News Notes - 2007
- Dec 21 - SELENE STARTS INTENSIVE LUNAR STUDY
- The Japanese lunar probe Selene(Kayuga) starts an intensive 10
month study of the moon from a near circular orbital
height of 100 km. Fifteen scientific intruments will probe various
aspects of the moon including its structure, gravity, magnetism and
plasma environment, in the most intensive investigation of our
satellite since the Apollo missions.
ISAS - SELENE
- Dec 20 - UN DECLARES 2009 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY
- The 62th General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted
a proposal of the International Astronomical Union and declared 2009
as the International Year of Astronomy. This proposal was first mooted
at the IAU meeting in Sydney in 2003.
International Astronomical Union IYA2009.
- Dec 10 - US SPACE SHUTTLE FLEET GROUNDED
- Space shuttle mission STS-122 (Atlantis) was to have
been launched to the International Space Station early December.
However, problems with an engine cutoff sensor (ECO) in the
external fuel tank, and/or associated wiring have grounded the
shuttle fleet until the problem can be resolved. This may
delay the next launch by a month or more.
NASA Space Shuttle.
- Nov 26 - CHINA RELEASES FIRST MOON IMAGES
- China has released the first pictures of the moon's surface
captured by its Chang'e-1 lunar probe.
- Nov 10 - US LAUNCHES EARLY WARNING SATELLITE
- A spectacular night launch from the Kennedy Space Center
by a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle lofted the last Defense Support
Program satellite (DSP-23) into orbit. This satellite uses an infrared
sensor to provide early warning of missile and rocket launches. Although its
final geosynchronous location is classified, rumours that it will be
able to monitor rocket launches in Iran and China indicate that its
position in space will be above the Australian horizon, and will
probably downlink its data through a ground station in Alice Springs.
This will be the last DSP satellite. The series will eventually be
replaced by SBIRS (Space Based InfraRed System) satellites.
For more on DSP satellites see
the USAF DSP factsheet.
- October - IAU LAUNCHES FREE ONLINE JOURNAL
- The International Astronomical Union this month launched a
free online journal "Communicating Astronomy with the Public".
This is part of a worldwide effort leading toward the International
Year of Astronomy in 2009. Copies of the journal can be downloaded
from the website at CAP
- Oct 24 - CHINA LAUNCHES MOON MISSION
- China launched its first lunar mission from the Xichang launch
centre in Sichuan province using a Long March 3A rocket. This 2350 kg
spacecraft was based on China's DFH-3 communications satellite but
with considerable autonomous computing power. The name of the craft -
Chang'e [pronounced Charng-her] is after a mythical Chinese goddess
who flew to the moon. The spacecraft was initially placed
in a very eccentric Earth orbit which was then increased in size over
several days to the point where it could easily slip into lunar orbit.
The final orbit of the mission is planned for 200 km above the lunar
surface. It is hoped that the first lunar images will be available late November.
The ESA tracking station in New Norcia, Western Australia, has been
involved in receiving telemetry signals from Chang'e for the Chinese
National Space Agency (CNSA). Although the CNSA has a web page
devoted to lunar exploration, this is not routinely updated with mission
news. Probably the most timely source of Chinese space activities
can be obtained from the
China People's Daily.
- Oct 24 - SPACE SHUTTLE STS-120 LAUNCHES TO INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
- Full details of this mission can be found at
NASA Space Shuttle.
- Oct 23 - COMET HOLMES EXPLODES
- A very faint periodic comet (17P/Holmes) has exploded, and
within 24 hours brightened from magnitude 17 to magnitude
2.5 (visible to the naked eye). The size of the debris cloud from
the explosion has expanded to almost 2 million kilometres in
diameter (larger than the Sun, but of course much less dense).
Unfortunately for Australian observers, the object has a very
northerly declination (about 50oN). Thus while
it may remain visible for the next month or so, only observers
north of latitude 30 S have much chance of seeing it. Even then
it will be very low in the northern sky for a short time each
night, around midnight. It is in the constellation of Perseus, and
appears as faint fuzzy glow. Binoculars will definitely assist in
viewing the object. The comet will slowly move to
a more southerly position in the next few months, but it is impossible
to predict how its brightness will vary in this time. The comet
is currently about 2.5 AU from the Sun and 1.6 AU from Earth. More
Australian Sky and Telescope. See also the Australian Space
Academy comment on the Comet Holmes outburst as an
- Oct 11 - US LAUNCHES FIRST WIDEBAND SATCOM - AUSTRALIAN DOD TO SHARE
- The first in a series of wideband defence communications
satellites was launched by an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral
in Florida at 01:22 UT. Known as WGS-1 (Wideband Global
Satcomm satellite), this one satellite, with X-band and Ka-band
transponders, will provide more bandwidth than the entire
constellation of DSCS satellites (the current US DoD geosat
communications network backbone). Australia will pay $927 million to
purchase one of six satellites in the WGS fleet, and has
also agreed to allow the US Army Space Command (the controlling
authority for DSCS and WGS communications) to locate a WGS teleport
(network hub) at the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) facility
west of Geraldton in Western Australia. A Universal Space Network ground station
at Dongara, south of Geraldton, was the first station to receive
signals from WGS-1 following its launch. A fact sheet on WGS
may be obtained from the satellite manufacturer
- Oct 7 - NEW REPORT RELEASED ON SOLAR POWER SATELLITES
- The US National Security Space Office has just released
a new report on space based solar power. The authors of the
study have a very positive view of the potential of solar power
satellites and believe the US government should take the lead
in developing the technology. The full report, including
an executive summary, can be downloaded from
- Oct 5 - NEW AUSTRALIAN COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE IN ORBIT
- The latest Australian Communications Satellite, Optus D2,
was launched into orbit at 22:02 UT from French Guina by an Ariane 5 rocket.
Optus D2 will be located in a geosynchronous orbit at
152 degrees East and will replace Optus B3 which
has been in operation for 13 years. The satellite was built by the
Orbital Sciences Corporation using their STAR platform and
has 24 Ku band transponders.
The D-series satellites provide fixed communications (point to
point) and television and radio broadcast services to Australia and New
Zealand. Details of the satellite can be found at
- Sep 24 to 27 - 7th AUSTRALIAN SPACE SCIENCE CONFERENCE
- The seventh Australian Space Science Conference was held
in Sydney. A big feature of this year's conference was discussion
of a decadal plan for Australian space science, in which the
Australian Government will be asked to fund $100 million over
a 10 year period to support some high priority projects, including
'Sundiver', a spacecraft that would gather data from closer to the
Sun than any previous solar mission, in an orbit that would end
in the Sun itself. A draft copy of the decadal plan is available
IPS Radio and Space Services. Details of the conference, including biographies of the
invited speakers and abstracts of all the presentations can be found
at 7ASSC .
- Sep 22 - SERC DIRECTOR MEETS ASA STAFF
- Professor Kiyohumi Yumoto, Director of the Japanese
Space Environment Research Center at Kyushu University
had dinner with Australian Space Academy staff. Professor
Yumuto presented John Kennewell (ASA director) with a
certificate of appreciation for technical support of the SERC
CPMN magnetometer at Learmonth Solar Observatory.
Discussions were held on a range of issues relating to space
- Sep 18 - NASA ACCEPTING ASTRONAUT APPLICATIONS
- NASA is now accepting applications for its 2009
astronaut class. You have until 1 July 2008 to apply, but you
need to be a US citizen.
NASA Astronaut Recruitment.
- Sep 12 - JAPAN LAUNCHES KAGUYA (SELENE)
- On Wednesday the 12th, Japan launched its Kaguya
(Selene) Lunar Orbit Explorer on an H2A launch vehicle from the
Tanegashima Space Center launch site.
Kaguya is an extremely complex spacecraft, carrying 15 scientific
instruments and two sub-satellites. Billed as the most sophisticated
lunar exploration mission in the post-Apollo era, this SELenological
and ENgineering Explorer will observe the distribution
of elements and minerals on the Moon, its surface and sub-surface
structure, its gravity and remnant magnetic field, and the plasma
environment around the Moon.
ISAS - SELENE
- Aug 24 - 2008 SPACE MOOT PROBLEM RELEASED
- The International Institute of Space Law (of the International
Astronautics Federation) has just released the
2008 problem for the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition.
This is an annual competition for law students to give them
court experience of space law problems.
- Aug 19 - ASA WEB SITE OPENS
- The Australian Space Academy web site, hosted by Sumer Digital,
went on-line displaying the home page. The site will be expanded
during the next few months.