March 6-12, 2017 / Vol 36, No 10 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Solar System Exploration: Spacecraft Observances and Encounters this Week

Dawn orbiting 975-km diameter dwarf planet Ceres for 2 full years in Main Asteroid Belt may become a perpetual satellite of Ceres due to its highly stable orbit. In its extended mission phase (after visiting 525-km diameter Vesta) it is heading into its 7th science orbit at 7,200-km altitude to refine previously collected measurements, take thousands of images from different angles, and continue to look for organic compounds, past cryovolcanoes, salts and surface ice. Exoplanet hunter Kepler in K2 mission begins its 9th year in space on March 7. Adding to the number of confirmed exoplanets (3,453), exoplanet candidates (4,696) and those within ‘goldilocks’ habitable zone (297), Kepler is funded through Oct 2017. The craft has enough fuel to continue operations until summer 2018. Cassini is edging closer and closer to the 120,526-km diameter gas giant Saturn for detailed science observations before its planned atmosphere impact Sep 2017. On Mar 7 it will fly by the innermost moon Pan. One of 62 known Saturnian moons, Pan is located in Encke Gap of 10-30 meter thick A-ring, and considered a ring shepherd responsible for keeping Encke Gap free of ring particles. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is set to enter its 12th year at Mars on Mar 10 while traveling in a 300-km near-polar orbit. The craft is providing a basis for 8 candidate landing sites for NASA Mars 2020 rover mission and ~45 sites that could support human landing zones, each with a 96-km exploration radius. (Image Credit: NASA, JPL, Caltech, ESA, ASI)


star-grey Mar 6 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 50 planning for potential U.S. EVAs 40 & 41 and CubeSat deployments this month, transferring cargo from Dragon CRS-10 and Progress 66P, periodically checking Bigelow BEAM, working on experiments with rodents, stem cells, plants, crystal growth, viruses; Peggy Whitson to become Expedition 51 commander Apr 10.

star-grey Mar 6 — Chang’e-3, Guang Han Gong, Sinus Iridum / Mare Imbrium, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Lander to enter Lunar Day 41 this week, continues to monitor Lunar environment and survey skies with LUT; lunar exploration expert Ye Peijian states China will need heavy lift rocket, life support, safety / operational systems, additional ground infrastructure for its future Human Moon missions.

 Mar 6 — Dawn, Main Asteroid Belt: Spacecraft enters 3rd year at Ceres today; launched Sep 2007 and arrived March 2015 after orbiting Vesta in 2011.

star-grey Mar 6 — Arianespace, Launch Vega / Sentinel 2B, Kourou, French Guiana: Arianespace Vega rocket, designated VV09, to launch Sentinel 2B Earth observation satellite for ESA and the European Commission.

circle-full-grey Mar 6 — SpaceX, Hawthorne CA: NewSpace company CEO Elon Musk, a U.S. Administrator advisory council member, announces ambition to send 2 tourists on one-week, fully autonomous journey around Moon late 2018 via Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon capsule; could potentially send 1st Woman to Moon.

 Mar 6 — Breakthrough Starshot, International Locations: Plans to begin funding within months for development of fleet of micro probes to be launched in ~20 years to reach Alpha Centauri 4LY away in another 20 years; estimated cost US$10B; probes launched into orbit to be continuously fired at by 100-gigawatt laser array for several minutes accelerating their speed to 60,000 km/sec.

circle-full-grey  Mar 6 — LeoLabs, Menlo Park CA: Building a responsive worldwide network of ground-based, phased-array radars to track space debris and prevent collisions in LEO, company receives additional US$4M investment; it is estimated more than 500,000+ orbital debris between 1-10 cm in diameter are circling Earth; VP Ed Lu, CEO Daniel Ceperley.

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

American Astronautical Society 55th Goddard Memorial Symposium: Future Space – Trends, Technologies and Missions

The 55th annual AAS Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium is being held March 7-9 in Greenbelt MD. It will address how the 2017 U.S. Administration and Congress may impact the current space program, and give updates on plans from participating private companies, national committees and mission scientists. The session “Cislunar Space: The Next Frontier for Human Exploration” moderated by Harley Thronson of GSFC will feature Matt Duggan (Boeing), Rob Chambers (Lockheed), Steve Overton (Aerojet Rocketdyne), Michael Fuller (Orbital ATK) and Michael Johnson (NanoRacks). Technical Advisor for Secure World Foundation Brian Weeden will speak on “China’s Plans for Space.” Other speakers include Astronaut John Grunsfeld, ISS Director Sam Scimemi, CSF President Eric Stallmer, Canadian Space Agency Director General Gilles Leclerc and NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Future missions being highlighted are Mars 2020 rover, Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, Solar Probe Plus and PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem). The 60th annual National Space Club Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington DC Mar 10 with nearly 2,000 industry, educational space community and government members, will present awards to outstanding individuals in spaceflight and STEM education. (Image Credit: AAS, NSC, National Research Council, National Academies, NASA, SWF, CSA)

Mar 6 — GO Science, Met Office, STFC, NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, London, United Kingdom: L5 in Tandem with L1: Future Space-Weather Missions Workshop.

Mar 6 — Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ: Lecture: Domesticating the Quantum; Pierre Meystre of American Physical Society.

Mar 6-9 — Airbus, Boeing Co., Via Satellite, SES, Orbital ATK, Intelsat, et al, Washington DC: Satellite 2017 Conference; at Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Mar 6-9 — AIAA, Xiamen, China: 21st AIAA International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technology Conference (Hypersonics 2017); University of Xiamen – Science and Arts Center.

Mar 6-9 — European Southern Observatory, Santiago, Chile: Conference: Star Formation from Cores to Clusters.

Mar 6 — Mercury: At superior conjunction, 14:00.

Continued from…

Oct 15, 2016 – Sep 4 — 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.

Mar 3-8 — Federal University of Espírito Santo, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Anchieta, Espirito Santo, Brazil: Quantum Summer 2017.

Mar 5-8 — Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, NASA, Schloss Ringberg, Germany: Conference: Spectroscopy with SOFIA – New Results & Future Opportunities.

Mar 5-10 — Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel: Conference: Planetary Systems Beyond the Main Sequence II.


Mar 7 — Kepler / K2, Heliocentric Orbit: Craft searching for exoplanets begins 9th year in space today; operating in K2 extension mission after two reaction wheels failed altering original mission goals; launched 2009.

Mar 7 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Flyby scheduled at 25,000-km altitude of 35-km diameter, 23-km high moon Pan, Saturn innermost known moon located in Encke Gap of A-ring.

Mar 7 — SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Lecture: Search for extrasolar moons and rings using transit observations; Paul Kalas from UC Berkeley, 12:00.

Mar 7-9 — American Astronautical Society, Greenbelt MD: 55th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium; at Greenbelt Marriott.

Mar 7-10 — IAA, Colomb Institute, National University of San Martín, Argentina National Space Activities Commission (CONAE), Buenos Aires, Argentina: 1st IAA Latin American Symposium on Small Satellites: Advanced Technologies and Distributed Systems.

Mar 7 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 DD38: Near-Earth Flyby (0.038 AU).


Mar 8 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Delta 4 / WGS 9, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: ULA Delta 4 rocket to launch USAF ninth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft.

Mar 8-9 — ASTech Paris, CNES, Airbus Group, ESA, Boeing, JAXA, NASA, Lockheed Martin, UK Space Agency, Thales Alenia Space, Paris, France: Paris Space Week.

Mar 8-9 — International Union of Radio Science (URSI), Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, Ireland: 18th Research Colloquium: Radio Science and Communications for a Smarter World.

Mar 8-10 — Swinburne, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, CSIRO, Australian Astronomical Observatory, Melbourne, Australia: Workshop: From Field to Clusters – HI as a Tracer of Galaxy Evolution.

Mar 8-10 — Haft Aseman Institute, International Astronomical Union, Shahr-e Kord University, Hamraz Aseman Shiraz Company, Hafshejan & Shahr-e Kord, Iran: 7th International Workshop on Occultation and Eclipse.

Mar 8 — Moon: 3.9° S of Beehive Cluster, 21:12.

Mar 8 — Aten Asteroid 2017 DV35: Near-Earth Flyby (0.025 AU).

Mar 8 — Aten Asteroid 2014 HB124: Near-Earth Flyby (0.092 AU).


Mar 9 — Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (ALPLF), Chicago IL: 2017 ALPLF Gala; Lincoln Leadership Prize 2017 recipient Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Mar 9, 10 — JPL, Caltech, NASA, Pasadena CA: 2017 von Kármán Lecture Series: The Cold Atom Laboratory Mission: The Coldest Spot in the Universe; with Anita Sengupta CAL Project Manager, Robert Thompson CAL Project Scientist.

Mar 9 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 BL30: Near-Earth Flyby (0.063 AU).


Mar 10 — Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Orbit: NASA spacecraft enters 12th year in Mars orbit today, continues to study seasonal changes on planet circling at 300-km near-polar orbit; launched Aug 12, 2005, entered orbit Mar 10, 2006.

Mar 10 — National Space Club, Washington DC: 60th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner; at Hilton Washington.

Mar 10 — Royal Astronomical Society, London, United Kingdom: Meeting: High-latitude Magnetospheres – Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn; Meeting: The Golden Age of Extra-Galactic Optical Transient Surveys.

Mar 10-12 — Spaceport America, MKM Racing Promotions LLC, Las Cruces NM: Spaceport America Mile; standing one mile vehicle racing event.

Mar 10 — Moon: 0.8° S of Regulus, 12:20.

Mar 10 — Apollo Asteroid 2017 DA36: Near-Earth Flyby (0.010 AU).

Mar 10 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 EF: Near-Earth Flyby (0.048 AU).

Mar 10 — Apollo Asteroid 138404 (2000 HA24): Near-Earth Flyby (0.067 AU).

Mar 10 — Apollo Asteroid 2008 CA6: Near-Earth Flyby (0.084 AU).


Mar 11 — MIT Sloan Astropreneurship and Space Industry Club (ASIC), Cambridge MA: New Space Age Conference: The Emerging Space Economy Forum; to discuss space accelerators, role of public organizations & policy makers, development of new generations of satellites, propulsion means, space habitats; at MIT Samberg Conference Center.

Mar 11 — Apollo Asteroid 2012 EQ10: Near-Earth Flyby (0.045 AU).

Mar 11 — Aten Asteroid 2016 EX202: Near-Earth Flyby (0.053 AU).


NET Mar 12 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / EchoStar 23, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch EchoStar 23 communications satellite for EchoStar Corp to provide direct-to-home television broadcast services over Brazil.

Mar 12 — MoonWatcher, Cambridge MA / Online: Last day to support MoonWatcher campaign; MoonWatcher satellite would be launched to LEO via Virgin Galactic to offer views of Moon, and science channel giving latest lunar information / scientific breakthroughs.

Mar 12 — International Planetarium Society Inc., Multiple Locations: International Day of Planetaria; promote knowledge of planetaria to the public.

Mar 12 — Daylight Saving Time (USA): Set clock ahead 1 hour; does not include Hawai’i, American Samoa or Arizona (except the Navajo Reservation).

Mar 12 — Moon: Full (Worm / Sap Moon), 04:54.