May 17-23, 2010 / Vol 29, No 20

JAXA Akatsuki Venus Orbiter & IKAROS Solar Sail to Advance Solar System Exploration

JAXA 'Akatsuki' - or 'Planet C' to explore climate of Venus for 2-year mission.‘Akatsuki,’ the world’s 1st planetary observation satellite (TC) to explore the climate of Venus, will launch aboard a JAXA H-2A rocket on May 17 from Tanegashima Center, Japan.  Also known as ‘Planet C’ and weighing a total of 650 kg, the robotic spacecraft will travel towards Venus for 6 months until its orbital insertion date in December 2010. The scientific payload consists of a radio science experiment, a long-wave infrared camera, an ultraviolet imager, as well as 2 other cameras. Once in orbit, Akatsuki will begin its investigation by capturing surface imagery to confirm the presence of lightning or volcanic activity. The orbiter will also study the unique carbon dioxide environment and observe the atmospheric movement and cloud formation process of Venus. The mission aims to deepen our understanding of Venus and find clues into Earth’s formation process. The mission is expected to last 2 years and cost over US$200million. Also on board the H2-A is JAXA IKAROS (LC), Japan’s 1st ‘space yacht’ propelled only by the radiation of the Sun bouncing off its kite-shaped sails. Once Ikaros reaches space, the pod will spin over 20 times a minute to unfold its 14m sails. Space systems expert at JAXA, Yuichi Tsuda (BL) says, “The availability of electricity would enable us to navigate farther and more effectively in the solar system.” Also Pictured: Akatsuki Project Scientist Takeshi Imamura (BC). (Credit: JAXA)

IST-Africa Conference to Advance Continent’s Science, Technology, Space Endeavors

On May 19-21 the Information Technology Societies in Africa (IST-Africa) initiative will hold its 5th annual meeting in Durban, South Africa. The conference is a major joint effort between leading government, academic and commercial leaders in both Africa and Europe, and will focus on bridging the Digital Divide using 21st Century technology for Africa’s people. IST-Africa directly supports the goals of the Africa-EU Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space, and will hold high-level talks on space and technology development in the opening day plenary. The substantial breadth and depth of topics at IST-Africa include: improving education with Web 2.0, grid computing and software development, modernizing agriculture, eGovernment models and cutting-edge medical research — often through the use of satellite and tele-science applications. On Day 2, Gregory Pedersen of EADS Astrium in France will present an update on the GEO-Africa / AfricaSat-1 project. Concurrent with the conference will be the meeting of the Joint Expert Group (JEG8) for the 8th Africa-EU Strategic Partnership for Science, Information Society and Space on Tuesday 18 May from 14:00 – 18:00 at the Durban International Convention Center. (Credit: EADS Astrium, IST,

= 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 – Morning Planets: Jupiter (ESE) / Evening Planets: Venus (WNW), Mars (W), Saturn (SW).


May 17 — International Space Station, LEO: E-23 crew members joined by STS-132 crew: Cmdr. Ken Ham, Pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers.

May 17 — NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Orbit: LRO operating nominally in low polar orbit (50km) and continues to return global data of lunar surface.

May 17 — Mars Rover Opportunity, Red Planet: Mars Rover team continues to monitor Opportunity after lengthening its awake time to balance rover’s recharge period for upcoming winter season.

May 17 — JAXA, Launch H-2A / Akatsuki / Ikaros, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan: The Japanese H-2A rocket set to launch the Akatsuki spacecraft to Venus.

May 17-19 — American Astronautical Society, Monterey CA: ‘Kyle Alfriend Astrodynamics Symposium.’

May 17-19 — ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands:Europa Jupiter System Mission Science Meeting.’

May 17-21 United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Chisinau, Moldova: ‘Workshop on the Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems.’

May 17-22 Cargese Institute of Scientific Studies, Corsica, France: ‘Exploring the Dawn of the Universe with the Gamma-Ray Bursts.’

May 17 — Moon: 7.6° SSW of Pollux; 22:00.

Continued from . . .

Jan 30 — Museum of Science and Industry, Confucius Institute / University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom: Exhibition: From Gunpowder to Space Rockets – The China Space Program,’ includes models of ancient rockets, recent satellites, rockets, space ships and a lunar rover; through Aug 7.


May 18 — NASA, ESA, Oslo, Norway: ‘12th NASA-ESA Workshop on Product Data Exchange.’

May 18 — Women in Aerospace, Washington DC: ‘Aerospace 2010: Challenges and Opportunities at the Dawn of a New Decade.’

May 18-19 — FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), Washington DC: ‘COMSTAC Working Group Meeting.’

May 18-19 — The National Academies, Washington DC: ‘Committee on Radio Frequencies.’

May 18-20 — ESA, NASA, Oslo, Norway: ‘12th NASA-ESA Workshop on Product Data Exchange.’

May 18-21 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Alamosa CO: ‘2nd International Planetary Dunes Workshop: Planetary Analogs – Integrating Models, Remote Sensing and Field Data.’

May 18 — Cassini Enceladus Flyby, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts close flyby of Saturn moon Enceladus (altitude 198 km).

May 18 — Moon: 3.5° SSW of Beehive Cluster; 22:00.


May 19 — The SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Colloquium Series Lecture: ‘ChemCam: The Laser on the Next Mars Lander,’ Jen Blank.

May 19 — Foothill College, Los Altos CA: Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures: ‘Hearts of Darkness – Black Holes in Space,’ Alex Filippenko.

May 19 — ESA, Stuttgart, Germany: ESA Investment Forum 2010.’

May 19-21 — The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety, Huntsville AL:4th International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety Conference.’

May 19-21 — South Africa Department of Science and Technology, European Commission, Durban, South Africa: ‘IST-Africa 2010 Conference & Exhibition.’

May 19 — Cassini Titan Flyby, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts close flyby of Saturn moon Titan (altitude 1400 km).

May 19Moon: 4.9° SSW of Mars, 21:00; At Perigee (Distance 57.97 Earth-Radii).

May 19Asteroid 2003 QC10: Near Earth Fly-by (0.089 AU).


NET May 20 — United Launch Alliance LLC, Launch Delta 4 / GPS 2F-1, Cape Canaveral FL: United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket set to launch the 1st Air Force Block 2F navigation satellite for Global Positioning System.

May 20  — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX: ‘Martian Surface Compositions from Thermal Emission Measurements: Contributions to Understanding Crustal Evolution and Alteration Processes,‘ Deanne Rogers.

May 20-21 — Italian Space Agency, ESA, The University of Arizona, Sperlonga, Italy: ‘4th International Workshop: Agrospace – Controlled Environment Agriculture from Earth to Space and Back.’

May 20-21 — NASTAR Center, Philadelphia PA: ‘NASTAR 2-Day Space Training Program.’

May 20-22 — NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston TX: National Community College Aerospace Scholars to participate in 3-day event to develop robotic explorers from concept to build-out.

May 20 — Moon: At First Quarter, (13:43); 4.3° SSW of Regulus, 14:00.

May 20Omicron Cetid Meteors: Daylight meteor shower radiating from Constellation Cetus.

May 20Asteroid 2010 JM33: Near Earth Fly-by (0.030 AU).

May 20Asteroid 11055 Honduras: Closest Approach to Earth (0.985 AU).


May 21— Arianespace, Launch Ariane 5 / Astra3B & COMSATBw 2, Kourou, French Guiana: Arianespace Flight 194 to use Ariane 5 rocket with cryogenic upper stage to launch Astra 3B satellite for Europe and COMSATBw 2 communications satellite for German military.

May 21 — Astronomical Society of Višnjan, Visnjan, Croatia: ‘Meeting on Asteroids and Comets in Europe (MACE 2010).

May 21Asteroid 2010 GA34: Near Earth Fly-by (0.033 AU).

May 21Asteroid 1865 Cerberus: Closest Approach to Earth (0.334 AU).


May 22 — Moon: 7.5° SSW of Saturn; 13:00.


NET May 23 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / Dragon, Cape Canaveral FL: Falcon 9 rocket maiden launch demonstration mission to test future resupply flights to the ISS.

May 23 — International Lunar Observatory Association, Space Age Publishing Company, Hilo HI: ‘Galaxy Forum Hilo: Galaxy Education in the 21st Century.’

May 23-27 — American Astronomical Society, Miami FL:216th Meeting of the AAS.’

May 23 — Cassini OTM-248, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #248 today.

May 23Asteroid 9969 Braille: Closest Approach to Earth (0.427 AU).

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