December 12-18, 2016 / Vol 35, No 50 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Launch Flurry Marks Record Year, Sets Tone for 2017

Seven rocket launches spread across six launch complexes involving a wide array of customers, providers and missions profiles emphasizes the diversification of spaceflight in the early 21st Century. The projected global total of orbital launches for 2016 is 88, if all currently scheduled launches proceed and are successful. This year has also seen inauguration of 2 major new Pacific spaceports, Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on China’s Hainan Island and Vostochny Cosmodrome at Amur Oblast in the Russian Far East. On December 12 Orbital ATK launches 8 Cyclone GNSS NanoSats from Cape Canaveral; Dec 16 ULA launches EchoStar 19 from the Cape; Dec 19 CNSA launches TanSat climate change satellite from Jiuquan; Dec 20 JAXA launches ERG radiation in geospace exploration satellite from Tanegashima and Arianespace launches Star One D1 & JCSAT 15 from Kourou; Dec 22 ILS launches EchoStar 21 from Baikonur; and Dec 26 CNSA launches SuperView 1 & 2 from Taiyuan. USA in 2016 took the lead in successful orbital rocket launches with 20 (all uncrewed), ahead of China and Russia with 18 each (by country of origin of rocket). There are at least 94 total global orbital launches on the table for 2017, with USA projecting up to 46. (Image Credit: CNSA, RSA, Orbital ATK, ULA, JAXA, Arianespace, ILS)



star-grey Dec 12 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet preparing for grapple of JAXA Kounotori cargo ship with Canadarm2 on Tuesday, crew is monitoring fluid shifts in the body with artery and vein measurements, maintaining spacesuits and scrubbing cooling loops – next EVA (U.S. 37) is planned for early Jan 2017.

star-grey Dec 12 — Astrosat, 65-km Near Equatorial LEO: India first multi-wavelength observatory collecting data with 5 main payloads to advance knowledge on phenomena such as supernova or fate of galaxies, online portal Astrosat Support Cell will make raw data open to public after 1-year proprietary period, expected to continue operations into 2020.

star-grey Dec 12 — ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter, Mars Orbit: ESA craft passes first data relay test sending data to Earth from Curiosity & Opportunity rovers, planning to support communications ~1 year from now; will begin atmospheric mapping in 2017 to detect methane (CH4) & other trace gases present which could be evidence for possible biological activity.

circle-full-grey Dec 12 — Ad Astra Rocket Company, Webster TX: NewSpace company in 2nd year of 3-year US$9M NextSTEP contract with NASA, planning 1+ hour VASIMR prototype VX-200SS engine firing tests in 2017 leading to 100-hour firing at 100 kilowatts in 2018, has completed 10,000+ firings of prototypes since 2005.

circle-full-grey Dec 12 — Blue Origin LLC, Kent WA: New Glenn rocket production facility in Florida (750,000 square feet) to be completed end of 2017, upgraded New Shepard booster & capsule next uncrewed test launch to occur from West Texas, hoping test astronauts will be aboard end of 2017.

circle-full-grey Dec 12 — Hawai`i Air and Spaceport, Kona HI: Proposed spaceport at Kona International Airport for horizontal launch & landing vehicles environmental assessment draft under development to bring commercial suborbital tourism, payload deployment to LEO & economic opportunity to Hawaii, utilize existing infrastructure and proximity to ocean; plans are underway by Hawaii Department of Transportation to request FAA approval in 2017.

dec-feb-2017 = 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: Mercury (SW), Venus (SW), Mars (SSW), Uranus (S), Neptune (S); Morning Planets: Jupiter (SE).

AGU 49th Fall Meeting Expects 24,000 Attendees


The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is holding its 49th Fall Meeting December 12-16 in San Francisco CA at  Moscone Convention Center. With about 20,000 oral and poster presentations, keynote lectures, workshops, networking and career advancement opportunities, 24,000 participants and hundreds of exhibitors – this is one of the largest Earth and Space science meetings in the world. Cutting-edge science, some of which has not yet been published, will be presented in 29 sections such as Biogeosciences, Near Surface Geophysics, Atmospheric and Space Electricity, and Tectonophysics. Various sessions are co-sponsored by American Meteorological Society, Japan GeoScience Union, European Geosciences Union, and others. The Planetary Sciences session will include presentations on Juno, Jupiter, Io,  processes on the Moon, LRO, Mars atmosphere and surface minerals, exoplanet detection and imaging, Titan and ocean worlds, Enceladus, planetary rings, Ceres, Vesta, Venus, Pluto, Charon, comets and asteroids. Keynote lecturers include (L-R) Prince Albert II of Monaco, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, President of the National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt, and Pace University Senior Fellow Andrew Revkin. AGU (est. 1919) is a nonprofit organization with HQ in Washington DC and over 62,000 members from 144 countries. (Image Credit: AGU, NASA, GSFC, J. Loomis, Orbital Imaging Corp., Exploring Earth)

Dec 12 — Orbital ATK, Launch Pegasus XL / Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS 1-8), Cape Canaveral AFS FL: Launch of 8 hurricane-tracking nanosatellites developed by Southwest Research Institute, Surrey Satellite Technology of Colorado, Langley Research Center, NASA.

Dec 12-16 — UNOOSA, Survey Department of the Ministry of Land Reform and Management of Nepal, International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Kathmandu, Nepal: United Nations/Nepal Workshop on the Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

Dec 12-16 — American Geophysical Union, San Francisco CA: 49th Fall Meeting of AGU; with over 24,000 attendees.

Dec 12 — Moon: 9.0° SSE of Pleiades, 03:00; at perigee (distance 358,113 km), 13:27; 0.47° NNW of Aldebaran, 18:00.

Dec 12 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 XA: Near-Earth Flyby (0.018 AU).

Dec 12 — Atira Asteroid 2008 UL90: Near-Earth Flyby (0.039 AU).

Dec 12 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 XA18: Near-Earth Flyby (0.051 AU).

Continued from…

Oct 15 – Sep 4, 2017 — Peabody Essex Museum, Salem MA: Lunar Attraction Exhibit; featuring 60 Apollo memorabilia, paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, movies, jewelry that illustrate our profound connection to the Moon.

Dec 8-11 — ICISE, Quy Nhon University, Tay Nguyen University, Buon Ma Thuot & Quy Nhon, Vietnam: Tropical School in Undergraduate Astronomy: Astronomical Observations.

Dec 11-16 — Rencontres du Vietnam, Vietnam National University, IAU, Qhy Nonh, Vietnam: Rencontres du Vietnam: Search for Life: From Early Earth to Exoplanets.

Dec 11-16 — University of Heidelberg – Institute for Theoretical Physics, Passo del Tonale, Italy: 10th TRR33 Winter School on Cosmology: Theory for Observers & Observations for Theorists.


Dec 13 — SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Lecture: Unlocking the Secrets of Nearby Exoplanets with the TESS Mission; George Ricker of MIT.

Dec 13-14 — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine, Irvine CA: Meeting of the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space.

Dec 13 — Moon: Full (Moon Before Yule / Cold Moon), 14:06.

Dec 13 — Comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova: 1.3° SSE of 29P Schwassman-Wachman 1, 08:00.

Dec 13 — Aten Asteroid 2015 XX169: Near-Earth Flyby (0.019 AU).

Dec 13 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 YA: Near-Earth Flyby (0.025 AU).

Dec 13 — Aten Asteroid 2014 XU6: Near-Earth Flyby (0.095 AU).


Dec 14 — Chang’e-3 Lander, Guang Han Gong, Sinus Iridum / Mare Imbrium, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Spacecraft enters 4th year of operations on Moon; landed 2013.

Dec 14 — NEOWISE, LEO: NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft (redubbed Near-Earth Object WISE – NEOWISE) begins 8th year in Space; launched 2009.

Dec 14-16 — ESA, CNES, DLR, IEEE, AESS, Bundeswehr University Munich, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: 8th Navigation Conference (NAVITEC 2016).

Dec 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 14 — Moon: 5.4° S of M35, 06:00.

Dec 14 — Amor Asteroid 2016 XL2: Near-Earth Flyby (0.095 AU).


Dec 15 — Cannock Photographic Society, Cannock, United Kingdom: Odyssey Dramatic Presentation: Pale Blue Dot; at Mill Street Methodist Church, 19:30.

Dec 15 — Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy: Lecture: Stellar Cooling Bounds on New Light Particles – Including Plasma Effects; Edward Hardy (ICTP), 16:30-18:00.

Dec 15, 16 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech/NASA, Pasadena CA: von Kármán Lecture Series 2016: Spinning Black Holes, Exploding Stars, and Hyperluminous Pulsars: Recent Results from the NuSTAR Satellite; Daniel K. Stern, NuSTAR Project Scientist at JPL.

Dec 15 — Moon: 13.7° S of Castor, 13:00; 10.1° S of Pollux, 17:00.


Dec 16 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Atlas 5 / EchoStar 19, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: ULA Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-071, to launch EchoStar 19 (also known as Jupiter 2) communications satellite to provide high-speed Internet services for HughesNet in North America.

Dec 16 — Moon: 3.7° S of Beehive cluster, 17:00.


Dec 17 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech/NASA, Downey CA: Educators Workshop: Making Moon Craters; teachers for grades 1-6, free, 10:00-14:00; provides hands-on experiments for teachers on how to make a Moon-like crater demonstration for students in classrooms, camps or at home.

Dec 17-18 — International Academy of Astronautics, International Global Monitoring Aerospace System, Global Centre for Compliance, Hazards and Disaster Management, Bamenda, Cameroon: 3rd International Symposium on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts, Space Economy, Climate Change, Vulnerability, ICT and Entrepreneurship: An integrated Solution for Sustainable Development in African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.


Dec 18 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Flyby scheduled of Pandora, in Saturn F-ring, at 13,800-km altitude.

Dec 18-20 — University of California – San Diego, La Jolla CA: UCSD Interplanetary Scintillation (IPS)-Based Workshop.

Dec 18 — Moon: 0.98° SSW of Regulus, 08:00.

Dec 18 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 XK18: Near-Earth Flyby (0.015 AU).