March 27 – Apr 2, 2017 / Vol 36, No 13 / Hawai`i Island, USA

ISS Exp 50 Upgrades Continue Multinational Effort to Maintain Human Presence in Space

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of NASA conduct EVA 41 scheduled April 2 to perform Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) outfitting and Multiplexer/De-Multiplexer (MDM) work. This is the second in a series of three EVAs for ongoing repairs and forward-looking upgrades that are tasked to this Expedition. Next is EVA 42 on April 7 with Astronauts Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet of ESA for Multiplexer/De-Multiplexer (MDM) and ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC-4) work. There is a reboost scheduled on Apr 5 that is designed to position the station at the correct altitude for departure of Soyuz MS-02 on Apr 10 transporting crewmembers Kimbrough, Andrei Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos back to Earth. With this completion of another cycle of human LEO operations, the station itself has yet to achieve its original vision — enabling upward and outward exploration and travel, as a waypoint for humans en route to Moon, Mars and beyond. Current plans to create a Cislunar Human Outpost capable of supporting crews on extended missions in lunar orbit and elsewhere, reflect a pivot at NASA and renewed urgent interest in Moon transcending potential short-term policy changes. Plans being studied by Bill Gerstenmaier associate administrator for human exploration and operations propose that first elements of the lunar outpost could, if decided soon, be delivered as secondary payloads on early SLS flights. (Image Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)



star-grey Mar 27 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 50 performing multiple EVAs over next week, expecting arrival of Cygnus OA-7 cargo freighter with 3,200 kg of cargo, preparing for change of command / crew returning to Earth, checking on BEAM inflatable habitat, collecting saliva and blood samples, servicing  science freezers.

star-grey Mar 27 — ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, Mars Orbit: ESA craft to perform aerobraking burn today, April 1 and 6, bringing craft low point of orbit to 113 km from 200 km; circular orbit allows TGO to act as a data relay between Earth and craft on Mars; Russia planning to use TGO during its 2020 lander / rover mission.

 Mar 27 — Juno, Jupiter Orbit: In 53-day orbital period, 5th close flyby (4,100 km) of Jupiter scheduled today.

Mar 27 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Atlas 5 / OA-7, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: ULA Atlas 5 rocket to launch 8th Cygnus cargo freighter dubbed “S.S. John Glenn” on 7th operational cargo delivery flight to ISS for Orbital ATK; carrying many secondary payloads.

 Mar 27 — Rocket Lab, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand: NewSpace company closes series D of investments, total funds received to date US$148M, company projected worth $1B; Electron rocket 1st test launch April, followed by more tests, LEO launch for Moon Express by end of 2017; CEO Peter Beck notes manifest for 2017 full, 2018 only has a few spots left.

circle-full-grey Mar 27 — Vector Space Systems, Tucson AZ: To display test version of Vector-R micro-launcher which will be placed at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, planning to use KSF facilities starting 2018 for ~100 launches annually; CEO Jim Cantrell.

circle-full-grey Mar 27 — Virgin Galactic, Las Cruces NM: Incrementally working toward test flights of SpaceShipTwo, Founder Richard Branson says more than 700 people on wait list for flights, including Stephen Hawking; planning to unveil company Virgin Orbit for LauncherOne operations.

Mar 27 — Cornell University, Ithaca NYLecture: 2017 LPSC Recap; 12:30.

= 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 (W), Venus (W), Mars (W), Jupiter (E); Morning Planets: Saturn (S).

Algeria Hosts 4th ACAA, Looks Toward Future Aurès Observatory

ACAA 2017, the 4th Algerian Conference on Astronomy and Astrophysics, is being held March 27-29 at University of Khenchela Abbes Leghrour, Algeria, North Africa. The focus is on time domain astrophysics (gravitational waves, gamma ray bursts, supernova) in the multi-messenger era, within the context of the future Aurès Observatory – two astronomical / space observatories planning to be built in Ahaggar and Aures regions. Aurès Observatory will boost scientific research in Algeria, which is the 10th largest country in the world by area, the largest in Africa and home to an estimated 40 million people. Parts of Algeria offer near-flawless sky unaffected by light pollution; a 2016 study shows more than one-third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way. Algiers Observatory (built 1985, altitude of 300 meters) is now known as Centre de Recherche en Astronomie Astrophysique et Géophysique (CRAAG), and it combines astronomy with astrophysics and geophysical research. Topics of ACAA 2017 include Science with Gaia (results which may change understanding of some astrophysical phenomena), Small Bodies of the Solar System (primarily comets, meteors, asteroids between Mars and Jupiter), Stellar Variability (different processes which appear during evolution of a star), and  New Trends in Astrophysics. The Scientific Committee members include (L-R) Conference Chairman Nassim Seghouani and Yassine Damerdji of CRAAG, Alain Klotz of University of Toulouse, Marc Sarazin of ESO, Valerie Connaughton of USRA, Zouhair Benkhaldoun of Oukaimeden Observatory Morocco, and Fulvio Ricci of University of Roma. (Image Credit: ACAA,, CRAAG, ESO, INFN)

Mar 27 — SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Lecture: Latest Exoplanet Results from NASA’s Kepler/K2 Mission; Ian Crossfield from UC Santa Cruz, 12:00.

Mar 27 — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, NASA, Titusville FL: Vector Space Systems Vector-R launch vehicle to be displayed prior to its installation at NASA Now exhibit.

Mar 27-29 — Abbes Leghrour University, Algeria Research Center in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Geophysics (CRAAG), Khenchela, Algeria: The 4th Algerian Conference on Astronomy and Astrophysics (ACAA 2017).

Mar 27 – Apr 7 — United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Vienna, Austria: 56th Session Legal Subcommittee – Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space 2017.

Mar 27 — Moon: New Moon, 16:57.

Mar 27 — Aten Asteroid 2010 EG21: Near-Earth Flyby (0.074 AU).

Continued from…

Mar 1-31 — Guerilla Science, Online / UK, USA: Kickstarter Campaign: Intergalactic Travel Bureau: Space Vacations For All VR; free STEM outreach tool that will help educators & space enthusiasts spread the magic of a journey to space.

Mar 26-31 — Aspen Center for Physics, Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA), Aspen CO: Conference: Formation and Dynamical Evolution of Exoplanets.


Mar 28 — 30th Observation of National Space Society Founding, Washington DC: Events taking place to celebrate the 30th anniversary of NSS, international nonprofit educational and scientific organization specializing in space advocacy.

 Mar 28 — University College London, UCL IEEE Student Society, IEEE UK, British Interplanetary Society, London, United Kingdom: Seminars: Terrestrial and Planetary Radioglaciology.

Mar 28-29 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Committee on Earth Sciences and Applications from Space Meeting.

Mar 28-30 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science Meeting.

Mar 28-30 — ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: Workshop on Simulation for European Space Programmes (SESP).

Mar 28 — Apollo Asteroid 215588 (2003 HF2): Near-Earth Flyby (0.043 AU).

Mar 28 — Apollo Asteroid 2006 HW50: Near-Earth Flyby (0.064 AU).

Mar 28 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 TB18: Near-Earth Flyby (0.099 AU).


 Mar 29 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / SES 10, LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center FL: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch SES 10 communications satellite for SES of Luxembourg.

Mar 29 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Flyby of Enceladus scheduled at 93,000-km altitude, Mimas at 121,000 km.

Mar 29 — AIAA San Francisco Section, Planet, San Francisco CA: Young Professionals: Happy Hour at Planet; a tour of company Planet followed by happy hour with the employees.

Mar 29-31 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Space Science Week 2017.

Mar 29-31 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Meeting: Space Radiation Effects Testing Infrastructure for the U.S. Space Program; at Keck Center.


Mar 30-31 — ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: 2017 Mechanisms Final Presentation Days.

Mar 30 – Apr 1 — Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, Huntsville AL: 2017 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge; at U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Mar 30 – Apr 4 — Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Policy at Texas Southern University, New Orleans LA: 4th Annual Historically Black Colleges & Universities Climate Change Conference: Bridging The Gap Between Theory and Experience.

Mar 30 — Moon: At perigee (363,855 km), 02:39; 5.5° S of Mars, 03:03.


Mar 31 — Challenger Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Sacramento CA: Return to the Moon; simulated space mission supporting astronauts from Mission Control and hands-on science experiments, robotics, space probe development.

Mar 31 — Caltech, Pasadena CA: Lecture: Why Do Stars Shine? by Robyn Sanderson, NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University, 20:00.

Mar 31 — Space Center Houston, Houston TX: Lunch with an Astronaut, Mike McCulley, adult US$69.95.

Mar 31 — Moon: 0.3° N of Mars, 22:50.


NET Apr — CNSA, Launch Long March 7 (Y2) / Tianzhou-1, Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, Hainan Island, China (19° N): Tianzhou-1 cargo ship to launch to Tiangong-2 space lab for 305-day mission to test technologies related to cargo transport system, propellant re-supply, rapid rendezvous, docking and other experiments; will be second Long March 7 launch.

Apr 1 — Deep Space, Kuiper Belt Trajectory: New Horizons craft now 20 months from closet encounter, at 12,500 km, of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, operations and data collection for 1-year approach to begin in 8 months.

Apr 1 — ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, Mars Orbit: ESA craft to perform aerobraking burn today helping to bring craft low point of orbit to 113 km from 200 km.

Apr 1 — Griffith Observatory, Planetary Society, Los Angeles CA: Griffith Observatory Monthly Star Party; 14:00-22:00.

Apr 1 — Mercury: At greatest elongation 19.0° E, 00:00.


Apr 2 — ISS, U.S. EVA 41, LEO: Astronauts Kimbrough and Whitson to perform 6.5-hour spacewalk for Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) Outfitting and Multiplexer/De-Multiplexer (MDM) work.

Apr 2-6 — American Chemical Society, San Francisco CA: 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition.

Apr 2 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 FV: Near-Earth Flyby (0.023 AU).