March 28 – April 3, 2016 / Vol 35, No 13 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Spaceport America Hosts Public Open House Day

calendar feature - spaceport america 2016

The second Spaceport America Open House Day occurs April 2 at the 7,280-hectare (18,000-acre) facility with 3,700-meter ‘spaceway’ in a New Mexico desert basin. Organizers expect to welcome at least 1,600 participants in 2 sessions that include demonstrations at the horizontal launch area, hands-on fun and educational activities. A fly-in is planned by Aviators from New Mexico Chapters of Experimental Aircraft Association and New Mexico Pilots Association. Anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, lead by Chairman Sir Richard Branson and CEO George Whitesides, is building back up to test flights after the SpaceShipTwo / VSS Enterprise catastrophe in 2014. Virgin Galactic has not yet been able to offer long-promised operational flights, 10 years on from the State legislature enacting the law providing for the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and 6 years on from the grand opening. This has caused revenue to fall well below official projections for the ~US$220M publicly funded development, although SpaceX Falcon 9R testing, development programs for UP Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace rockets, and a number of other companies’ activities have tallied up 20+ suborbital test flights from the location. Interest and investment in space technologies and space access continue to grow in Florida, Virginia, Texas, California, Alaska, Hawai`i, and elsewhere, as forward looking and productive contributions to the innovative spirit of America applied in reaching for the Stars. (Image Credit: Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Up Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace)




Mar 28 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 47 six-member crew unloading cargo from Cygnus OA 6, scheduled to release Progress 62P on Tuesday & welcome Progress 63P on Saturday, will review procedures for Dragon CRS-8 arrival next week, working on new Additive Manufacturing Facility and  Meteor Composition Determination study to observe meteor showers & explore their chemistry.

 Mar 28 — Iridium 46 flare, LEO: Iridium 46 satellite flare to occur West of Hawai`i Island at 05:27:11 HST, magnitude of 0, 48° altitude, distance to satellite will be about 1,006 km.

Mar 28 — ARTEMIS 1 and 2, Highly Elliptical Moon Orbits: In stable flight, expected to operate for years, collecting information on solar wind interacting with Moon, working with THEMIS, Van Allen Probes, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.

Mar 28 — ExoMars 2016, Mars Trajectory: First of 2 ExoMars missions containing Trace Gas Orbiter & Schiaparelli Entry Descent and Landing demonstrator module projected to approach Mars mid-October, will attempt to investigate atmosphere for present-day geological & potential biological activity.

Mar 28 — Rocket Lab, Auckland, New Zealand: NewSpace company working to begin Electron rocket test launches in June likely from Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska, successful testing qualifies 22,241 N (5,000lbf) Rutherford engine for flight tests, developing launch site on New Zealand Mahia Peninsula.

 Mar 28 — Copenhagen Suborbitals (CS), Copenhagen, Denmark: Will test Nexø I and II rockets in spring or summer from 12,000-kg steel catamaran in Baltic Sea, taking on interns to aid with projects, working on new test stand, 100 kN Spica rocket & suborbital Tycho Deep Space II capsule.

Mar 28 — Altius Space Machines Inc., Broomfield CO: Developing vacuum / gripper concept for Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) to remove a boulder from surface of an asteroid, and aerobreaking technology for human & deep space missions to planets, moons with atmospheres.

 Mar 28 — International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) / ICE – 30th Observation of comet Halley distant flyby, Heliocentric Orbit: Craft heading away from Earth in orbit around Sun, was last contacted in 2014 for crowd-funded lunar flyby reboot project, observations from Halley’s Comet in 1986 provided upstream solar wind data.

MARCH - MAY 2016 = 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: Mars (S), Jupiter (E), Saturn (S), Uranus (W).

USA National Academies Experts Convene for Space Science Week and CAPS Meeting

National AcadmiesThe National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington DC is holding the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) Meeting, and Space Science Week featuring a lecture by Alan Stern on New Horizons, Mission to Pluto: Exploring the Frontier of Our Solar System between March 29-31. Space Science week will include updates from Alvaro Gimenez (ESA), Chi Wang (CAS), Saku Tsuneta (JAXA), Pascale Ehrenfreund (DLR),  Paul Hertz (NASA), Ames Ulvestad (NSF), Mike Gold (Bigelow), Frank Culbertson (Orbital ATK), and John Olson (Sierra Nevada).  Alan Stern will discuss the dynamic world of Pluto and its 5 moons, its “active geology, exotic surface chemistry, a complex atmosphere, [and] puzzling interaction with the Sun.” The CAPS meeting will cover space-based and supporting ground-based planetary research within the Solar System, including planets, moons, small bodies, astrobiology, planetary astronomy and planetary protection. Future CAPS meetings are already scheduled to be held twice a year, March and September, through 2020. The National Academies produces around 200 reports each year, has a total membership of over 6,300 scientists, engineers, and health professionals, and was created by an Act of Incorporation in 1863 signed by Abraham Lincoln. (Image Credit: The National Academies, NASA) Pictured: Bottom: Alan Stern; Top L-R: Ralph Cicerone – President of National Academy of Sciences, C. Dan Mote Jr. – President of National Academy of Engineering, Victor Dzau – President of National Academy of Medicine.

Mar 28 — Moon: 4.1° N of Mars, 10:00; 9.7° N of Antares, 16:00.

Mar 28 — Aten Asteroid 325102 (2008 EY5): Near-Earth flyby (0.098 AU).

Continued from…

Aug 28, 2015 – Aug 28, 2016 — NASA, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, Mauna Loa HI: Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Mission 4; at 2,440-meter altitude.

Feb 26 — Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC: Exhibit Open: A New Moon Rises – New Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.


Mar 29 — ISS, Progress 62P Undocking, LEO: Progress 62P to be released from ISS and disintegrate during Earth atmosphere reentry with waste.

Mar 29 — The Commercial Space blog, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 2016 Caucus on the “Internet of Things” From Space; 08:00 – 17:00.

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

Mar 29-31 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science Meeting.

Mar 29 — Moon: 3.5° N of Saturn, 05:00.

Mar 29 — Aten Asteroid 2016 BC14: Near-Earth flyby (0.025 AU).

Mar 29 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 EK156: Near-Earth flyby (0.036 AU).


Mar 30 — The National Academies, Washington DC: Mission to Pluto: Exploring the Frontier of Our Solar System – Public Lecture; featuring New Horizons’ Principal Investigator Alan Stern, at National Academy of Sciences Building, 18:45.

Mar 30 — Hawai’i Preparatory Academy, Gates Performing Arts Center, Kamuela HILife in the Universe: The Science of Astrobiology; Dr. Carl Pilcher, Interim Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, 19:00.

Mar 30 – Apr 1 — University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom: 3rd UK Exoplanet Community Meeting (UKEXOM).

Mar 30 — Aten Asteroid 2010 GD35: Near-Earth flyby (0.039 AU).

Mar 30 — Aten Asteroid 2008 BX2: Near-Earth flyby (0.049 AU).

Mar 30 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 EQ84: Near-Earth flyby (0.071 AU).


Mar 31 — RSA, Launch Soyuz / Progress 63P, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: An RSA Soyuz rocket set to launch 63rd Progress cargo ship to ISS.

Mar 31 — JAXA, Tokyo, Japan / Online: Applications Due: United Nations / Japan Cooperation Programme on CubeSat Deployment from ISS Japanese Experiment Module “KiboCUBE”.

Mar 31 – Apr 1 — UCLA Institute for Planets and Exoplanets, Los Angeles CA: The Asteroid-Meteorite Connection Workshop.

Mar 31 — Moon: At last quarter, 05:17.

Mar 31 — Mercury: 0.56° NNW of Uranus, 10:00.


NET Q2 — Interorbital Systems Corp., Launch Neptune single CPM (SR 145), Mojave CA: Planning suborbital test flight of Neptune single Common Propulsion Module (CPM) with 6 confirmed payloads this quarter.

NET Apr — Akatsuki, 400 x 440 km Venus Orbit: JAXA first successful interplanetary orbiter with a period of 13 days 14 hours, will begin data acquisition this month; planned to image atmosphere, monitor weather changes at Venus for at least 2 years.

NET Apr — JAXA, Japan: JAXA hoping to secure funding for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission beginning this April (fiscal year 2016) to develop / launch mission mid-2018-2019.

NET Apr — RSA, Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia: Russia hopes for new Cosmodrome to be completed this month; will use site to launch most missions from its own soil, including crewed missions and Lunar / Planetary missions.

Apr 1 — Deep Space, Milky Way Galactic Center: Cosmic rays & radiation being tracked, most sensitive instrument able to record rays is High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) located in Namibia; Milky Way can produce rays with energies of up to ~100 teraelectronvolts (~1 Trillion times larger than energy of visible light).

Apr 1 — Cassini OTM-445, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #445 today.

Apr 1 — AIAA, Reston VA / Online: Fellow Candidate nominations open, nomination forms due Jun 15.


Apr 2 — ISS, Launch Soyuz / Progress 63P, LEO: Progress 63P resupply ship to dock to ISS with 2,381 kg of cargo and supplies.

Apr 2 — Spaceport America, Las Cruces NM: Spaceport America Open House with Virgin Galactic crew members, Aviators from New Mexico Chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association and New Mexico Pilots Association.

Apr 2 — Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee, Mauna Kea HI 2,800-meter level: The Universe Tonight; presentation on current research & discoveries occurring on Mauna Kea 18:00, followed by stargazing program, at Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center.

Apr 2 — Moon: 3.3° N of Pluto, 17:00.


Apr 3 — Moon: 1.1° SSE of asteroid 18 Melpomene, 16:00.

Apr 3 — Aten Asteroid 2008 FX6: Near-Earth flyby (0.070 AU).