December 5-11, 2016 / Vol 35, No 49 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Japan Set to Launch HTV 6 to ISS in Support of Human Spaceflight Operations


The 6th JAXA automated orbital logistics vehicle is set to launch December 9 aboard an H-2B rocket from Yoshinobu 2 pad at Tanegashima Space Center located near the southernmost tip of Japan, on the second largest of the Ōsumi islands (pop. 33,000) in Kagoshima prefecture. Also known as Kounotori 6, named after the Asian White Stork, this version of the cargo spacecraft has been optimized reducing the numbers of primary batteries, solar panels and redundant navigation lights. The mission is to deliver 600 liters of water, 12 next-gen batteries and a host of CubeSats and TubeSats to the ISS, as well as to demonstrate 2 new technologies: SFINKS a thin film solar cell array and KITE a 700-m electrodynamic tether with 20-kg end-mass to test space debris removal possibilities. Rendezvous, capture and berthing to the Harmony module is scheduled for Dec 13, with departure on January 20. In its 17th year of sustained off-world presence, Human civilization should continue to benefit on Earth from the extraterrestrial insights and inter-global perspectives garnered from our expansion into space. (Image Credit: JAXA, NASA, Google Earth)


star-grey Dec 5 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 50 six-member crew preparing for final cargo delivery of 2016 with Japan HTV-6 expected next Tuesday, reconfiguring after loss of Progress 65P, installing aerosol samplers to collect particles for analysis back on Earth, monitoring calf muscle & Achilles tendon changes, performing surface tension experiment.

star-full-grey Dec 5 — New Horizons, KBO 2014 MU69 Trajectory: More evidence from Pluto flyby data indicates poles on dwarf planet are on average the hottest parts over a Plutonian year (which lasts 248 Earth years), there could be a a subsurface ocean, and the heart-shaped icy plain Sputnik Planitia could be 2-3+ km thick.

circle-full-grey Dec 5 — James Webb Telescope, GSFC / Greenbelt MD: Should be on track for 2018 launch to study deepest & farthest reaches of physical universe, US$9B craft being developed with 18 hexagonal mirrors (totaling 6.5-meters wide) and 5-layer, 22-meter long sunshield (compared to equivalent of SPF 1 Million sunscreen).

circle-grey Dec 5 — Ripple Aerospace, Kristiansand, Norway: NewSpace company planning Sea Launching capabilities from equator with Jormungandr (Sea Serpent) medium-lift, two-stage launcher utilizing toroidal aerospike engine to deliver payloads into LEO, SSO, GSO, Lunar & Mars injection; hoping to begin test flights Q1 2017; co-founder & CTO Daniel Cottitta.

circle-full-grey Dec 5 — NanoRacks LLC, Houston TX: Working to offer payload integration services on Blue Origin New Shepard, conducting study on repurposing rocket upper stages into commercial space station habitats through NASA NextSTEPs Phase II program; over 375 payload launched to space via NanoRacks services.

circle-full-grey Dec 5 — Starburst Ventures, San Francisco CA: Offshoot of Starburst Accelerator, raises US$200M in funding to invest in early stage aerospace startups, plans to provide $3-5M to about 35 startups; CEO and founder Francois Choppard states the best place to build NewSpace startup is USA in terms of regulation & largest market opportunity.

dec-feb-2017 = 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 (SW), Mars (SSW), Saturn (SW), Uranus (SE), Neptune (S); Morning Planets: Jupiter (ESE).

Juno Reaches Perijove, May Spend Extra 2 Years at Jupiter if Kept in Current Orbit


Juno is heading to a close Jupiter flyby December 11 with a majority of its science instruments on. The Period Reduction Maneuver to put the craft into a 14-day period was reset for December 11 after a malfunction with a pair of helium valves in October, but it is now planned for Juno to continue a 53.5-day orbit for the foreseeable future, perhaps for the mission duration. The Juno team will use the upcoming cycle time and data to decide its future. An engine burn could occur at any of the perijoves, including Feb 2 and Mar 27, 2017. “We can do all of our science in a 53-day orbit if needed” states Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton. This could extend Juno mission into 2020 (beyond the original Feb 2018 end date) without changing the overall radiation exposure, but it would impact solar power during eclipses. Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map the magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in deep atmosphere and observe auroras. Containing 70% of all planetary mass in the Solar System and some of the most exciting geological features and biological extraterrestrial potential, the Jupiter system is vital for exploration and science. The next scheduled mission to launch to Jupiter is ESA JUICE in 2022, with NASA hoping for the budget in 2017 to launch Europa Clipper in early 2020s.(Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SwRI, ASI, INAF, JIRAM)

Dec 5 — ESA, Launch Vega / Goturk1, Kourou, French Guiana: European Vega rocket, designated VV08, to launch Gokturk 1 reconnaissance satellite for Turkish military.

Dec 5 — Cornell University, Ithaca NY: Planet Nine Discussion; Maryame El Moutamid, 12:30.

Dec 5-6 — Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Irvine CA: Searching for Life Across Space and Time; to explore current status of activities to detect extraterrestrial life in Solar System & extrasolar planetary systems.

Dec 5-8 — Keck Institute for Space Studies, JPL/NASA, Caltech, Pasadena CA: Workshop: Exoplanet Imaging and Characterization: Coherent Differential Imaging and Signal Detection Statistics – Part 2; with Michael Fitzgerald (UCLA), Dimitri Mawet (Caltech), Gautam Vasisht (JPL).

Dec 5-9 — UNOOSA, Kathmandu, Nepal: United Nations/Nepal Workshop on the Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

Dec 5-9 — University of Cambridge, Kavli Institute for Cosmology at Cambrdige, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Meeting: Galaxy Clusters – Physics Laboratories and Cosmological Probes.

Dec 5 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 WB8: Near-Earth Flyby (0.009 AU).

Continued from…

Oct 15 – Sep 4, 2017 — 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.

Dec 4-7 — Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI), Gemini Observatory, Sejong University, Chilean Millennium Institute of Astrophysics, Las Campanas Observatory, La Serena, Chile: 1st Chile-Korea-Gemini Workshop no Stellar Astrophysics: Accretion Processes in Symbiotic Stars and Related Objects.


Dec 6 — Library of Congress Science, Technology and Business Division, Washington DC: Walking with the Last Men on the Moon: Revisiting the Apollo 17 Landing Site with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter; Noah Petro, 11:30.

Dec 6 — Wiltshire Astronomical Society, Melksham, United Kingdom: Odyssey Dramatic Presentation: Saturn – Lord of the Rings; at Pavillion Hall, 19:30.

Dec 6 — SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Lecture Crucible of Worlds: A System for Space Synthetic Biology Experiments; Aaron Berliner from Autodesk and UC Berkeley, 12:00.

Dec 6-7 — Defense Strategies Institute, Alexandria VA: 3rd Space Resiliency Summit; Mary Gates Learning Center.

Dec 6 — Moon: 0.67° NNW of Neptune, 12:00; at first quarter, 23:03.

Dec 6 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 WD7: Near-Earth Flyby (0.011 AU).

Dec 6 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 WH10: Near-Earth Flyby (0.015 AU).

Dec 6 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 TD18: Near-Earth Flyby (0.046 AU).

Dec 6 — Amor Asteroid 2016 UN36: Near-Earth Flyby (0.054 AU).


Dec 7 — Akatsuki, Venus Orbit: JAXA first successful planetary orbiter imaging Venus atmosphere, monitoring weather changes enters 2nd year at Venus today; launched May 11, 2001.

Dec 7 — ISRO, Launch PSLV / Resourcesat 2A, Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India: India Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, flying on the PSLV-C36 mission, to launch India Resourcesat 2A Earth observation satellite along with secondary payloads from India, Italy and Latvia.

Dec 7 — United Launch Alliance, Launch Delta 4 / WGS 8, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: ULA Delta 4 rocket to launch USAF eighth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft.

Dec 7 — International Institute of Space Law, Washington DC: Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues of Space Law.

Dec 7 — Elliott School of International Affairs, Delegation of the European Union to the United States, U.S. State Department, Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Washington DC: 2nd EU-US Space Policy Conference.

Dec 7-9 — The National Academies, Irvine CA: Meeting: Large Strategic NASA Science Missions: Science Value and Role in a Balanced Portfolio.

Dec 7-9 — Helmholtz Alliance for Astroparticle Physics (HAP), Cochem, Germany: Workshop: Monitoring the Non-thermal Universe.

Dec 7-9 — Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON), Gaia Science Alerts Working Group, Utrecht, Netherlands: 7th OPTICON Gaia Science Alerts Workshop.

Dec 7 — Puppid Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from constellations Puppis, Vela and Carina, up to 10 meteors per hour expected (some very bright) seen from southern hemisphere; followed closely by Monocerotid meteors which offer ~2 per hour at most.

Dec 7 — Amor Asteroid 2016 WV: Near-Earth Flyby (0.069 AU).

Dec 7 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 WD3: Near-Earth Flyby (0.070 AU).


Dec 8 — Sutton Coldfield Civic Society, Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom: Odyssey Dramatic Presentation: Lunatick Astronomy; at Holy Trinity Parish Church.

Dec 8-11 — ICISE, Quy Nhon University, Tay Nguyen University, Buon Ma Thuot & Quy Nhon, Vietnam: Tropical School in Undergraduate Astronomy: Astronomical Observations.


Dec 9 — JAXA, Launch H-2B / HTV-6, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan: An uncrewed Japan H-2B rocket set to launch 6th H-2 transfer vehicle (Kounotori 6) to deliver supplies to ISS.

Dec 9 — Royal Astronomical Society, London, United Kingdom: Meeting: Frozen Worlds and Landscapes of our Solar System; Meeting: Radio Galaxies in the Local Universe.

Dec 9 — Caltech, Pasadena CA: Stargazing & Lecture Series: ALMA – A Revolutionary New View of the Cosmos; Nick Scoville of Caltech, 19:00.

Dec 9 — NASA Planetary Science Division, Washington DC: Abstract Due for Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop; leading experts in solar system planetary science & space technologies to identify potential science goals and enabling technologies that can be implemented by the end of 2040s to support next phase of Solar System exploration; held Feb 27 – Mar 1, 2017.

Dec 9-11 — Faculty of Physics – University of Warsaw, Polish Society on Relativity, Warsaw, Poland: Gravitational Waves Conference: Mathematical, Computational, Astrophysical and Quantum Approaches.

Dec 9 — Moon: 2.9° SSE of Uranus, 11:00.

Dec 9 — Aten Asteroid 1994 XL1: Near-Earth Flyby (0.092 AU).


Dec 10 — XMM-Newton, Very Eccentric Elliptical LEO: ESA craft studying X-ray emissions, star-forming regions, galaxy clusters, environment of supermassive black holes, mapping dark matter, enters 18th year in space today, launched 1999.

Dec 10 — Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles CA: Griffith Observatory Public Star Party; 14:00 – 22:00.

Dec 10 — Saturn: At conjunction with Sun, 02:00.

Dec 10 — Apollo Asteroid 2014 HM4: Near-Earth Flyby (0.060 AU).


Dec 11 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Flyby of Prometheus (101,000-km altitude) and Pallene (95,000-km altitude).

Dec 11 — Juno, Jupiter Orbit: Spacecraft to perform close fly by of Jupiter today with science instruments on; craft may stay in 53.5-day orbit for mission duration which would extend mission by ~1.5 years without reducing science observations / goals.

Dec 11 — CNSA, Launch Long March 3B / Fengyun 4A, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China: Long March 3B rocket to launch Fengyun 4A geostationary weather satellite for China Meteorological Administration.

Dec 11-16 — Rencontres du Vietnam, Vietnam National University, IAU, Qhy Nonh, Vietnam: Rencontres du Vietnam: Search for Life: From Early Earth to Exoplanets.

Dec 11-16 — University of Heidelberg – Institute for Theoretical Physics, Passo del Tonale, Italy: 10th TRR33 Winter School on Cosmology.