January 15-21, 2018 / Vol 37, No 3 / Hawai`i Island, USA

New Horizons Going on 13 Years, Looks to First-Ever KBO / Farthest Frontier Encounter New Year’s Day 2019

This January 19 New Horizons (NH) reaches 12 full years in space while preparing for the farthest spacecraft encounter in history planned for Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 on Jan 1, 2019 located ~6.437 billion km from Earth. Currently in hibernation mode, the NASA craft is set to awaken June 4 for the KBO approach which officially begins in August, culminating in a flyby at 3,500 km. Principal Investigator Alan Stern notes “this flyby is also going to the most primitive and pristine object ever explored.” It is still unclear whether the KBO is a dual-lobe object and / or has moon(s). NH will produce high-res images of the KBO, search for a cometary coma, map potential satellite orbits, and scan for water, ammonia, carbon monoxide and methane ices. A number of NASA missions are questionable for 2018+ budgetary / political support, but the NH science team is hopeful the craft will continue a legacy of icy world exploration and operate until at least mid-2030s, studying dozens of KBOs. It is destined to collect valuable data on the unexplored Kuiper Belt ‘3rd Zone of the Solar System’ which is believed to extend 30-55 AU and be scattered with hundreds of thousands of icy bodies larger than 100 km and a trillion or more comets. (Image Credit: NASA, JHU/APL, SwRI, Joel Kowsky, Bill Ingalls, Alex Parker)


Jan 15 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 54 six-member crew reviewing procedures for 3 upcoming EVAs planned over next 3 weeks, working with bacteria cultures, rodents, plant tissues, DNA analysis; ISS crews are expected to complete at least ~290 experiments through 2024.

Jan 15 — NewSpace: Team Indus contract with ISRO for Moon launch cancelled, fate of Team Hakuto mission unclear; TransAstra Corp. 82-page study discusses settling space using NEO resources; SpaceX to have completed Falcon Heavy static fire, onto first test launch prep; Planetary Resources receiving data from Arkyd-6.

Jan 15 — Solar System: JAXA Hayabusa-2 to arrive at asteroid Ryugu by June-July and attempt sample return; Cassini Grand Finale at Saturn results to be published, data being analyzed; image of Jupiter moon Io taken by New Horizons provides clues into its interior.

Jan 15 — Galaxy: Scientists piece together stellar orbit distributions for 300 galaxies in Local Universe – which can aid in understanding history of universe; newly launched PicSat with 5-cm diameter telescope to study star Beta Pictoris, its giant gas planet exoplanet and debris disk.

Jan 15 — Global: Russia narrowing down from 60 finalists for next class of cosmonauts; China to select 10-12 new astronaut candidates, including engineers, scientists and 2 women; Parabolic Arc lists some of Canadian Space Agency missions for 2018; Europe Ariane 5 rocket to be phased out mid-2020; ISRO appoints scientist Sivan K as Chairman.

Jan 15 — USA: Representative Jim Bridenstine renominated as potential NASA Administrator; James Webb Space Telescope to undergo independent review for launch timeline; Orion capsule April 2019 critical Ascent Abort 2 test flight from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 46 to cost US$256M.

Jan 15 — Hawai`i: Keck Observatory successfully achieves first light with new Caltech-built Near-Infrared Echelette Spectrometer (NIRES); report on Interstellar talk by Dr. Kip Thorne attended by 750 people; TMT construction site not officially confirmed, first primary mirror segment shipped to Indian TMT Coordination Center.

= 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’).

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

2018 ISU Space Studies Program Begins This Week in Adelaide, Australia

From January 15 to February 16, International Space University is holding the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SH-SSP) at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. This 5-week, live-in experience is intended to provide “a multidisciplinary understanding of the key activities and areas of knowledge required by today’s space professions” in all areas. It is built around ISU “international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary” educational philosophy. This will be the 7th time that University of South Australia hosts SH-SSP since 2011, generally with around 35 participants from various countries. The program is directed by Dr Omar Hatamleh, the Executive Director of the ISU Space Studies Program. The co-director of SH-SSP is Dr Ady James, a senior research fellow at University College London Department of Space and Climate Physics. On Jan 20 there will be a public event “International Astronaut and Human Spaceflight Panel” featuring South Korea 1st Astronaut Dr Soyeon Yi. In addition, Dr Yi will be giving 2 lectures and leading 5 workshops including team building sessions for SSP participants during the 1st week. On Jan 22 French Space Agency resident ethicist Dr Jacques Arnould will talk about the “Role of Ethics in Space”. At the end of the 5 weeks, results from 2 team projects will be summarized into white papers and presented. (Pictured: Omar Hatamleh, Ady James, Soyeon Yi; Image Credit: ISU, UniSA)

NET Jan 15 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon Heavy Demo, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: SpaceX maiden falcon heavy planned to launch by the end of the month; rocket consists of standard Falcon 9 rocket core with two additional strap-on boosters (total of 27 Merlin engines).

Jan 15-19 — International Space Science Institute, Project MiARD – Multi Instrument Analysis of Rosetta Data, Bern, Switzerland: Workshop: Comets – Post 67P Perspectives.

Jan 15-19 — Sexten Center for Astrophysics, Sexten, Italy: Conference: The Growth of Galaxies in the Early Universe – IV.

Jan 15 – Feb 16 — International Space University, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia: 2018 Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program; intensive, five week, live-in experience built around an international, intercultural and interdisciplinary educational philosophy.

Jan 15 — Aten Asteroid 2007 WM3: Near-Earth Flyby (0.098 AU).

Continued from…

Dec 19, 2017 – Mar 6 — CNSA, Online / Beijing, China: CNSA collecting 20,000 digital messages from public to be stored in Chang’e-4 relay satellite launching May-June 2018 to Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange Point to support Moon South Pole missions.

NET Jan – Mar — 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.

Jan 14-19 — Gordon Research Conferences, Earth-Life Science Institute, Galveston TX: Gordon Research Conference: Origins of Life – The Prebiotic Milieu Building the Evolution of Early Life.


Jan 16 — JAXA, Launch Epsilon / ASNARO 2, Uchinoura Space Center, Japan: Epsilon rocket to launch second ASNARO (Advanced Satellite with New System ARchitecture for Observation) radar Earth observation satellite, a mission developed by Japan Space Systems and NEC Corp.

Jan 16 — John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC), NASA, SSC MS: Fire Test today of RS-25 engine that will help power SLS to be performed today 16:00 EST, live coverage available.

Jan 16-18 — Boston University, NASA, Boston MA: Workshop: Dwarfs Stars and Clusters with K2.

Jan 16-18 — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Irvine CA: Meeting: Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe.

Jan 16-19 — Keck Institute for Space Studies, Caltech, Pasadena CA: Workshop: The Architecture of LISA Science Analysis – Imagining the Future.

Jan 16 — Moon: New Moon, 16:17.

Jan 16 — Apollo Asteroid 438017 (2003 YO3): Near-Earth Flyby (0.071 AU).


Jan 17-18 — SBAG, Ames Research Center, NASA, Moffett Field CA: 18th Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) Meeting.

Jan 17-19 — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Washington DC: Meeting: Best Practices for a Future Open Code Policy for NASA Space Science.

 Jan 17-23 — The University of Witwatersrand – Johannesburg, Durban, South Africa: 2nd Mandelstam Theoretical Physics School and Workshop.


Jan 18 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Atlas 5 / SBIRS GEO Flight 4, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-076, to launch U.S. military fourth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite for missile early-warning detection.

Jan 18 — NASA, National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas NV: News Conference on New Space Fission Power System; 09:00 PST.

Jan 18 — Thelma Parker Library, NASA, Kamuela HI: NASA@ My Library Program; free STEM series promoting science for students and families; today’s event “Windstreamer”, 10:30-12:00.

Jan 18 — Apollo Asteroid 2018 AF1: Near-Earth Flyby (0.032 AU).

Jan 18 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 YS3: Near-Earth Flyby (0.062 AU).


Jan 19 — New Horizons, KBO 2014 MU69 Trajectory: Spacecraft begins 13th year in space today, launched Jan 19, 2006 – flew by Pluto July 14, 2015; expected to operate until at least mid-2030s.

Jan 19 — International Astronautical Federation, Online / Bremen, Germany: Due: Call for Plenary Events and Highlight Lectures for 69th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2018); to be held Oct 1-5.

Jan 19 — Lunar and Planetary Society, NASA SSERVI, Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, Online / Houston TX: Last Day to apply for 10-week 2018 Exploration Science Summer Intern Program; students to be involved in activities that support missions to the Moon utilizing Orion crew vehicle, Deep Space Gateway, and robotic assets on the lunar surface.


Jan 20 — Rocket Lab, Launch Electron “Still Testing”, Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand: Nine-day launch window opens for second test launch of Electron.

Jan 20 — International Space University, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia: ISU Astronaut and Human Flight Panel with guest speaker Astronaut Soyeon Yi, Walter Peeters and Omar Hatamleh of ISU.

Jan 20 — SSERVI, NASA, ESA, DLR, ASI, University of Amsterdam, University of Toulouse, The Open University, IRAP, Online / Toulouse, France: Abstract Submissions Due for 2018 European Lunar Symposium (ELS); to be held May 13-16.

Jan 20 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech/NASA, Montclair CA: Educator Workshop: Exploring Earth Science in Our Communities; for teachers of grades K-12.

Jan 20-26 — Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen CO: 2018 Aspen Winter Conference: Using Tidal Disruption Events to Study Super-Massive Black Holes.

Jan 20 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 NJ3: Near-Earth Flyby (0.056 AU).

Jan 20 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 MT8: Near-Earth Flyby (0.057 AU).


Jan 21-24 — Pacific Telecommunications Council, Honolulu HI: 40th Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC 2018); expecting 7,000+ members and industry attendees to share and explore the critical transformational shifts of the next four years, and the next forty years.

Jan 21-26 — Sexten Center for Astrophysics, Sexten, Italy: Conference: Chemical and Dynamical Evolution of Galaxies.

Jan 21 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 XK351: Near-Earth Flyby (0.073 AU).