February 15-21, 2016 / Vol 35, No 7 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Japan Space Astronomy and 21st Century Exploration Advancing

Calendar feature - Astro-H Jaxa astronomy

Launch of Astro-H Astronomy Satellite from Tanegashima Space Center, Japan aboard the 30th H-2A rocket is indicative of a greater expansion of Astronomy into Space, both with satellites and lunar missions. Initial countdown toward Feb 12 launch is scrubbed due to inclement weather, next available window to be announced. Reaching its designated orbit at 575-km altitude to begin conducting X-ray and gamma-ray observations of some of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe, it will become known by an as-of-yet unannounced new official name. The primary objective is to explore the structure and evolution of the Universe by studying objects such as supernova explosions, supermassive black holes, and galaxy clusters. One stated goal is to elucidate dark matter and dark energy. The project is lead by JAXA and includes participation of more than 200 researchers at 70 contributing institutions in Japan, the USA, Canada, and Europe. The Astro-H space observatory is 10-100 times more sensitive than its predecessor, 14 meters in length when fully extended and with a mass of 2,400 kg is the heaviest of 8 total that Japan has developed (only seven launched; Astro-G was cancelled). Japan seems to specialize in space-based X-ray astronomy; Astro-A through E, now known as Hinotori, Tenma, Ginga, ASCA, and Suzaku, have all been X-ray observatories. The exceptions Astro-F and G, were designed for Infrared astronomy and radio astronomy respectively. National Astronomical Observatory of Japan is hosting the International Lunar Observatory Association public education event known as Galaxy Forum, at their Mitaka, Tokyo headquarters, including participation of JAXA lunar exploration representatives, Japan space enterprise leaders, NAOJ astronomy experts and former Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki. (Image Credit: JAXA, Space Age Publishing Company)


Feb 15 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 46 six-member crew working with two 3D printers (one from Made in Space – USA and one from Altran of Italy for ASI), planning to release Cygnus OA-4 on Friday, gathering data on how 16 sunrises & sunsets a day affects humans, Sally Ride EarthKAM continues to gather images of Earth & allows middle school students to choose specific locations.

Feb 15 — Chang’e-3 Lander, Guang Han Gong, Sinus Iridum / Mare Imbrium, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Should awake from hibernation for Lunar Day 28 on Feb 18 to continue data observations from Moon, new Chang’e data now available online.

Feb 15 — Akatsuki, 400 x 440 km Venus Orbit: JAXA craft in instruments check out phase, planning to begin observations of Venus atmosphere & monitor weather beginning in April for at least 2 years.

Feb 15 — Ad Astra Rocket Company, Webster TX: NewSpace company with Astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz as president & CEO, developing Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) prototype, creating documentary to show space applications of VASIMR engine including Jupiter Slingshot Mission, lunar cargo transport & deep space robotic missions.

Feb 15 — Tethers Unlimited, Bothell WA: Working on Positrusion Recycler concept to convert ISS / Space waste into filament able to be used in 3D printing, developing SpiderFab system capable of manufacturing antennas, solar arrays, sensor masts, and producing Terminator Tape for decommissioning nano- and microsatellites; founders Dr. Robert Hoyt and Dr. Robert Forward, BoD member Arthur M. Dula.

Feb 15 — Icarus Interstellar, Multiple Locations: Discussing possibility of making science-based competition for designing interstellar missions; Drexel University Icarus chapter working on propulsion designs of CubeSats for Icarus Project Tin Tin (mission to Alpha Centauri); offering free online Interstellar newsletter.

Feb 15 — Chelyabinsk Meteor Explosion 3-Year Observation, Chelyabinsk, Russia / Worldwide: Known Near Earth Asteroid count totals 13,534, awareness of the need for NEO detection & tracking is increasing as people mark Chelyabinsk meteor explosion 3-year anniversary which injured 1,000 people.

Feb 15-19 — Anand Engineering College Agra, University of Western Ontario, Agra, India: Astronomy at Taj 2016: Winter School on Astronomy and Workshop on Star Formation.

FEB - APR 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: Jupiter (E), Uranus (W); Morning Planets: Mercury (SE), Venus (SE), Mars (S), Saturn (SE).

SLS, Orion, EM-1 CubeSats Promise Innovative Moon / Deep Space Science and Technologies

SLS Orion 2018

The long-awaited, next-generation NASA Space Launch System (SLS) maiden launch date is set for no later than November 2018. Dubbed Exploration Mission 1, SLS 70-metric ton configuration will loft the Orion crew module on a 21-day journey, flying 70,000 km past the Moon. It will also carry 13 CubeSats, four of which will target the Moon: 6U (12 kg) Lunar Flashlight with a 80 m2 solar sail to map ice deposits in permanently shadowed craters at Moon South Pole from 20-km altitude, 6U (14 kg) Lunar IceCube will use an electric RF ion engine and search for water ice from 100-km altitude over 6 months, LunaH-Map will map hydrogen within craters at the Moon South Pole, and 14-kg Skyfire will take sensory data of the Lunar surface during its flyby. Another CubeSat “Near Earth Asteroid Scout” will attempt to reach an NEA using solar sail propulsion, send images to Earth and observe its position in space. The Orion command module, currently at KSC, will undergo 30-flight systems installations this year and be powered on for the first time in early 2017. The first Human Moon flyby mission is planned for 2023. Future configurations of SLS / Orion could carry crews to Asteroids, Mars and the Jupiter system. (Image Credit: NASA, ASU, LMCO) Pictured: Chris Crumbly SLS Program Manager

Feb 15-21 — Sexten Center for Astrophysics, Sexten, Italy: Workshop: Sweeping Galaxies Clean – Cold Molecular Outflows as Drivers of Galaxy Evolution.

Feb 15 — Moon: 8.9° S of Pleiades, 04:00; 0.35° NNW of Aldebaran, 22:00.

Feb 15 — Aten Asteroid 2006 XP4: Near-Earth flyby (0.064 AU).

Continued from…

Aug 28 – 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.

Jan 25 – Feb 24 — Johnson Space Center, NASA, Houston TX: 2016 Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) Campaign; 4 volunteers to spend 30 days in HERA 148-cubic-meter capsule simulating a mission to asteroid.

Feb 14-18 — American Astronautical Society, AIAA, Napa CA: 26th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting.


Feb 16 — Eurorockot, Launch Rockot / Sentinel 3A, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: Eurorockot Rockot to launch Sentinel 3A Earth observation satellite for ESA and European Commission; mission will measure sea surface topography, sea & land surface temperature, ocean & land color.

Feb 16-19 — ESA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands: Final Presentation Days – Payload Technologies and Products; at ESTEC.


Feb 17 — Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS), LEO: Three satellites in magnetosphere (two in Moon orbit – now called ARTEMIS) enter 10th year in space today; launched 2007.

Feb 17 — Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement, Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ: Update on GLXP SpaceIL; presented by SpaceIL engineer / co-founder Yonatan Winetraub.

Feb 17-19 — Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan: Solar-System Symposium; at Rusutsu Resort.

Feb 17-19 — Swiss National Science Foundation, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland: Conference: The X-ray View of Black Hole Activity in the Local Universe.

Feb 17-19 — Arizona State University, NExSS, NASA Astrobiology Institute, NSF, Tempe AZ: Upstairs Downstairs: Consequences of Internal Planet Evolution for the Habitability and Detectability of Life on Extrasolar Planets.

Feb 17 — Moon: 6.1° S of M35, 14:00.


Feb 18 — The National Academies, Washington DC / Online: NASA Technology Roadmaps Teleconference.

Feb 18 — British Interplanetary Society, London, United Kingdom: Lecture: Skylab – Designing the First Large-Scale Space Station; Colin Ledsome.

Feb 18 — Cornell University, Ithaca NY: Lecture: Blown Away; Ralph Lorenz from JHU/APL discusses research topics on wind in planetary environments.

Feb 18 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 CG137: Near-Earth flyby (0.056 AU).

Feb 18 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 CA138: Near-Earth flyby (0.064 AU).

Feb 18 — Apollo Asteroid 1999 VF22: Near-Earth flyby (0.094 AU).


Feb 19 — ISS, Cygnus OA4 Unberthing & Release, LEO: Cygnus OA4 to be released at 11:25 UT, live coverage available, for Earth Atmosphere disintegration with ISS waste.

Feb 19 — Cassini OTM-443, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #443 today.

Feb 19 — Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, Mojave CA: Second SpaceShipTwo roll out and naming; Steven Hawking expected to attend and name newest SpaceShipTwo; company hopes to launch people into space starting 2018.

Feb 19 — Made in Space, NASA, Mountain View CA: Media invited to talk to technology experts & tour Made In Space facilities at NASA Research Park, Moffett Field.

Feb 19 — Peninsula Astronomical Society, Foothill University, Los Altos Hills CA: Lecture: Evolution of Planetary Landscapes from Callisto to Helene; by Orkan M. Umurhan.

Feb 19 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX: Lecture: Effects of Mechanical, Rheological and Tectonic Controls on the Formation of Giant Radial Dike Systems on Venus – Insights from Finite Element Modeling; by Nicolas LeCorvec.

Feb 19 — Moon: 14.7° S of Castor, 00:00; 22.2° S of Pollux, 05:00.

Feb 19 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 CD137: Near-Earth flyby (0.017 AU).


Feb 20 — International Lunar Observatory Association, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), Tokyo, Japan: Galaxy Forum Japan 2016 – Tokyo: 21st Century Frontiers of Astronomy & Observation; at NAOJ Mitaka Campus.

Feb 20 — British Interplanetary Society, Worcs, United Kingdom: British Interplanetary Society (BIS) West Midland Event; Dave Shayler will talk on Hubble Space Telescope & sign copies of his recent book, Mark Perman will talk about the First German Rocket Research Establishment Kummersdorf; at the Gardeners Arms.

Feb 20 — Moon: 5.0° S of Beehive Cluster, 07:00.

Feb 20 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 CO29: Near-Earth flyby (0.040 AU).


Feb 21-23 — Space Exploration Alliance, NSS, AIAA, Moon Society, Federation of Galaxy Explorers, Planetary Society, SEDS, et al, Washington DC: SEA Legislative Blitz 2016; advocating for the exploration and development of Space.

Feb 21-27 — National Society of Professional Engineers, AIAA, Boeing Co., SAE International, Nationwide USA: 65th Annual Engineers Week (2016); held during week of George Washington’s birthday, observed by more than 70 engineering, education, cultural societies & more than 50 corporations and government agencies.

Feb 21 — Mercury: At aphelion (distance 0.4667 AU from Sun), 07:00.