research scientist JPL.

Dec 14 — Moon: 2.0° NNE of comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, 00:00; 4.1° NNE of Jupiter, 07:00; 0.22° S of asteroid 4 Vesta, 08:00.

Dec 14 — Apollo Asteroid 2006 XY: Near-Earth Flyby (0.009 AU).

Dec 14 — Aten Asteroid 2015 XX169: Near-Earth Flyby (0.025 AU).

Dec 14 — Amor Asteroid 2017 VD14: Near-Earth Flyby (0.060 AU).

Dec 14 — Amor Asteroid 2017 WV14: Near-Earth Flyby (0.093 AU).


Dec 15 — `Imiloa Astronomy Center, University of Hawai`i – Hilo, Hilo HI: Mauna Kea Skies Talk; astronomers from Mauna Kea observatories speak about recent discoveries; this session features Thirty Meter Telescope; 19:00 HST, US$8-10.

Dec 15 — Canadian Space Agency, Online / Longueuil, Quebec, Canada: Extended Due Date for Concepts for Canadian Cislunar Space Mission Contribution.

Dec 15 — Mercury: 2.2° N of Venus, 02:00.


Dec 16 — Juno, Perijove 10 / 9th Science Close Flyby, Jupiter Orbit: NASA craft in 53-day orbit to come within ~3,500 km of Jupiter cloud tops during Perijove 10, its 10th close flyby of Jupiter and 9th science flyby with instruments turned on.

Dec 16 — Oregon L5 Society – NSS Chapter, Vancouver WA: Oregon L5 Society monthly meeting; 14:00 at Pearson Air Museum.

Dec 16 — Thelma Parker Library, NASA, Kamuela HI: NASA@ My Library Program; free STEM series promoting science for students and families; today’s event “Jump to Jupiter”, 10:30-12:00.

Dec 16 — Moon: 9.2° N of Antares. 12:00; 1.7° N of Mercury, 23:00.

Dec 16 — Apollo Asteroid 3200 Phaethon: Near-Earth Flyby (0.069 AU).


Dec 17 — Roscosmos State Corporation, Launch Soyuz MS-07 / ISS 53S, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Expedition 54/55 members Scott Tingle of NASA, Norishige Kanai of JAXA and Alexander Skvortsov of NASA to launch to ISS.

Dec 17 — Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, Mauna Kea HI (2,800 meters): Star Gazing program, 18:00-22:00, weather permitting, free.

Dec 17 — Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the National Space Society – Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement (OASIS), Los Angeles CA: OASIS General Meeting and Planning for International Space Development Conference to be held May 2018 in Los Angeles.

Dec 17 — Moon: 4.1° N of Venus, 09:00; New Moon, 20:30.

Dec 17 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 VT14: Near-Earth Flyby (0.010 AU).

Dec 17 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 GF1: Near-Earth Flyby (0.074 AU).