December 22-28, 2014 / Vol 33, No 51 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Russia Set for Maiden Flight of Angara Heavy-lift Rocket

calendar feature - Angara Launch

Angara-A5, the heavy-lift configuration of this modular rocket system 20 years in the making, is scheduled to lift off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 800 km north of Moscow on December 25, for its maiden flight to orbit. This is the first newly developed post-Soviet Russian rocket family. It is built by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center based in Moscow, runs on eco-friendly oxygen-kerosene fuel, and is capable of lifting 24.5t to LEO, or as much as 7.5t to GTO. Russia has been boosting efforts to revitalize its space program by increasing budget allocations over the last few years, a trend that may be challenged by the unfolding economic situation. In addition to outlining plans for a full-scale Moon exploration program in 2016-2025, it is planning or actively developing new launch vehicles like Angara, a new launch site at Vostochny, a new manned spacecraft called PTKNP, new planetary missions, and a new national space station to serve as waypoint for human Moon missions. Oleg Ostapenko, head of Roscosmos, recently cited that Russia has launched 37 satellites in 26 missions this year, almost twice as many as in 2013. The new Vostochny space center in the far east is set for completion in July 2015, despite reports of delays in construction, and will be a major boon as it alleviates Russian reliance on the Baikonur site leased from Kazakhstan. Further flight tests of the Angara rocket are scheduled in 2016. (Image Credit: Roscosmos, A. Zak, Google Earth)


Dec 22 — ISS, LEO: Six-member Expedition 42 crew testing Robonaut2, troubleshooting “CYCLOPS” satellite deployer in Kibo module, working with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) to navigate through environment with 3D-created maps; Dragon CRS-5 arrival postponed until Jan 8.

Dec 22 — Venus Express, Venus Orbit: With unstable & minimal communication capabilities and exhausted fuel supply, ESA spacecraft orbit will slowly degrade over several weeks, plunge into atmosphere after 8 years of science.

Dec 22 — Hayabusa 2, Asteroid 1999 JU3 Trajectory: JAXA craft operating nominally & on course for asteroid rendezvous Jun 2018, will continue to verify & check onboard instruments.

Dec 22 — Astrobotic Technology Inc., Pittsburgh PA: NewSpace company planning to send “Moon Mail” to lunar surface aboard Griffin lander in 2016; will use US$750K from GLXP milestone prizes to continue developing imaging & mobility technologies.

Dec 22 — PocketQube Shop, Glasgow, Scotland: Offering US$5,999 microsatellite kits consisting of spacecraft structure, radio board, onboard computer & Labsat; estimating launch cost at $35,000.

Dec 22 — Copenhagen Suborbitals (CS), Copenhagen, Denmark: Working to develop 5 kN “CS BPM-5″ bi-propellant engine; establishing capability to stream video from launched rockets to encourage / involve CS supporters, general public.

Dec 22 — The Space Show, Online / Tiburon CA: Dr. David Livingston talks with Ted Southern of Final Frontier Design.

Dec 22 — Moon: 7.0° N of Mercury, 06:00; 6.1° N of Venus, 17:00.

Dec 22 — Ursid Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from Ursid Minor, meteors travel at 33 km/sec, may produce 9-10 per hour, 10:25.

Dec 22 — Asteroid 2012 YK: Near-Earth flyby (0.046 AU).

Dec 22 — Asteroid 2014 LW14: Near-Earth flyby (0.074 AU).

dec - feb 2015 = 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 (SW), Jupiter (ENE); Morning Planets: Saturn (SE).

Jupiter Spacecraft Paving Way for Future Human Missions

Jupiter Human Missions

As China, Russia, India, Japan, private / public USA and Europe ventures make steps toward Human missions to the Moon, and set goals for Mars, some teams are looking beyond to Jupiter Human Missions. NASA Juno, the first spacecraft dedicated to Jupiter exploration since Galileo (1995-2003), is set to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016 to study its composition, gravity field, magnetic field and polar magnetosphere. It will investigate whether it has a rocky core, the amount of water in the atmosphere, how its mass is distributed, and its winds in order to help determine how the planet formed. ESA JUICE spacecraft is planning to launch in 2022 and reach the Jupiter system in 2030 to observe Jupiter and the Galileo moons Io, Europa and Callisto, with a focus on Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System at 5,268-km diameter. The JPL Europa Clipper mission concept to examine Europa in detail and look for signs of life is aiming to get funding in 2015 and launch May or June 2022. With increased focus and research on the Solar System’s largest planet with 67 known moons, an almost-solar system onto itself, Human missions to Jupiter, and the enabling technologies, are likely the key to exploring the far reaches of the Solar System, Kuiper Belt and Stars beyond. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, M. VanDaniker, A. Lund, D. Hamilton)

Continued from…

Feb 1 – Dec 31 — Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), Multiple Locations: Cycle 2 of science flights to observe universe consists of 47 science flights grouped into multi-week observing campaigns totaling about 350 research flight hours.

Dec 20 – Mar 15 — Cantor Arts Center, Stanford CA: Exhibition: Loose in Some Real Tropics: Robert Rauschenberg’s “Stoned Moon” Projects, 1969–70; 34 large-format lithographs with scenes of Apollo 11 astronauts, machinery, facilities.


Dec 23 — Armagh Planetarium, College Hill, Armagh, Northern Ireland: Mystery of the Christmas Star.


Dec 24 — 46th Apollo 8 Observation, Worldwide: EarthRise photograph 46th Anniversary; commemorating the 1st color image of Earth taken by a person orbiting the Moon Dec 24, 1968.

Dec 24 — Moon: At perigee (364,357 km), 17:00; 5.5° NNW of Mars, 19:00.


Dec 25 — RSA, Launch Angara-A5 Flight Test, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: First launch of heavy class rocket Angara-A5, roughly equivalent to U.S. Delta IV Heavy, will attempt to launch dummy payload to geostationary orbit.

Dec 25 – Jan 2 — Space Center Houston, Houston TX: Meet an Astronaut: Sam Gemar; in Astronaut Encounter Theater.

Dec 25 — Asteroid 2014 VG2: Near-Earth flyby (0.065 AU).


Dec 26 — RSA, Launch Soyuz / Resurs P2, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Soyuz rocket to launch Resurs P2 Earth observation satellite to collect remote sensing data for Russia government agencies and international customers.

Dec 26 — Space Center Houston, Houston TX: Lunch with an Astronaut, Brian Duffy; US$49.95 adult.

Dec 26 — Venus: At aphelion (108,937,169 km from Sun), 14:00.

Dec 26 — Asteroid 2014 XJ3: Near-Earth flyby (0.032 AU).


Dec 27 — 30th Anniversary of ALH84001 Meteorite Discovery: ALH84001 Meteorite (Mars Meteorite) discovered 1984 in Allan Hills, Far Western Icefield, Antarctica, this meteorite caused excitement about possibility of life on Mars.

Dec 27 — University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington TX: Back to the Moon for Good; film depicting Google Lunar XPRIZE race to Moon and the human stories of both competition & collaboration it inspires.


Dec 28 — RSA, Launch Proton / ASTRA 2G, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: ILS Proton rocket to launch ASTRA 2G communications satellite for SES of Luxembourg.

Dec 28 — Moon: At first quarter, 08:32; 1.3° WNW of Uranus, 19:00.