Category Archives: Events

New Horizons successfully flies by Ultima Thule & Brian May releases commemorative song

The New Horizons probe made a successful flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule today. (See earlier preview posting.) It will take several weeks for all of the high resolution images and data to be downloaded from the distant spacecraft. The first high-res flyby views will come out in a day or two. Today a blurry “pre-flyby” image was released: New Horizons Successfully Explores Ultima Thule: NASA Spacecraft Reaches Most Distant Target in History – JHAPL

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane

Here is a video of a briefing held today at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL), which manages the NASA-funded project (the panel discussion starts at ~23:00):

The New Horizons team shares the first image of Ultima Thule, as well as updates on spacecraft status and flyby success, from the Mission Operations Center at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

Panelists include Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute; Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Chris Hersman, New Horizons mission systems engineer, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The former Queen guitarist and professional astrophysicist Brian May was at JHUAPL for the event and he released a new song in honor of the New Horizons mission: Queen’s rock-star astrophysicist Brian May debuts anthem for a far-out trip – GeekWire

More about the flyby:


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Videos: Follow the Insight Mission landing on Mars today [Update]

[ Update: The landing was a success: NASA InSight Lander Arrives on Martian Surface | NASA

NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC). This image was acquired on Nov. 26, 2018, Sol 0 of the InSight mission where the local mean solar time for the image exposures was 13:34:21. Each ICC image has a field of view of 124 x 124 degrees. Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech


NASA’s Insight spacecraft will set down on the Martian surface today Nov. 26th at around noon PST (3 p.m. EST). NASA TV will provide live coverage:

InSight was launched on May 5th and marks the first landing of a NASA spacecraft on the Red Planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012. InSight’s mission, which should last at least two years, is to study Mars’ deep interior. The studies will help scientists better understand the formation of Mars as well as other rocky worlds, including Earth.

InSight is accompanied by two mini-spacecraft in a test named Mars Cube One (MarCO). This is the first deep-space mission for CubeSats. The MarCO satellites will not land but instead will fly by Mars and attempt to relay data from InSight during its entry into the planet’s atmosphere and the landing sequence.

For the key events during the landing, see NASA InSight Landing on Mars: Milestones | NASA.

Here is a preview of the Insight landing:

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft is on track for a touchdown on the surface of the Red Planet on Nov. 26. One day before landing, the mission team provides an update and explanations of everything that must go right during the entry, descent and landing of the spacecraft. 

And here is a Q&A with the Insight mission team:


Telescopes and Binoculars at Amazon

Lots of rocket launches planned for next 10 days

Several rocket launches around the world are scheduled for the next couple of weeks. Most of these will be webcast.

** Rocket Lab Electron – Nov.10/11, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. EST (0300-0700 GMT on 11th) – Rocket Lab is ready to put several commercial smallsats into low earth orbit on the third Electron launch from New Zealand (see earlier posting).

** Northrop Grumman Antares – Nov.15 – Thursday – 4:49 a.m. EST (0949 GMT) Wallops Island, Virginia. The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket will send a Cygnus spacecraft with cargo to the ISS.

** SpaceX Falcon 9 – Nov. 15, 3:46-5:29 p.m. EST (2046-2229 GMT Kennedy Space Center. The F9 will send the Es’hail 2 communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit for Es’hailSat of Qatar.

** Russian Soyuz – Nov.16, 1:14 p.m. EST (1814 GMT) – The Soyuz rocket will send a Progress cargo spacecraft to the ISS.

** SpaceX Falcon 9 – Nov.19, 1:32 p.m. EST; 10:32 a.m. PST (1832 GMT) Vandenberg AFB, California. The F9 will put over 70 satellites from 50+ customers into low earth orbit on the SSO-A mission organized by Spaceflight Services.

Other launches coming up but no times fixed yet:

  • Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. 3 (GSLV Mk.3-D2) – Nov.14? Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota – India’s biggest rocket is to launch the GSAT 29 communications from .
  • Chinese Long March 3B – Nov.19? Xichang, China – The LM-3B is to put 2 Beidou navigation satellites into medium earth orbit.
  • Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air launch out of Kennedy Space Center. An attempt to launch the ICON spacecraft to study the Earth’s Ionosphere was scrubbed last week and no new target date is set yet.


Telescopes and Binoculars at Amazon

Misc: Rockets and Relativity + Orbitmuse’s space entrepreneurial network and technology platform + New Worlds 2018

Some items of interest found recently in my email box:

** Rockets and Relativity | Adventures in Physics and the Cosmos by Jeff Palmer

Over the past few years, with the aim of sharing my lifelong enthusiasm for Space Science with other people young and old, I have developed a series of Excel spreadsheets that explore many of the core ideas in Astronautics. Using Newton’s laws of motion and gravity and employing only basic mathematics they demonstrate that the flight of a Rocket attempting to achieve orbit around a chosen planet at a target height can be realistically modelled in a spreadsheet.

The Rocket’s ascent trajectory and any resulting circular or elliptical orbit are calculated based on the spreadsheet user’s input parameters for the space mission. The parameters determine the configuration of a two stage Rocket, specify the characteristics of a planet, and define the guidance instructions that the Rocket must follow.

I have also developed a spreadsheet that explores the concepts in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity in some depth. The main concepts in the theory are illustrated using a series of worked examples, where again only basic mathematics is involved.

If this is of any interest to you, please visit my website to see details about my two books which feature the spreadsheets and explain their design. The spreadsheets are available for free download from the site to enable readers to “fly” their own orbital missions, and to experiment with the ideas in Special Relativity.

I am in the process of developing a rather more ambitious spreadsheet that models the soft landing of a Spacecraft from orbit around an airless planet using only Rocket thrust. This is the subject of my third book which I plan to publish in 2019.

In addition, I have developed a range of supporting PowerPoint slides and animations for use in presentations and demonstrations.

“ROCKETS ORBITS AND NEWTON” – Astronautics topics covered in the book:

  • Newton’s laws of motion and gravity
  • Mass, weight, inertia and weightlessness
  • Factors in the design of a high performance Rocket
  • Circular motion and the conditions required for a circular orbit
  • Guiding Rockets by vectoring their thrust
  • Comparing the performance of a single and a two stage Rocket
  • Modelling a two stage Rocket’s flight to orbit
  • Modelling elliptical orbits

 “LIGHT NEEDS TIME” – Special Relativity topics covered in the book:

  • Spacetime diagrams
  • Moving clocks and rulers
  • Loss of simultaneity
  • Summing relative speeds
  • Momentum and Energy
  • High speed space missions

** Community Development PartnershipOrbitmuse Inc. and NewSpace Chicago

Orbitmuse Inc. and NewSpace Chicago are pleased to announce a ground breaking Community Development Partnership to bring the Space and Aerospace entrepreneurial communities in the Midwest to the forefront of the New Space Race. The partnership aims to promote Orbitmuse’s Habitat strategic partnership location within mHUB Chicago and inspire growth in start-up interest in the Chicagoland business community.

Orbitmuse Inc. is the global Space and Aerospace entrepreneurial network and technology platform providing the essential tools and education to fund, build, and launch your Space, Aerospace, UAV, or Defense venture. Orbitmuse’s product offerings include Habitat, co-working and innovation facilities with dynamic state-of-the-art prototyping labs and startup resources; Boost, a specialized crowdfunding platform designed to promote and fund your projects; and Masters, the one-of-a-kind learning platform to bring your business and technologies to life.

NewSpace Chicago (“NSC”) is the premier Midwest community of professionals and investors driving commercialization and development of Space. NSC is promoting Chicago as a Center of Excellence for new commercial Space, Space-related, and Space-scalable ventures. NSC sponsors monthly network events and other programs supporting Space entrepreneurship in Chicago. With deep roots in the startup and technology communities, NSC provides a strong local presence for Orbitmuse to accelerate its growth in the Midwest. Building on the organic momentum of NSC’s community of nearly 400 members, this partnership provides exciting new opportunities for mentorship, investment, and active participation in Orbitmuse’s ecosystem by the Chicago community.

Together, the partnership aligns our core missions and will help our communities succeed with greater insight and resources. Members at Orbitmuse’s Habitat location within mHUB will have access to Orbitmuse’s global space entrepreneurship network and mHUB’s unparalleled coworking and innovation facility, with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment and resources, including a fully equipped 3D Printer Lab, Cold Metals Lab, Electronics Lab, Hot Metals Lab, Laser Cutting Lab, and Plastics Lab.

** New Worlds 2018 – Nov. 9-10, Austin, Texas

Join an exclusive group of the world’s leading space science, business, engineering, and policy leaders as we plan the first colonies on the Moon, Mars, and in Free Space.

Interactive Discussions: Meet the leaders of space settlement and space commerce during interactive panel discussions on topics such as Commercial Lunar Missions, Farmers in the Sky, Who Owns the Moon?, Sex in Space, and more. For details on the New Worlds discussion topics, click here.

Sharks in Space: In this “Shark Tank” style competition, six space companies will present their investor pitch to a judging panel of top space investors who will decide who takes home the big check. The audience choice winner will take home a cash prize as well! For more information on the competition, or to submit an entry click here.

For more details on the complete New Worlds agenda, confirmed speakers, and other conference events and activities, please visit us online at


Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: The First Manned Mission to Another World


First Annual Space Symposium of Lompoc, California

Vandenberg Air Force Base on the coast of California is the primary spaceport for US rockets launching payloads into polar orbits. Lompoc lies next to Vandenberg and David Tekaat of the Lompoc Senior’s Club tells me about the First Annual Space Symposium in Lompoc, set for October 9-12:

Our First Annual Space Symposium will be at the Dick Dewees Senior Center. ( 50 “Space Company” Exhibits per day + speeches by exhibitors.)

“Everyone Welcome. 400 people Expected per day. Be One Of The 400 People”

“If you are a high school student, college student, someone interested in working in the space industry, or if you are just interested in space exploration, Please be sure to come.”

Tuesday – Friday, 9 – 12 October 2018, 9:30 – 4:30 PM, Address: 1120 West Ocean Ave, Lompoc, CA ( Corner of Ocean Ave & ” R ” street )
Suggested donation of at least $1.00, no membership required, no membership dues.

They are looking for exhibitors and of particular interest are those who would like to display their models of spacecraft and rockets.

We would like to invite your “Space Company” to be an exhibitor at our symposium. Perhaps your sales & human resource departments would be especially interested. Besides inviting other “Space Companies” (about 600) to the symposium, I will be inviting high school & college students, and anyone else who wants to work in the space industry. Also the general public whom are interested in space exploration.

Venue address: Dick Dewees Community & Senior Center
1120 West Ocean Ave
Lompoc, CA, 93436

Mail application to: Lompoc, CA, First Annual Space Symposium
C/O David Tekaat, Lompoc Senior’s Club
184 Village Circle Drive
Lompoc, CA, 93436

The event proceeds will go towards support for the Senior Center and towards development of an Interactive Space Center For Youth.