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Tag Archives: launch

From a JAXA press release, December 3, 2014:

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 26 with the Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” on board at 1:22 p.m. on December 3, 2014 (Japan Standard Time) from the Tanegashima Space Center. The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately one hour, 47 minutes and 21 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the Hayabusa2 to Earth-escape trajectory was confirmed.

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Credit: JAXA

The asteroid explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor to the “Hayabusa”, which verified various new exploration technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. “Hayabusa2” is setting out on a journey to clarify the origin and evolution of the Solar System as well as search for organic matter.

Links: JAXA press release, including detailed flight sequence.

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The European Space Agency’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia was launched into space on Thursday December 19, 2013, where it will embark on its mission to create a highly accurate 3D map of our galaxy. (See pp. 285, 290.)

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Credit: ESA

By repeatedly observing a billion stars, with its billion-pixel video camera, the Gaia mission will allow astronomers to determine the origin and evolution of our galaxy whilst also testing gravity, mapping our inner Solar System, and uncovering tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids in our Solar System, planets around nearby stars, and supernovae in other galaxies.

Gaia will map the stars from an orbit around the Sun, near a location some 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit known as the L2 Lagrangian point. The spacecraft will spin slowly, sweeping its two telescopes across the entire sky and focusing their light simultaneously onto a single digital camera, the largest ever flown in space. The ‘eye’ of Gaia’s camera has the most sensitive set of light detectors ever assembled for a space mission.

Once Gaia starts routine operations, in late Spring 2014, astronomers will have the challenge of dealing with a flood of data. Even after being compressed by software, the data produced by the five-year mission will fill over 30,000 CD-ROMs!

The first Gaia science is expected to be discoveries of new sources – supernovae, extreme variable stars, and blazars.

Links: University of Leicester press release; ESA launch campaign blog and press release; ESA lift-off movie.

A new NASA mission that will investigate how Mars lost its atmosphere and abundant liquid water launched into space on November 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Credit: NASA

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft separated from an Atlas V Centaur rocket’s second stage 53 minutes after launch. The solar arrays deployed approximately one hour after launch and now power the spacecraft. MAVEN has embarked on a 10-month interplanetary cruise before its arrival at Mars next September.

In the next four weeks, MAVEN will power on and check out each of its eight instruments. Upon arrival at Mars, the spacecraft will execute an orbit insertion maneuver, firing six thrusters that will allow it to be captured by Mars’ orbit. In the following five weeks, MAVEN will establish itself in an orbit where it can conduct science operations, deploy science appendages, and commission all instruments before starting its one-Earth-year scientific primary mission.

Credit: Lockheed Martin

MAVEN is traveling to Mars to explore how the Red Planet may have lost its atmosphere over billions of years. By analyzing the planet’s upper atmosphere and measuring current rates of atmospheric loss, MAVEN scientists hope to understand how Mars transitioned from a warm, wet planet to the dry desert world we see today.

Links: NASA press release; short artist concept video; NY Times article summarizing MAVEN’s science goals; Emily Lakdawalla’s blog post explaining the launch, the spacecraft and the science.