November 8, 2015

China Launches Earth Observation [Spy] Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The Chinese launched another satellite on the Yaogan Weixing series on Sunday. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-26 took place at 07:06 UTC using a Long March-4B launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. As is usual for the Chinese media, this spacecraft is once again classed as a new remote sensing bird that will be used for scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.

As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes. As was the case with the former Soviet Union (and in a smaller scale with Russia) with the ‘Cosmos’ designation, the ‘Yaogan’ designation is used to hide the true military nature of the vehicles orbited. (11/6)

Trident Missile Launch Off California Coast Sparks UFO Freakout (Source: GeekWire)
An unannounced Trident missile launch lit up the skies over Los Angeles on Saturday night, setting off a hail of UFO reports, tense tweets and YouTube videos. After the flare-up, the U.S. Navy confirmed that the USS Kentucky, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine that’s homeported at the Bangor submarine base on the Kitsap Peninsula, conducted a “scheduled, on-going system evaluation test” in the Navy’s Pacific Test Range off the coast of Southern California. (11/7)

India: Human Mission Not a Priority (Source: Times of India)
The much-publicized manned space mission is not a priority for Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), chairman A S Kiran Kumar said. "Our priority is to build capacity for new (satellite) launches," Kumar said. The ISRO chief, who is also secretary, department of space, said the agency is planning to increase the frequency of new satellite launches to 10 to 12 per year against present one to six. From December to March, there would be at least one launch every month, he said. (11/8)

Deserts and Dunes—Earth as an Analogue for Titan (Source:
By comparing radar images of areas on Titan to those of Earth's deserts, scientists have identified two distinct types of sand dune on Saturn's largest moon – and discovered eroded structures that indicate that Titan's climate may have once been very different.

Titan is an intriguing moon, particularly for planetologists. It is the only natural satellite in the Solar System to have a dense atmosphere containing methane, a geologically active surface, and numerous surface lakes and seas. The moon's thick atmosphere forms a permanent haze that obscures it from visible view. Instead, to 'see' the moon's surface we rely on radar devices such as the RADAR instrument on the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. (11/6)

“Top 10″ Surprises from the Pluto Flyby (Source: Sky & Telescope)
It sounds like science fiction, but it's not: NASA's New Horizons mission explored the Pluto system last summer — and here's my "top 10" list of what's surprised me the most about the results so far. (By the way, I didn't order this list below in terms of my "surprise factor.") Click here. (10/29)

US Government is Preparing for a Cataclysmic Blast from Space (Source: Tech Insider)
For our electronic way of life, the sun is a formidable foe, and the White House is taking protective action against it. On Oct. 29, the White House's National Science and Technology Council released its strategic plan to prepare for an extreme space weather event that could destroy satellites, spacecraft, and vital telecommunications systems.

Many of these electrical systems depend on each other, which is a recipe for disaster. Every second, the sun shoots bursts of charged subatomic particles, in the form of solar wind, into space at speeds of 1 million miles per hour. If an especially powerful barrage heads our way, it could easily penetrate our magnetic field, fry our electric power systems, and kick us back into the dark ages — all within a matter of hours.

The White House calls upon two dozen national departments, agencies, and service branches to reach a number of benchmarks within the next one to two years. These benchmarks are designed to address actions like "creating engineering standards, developing vulnerability assessments, establishing decision points and thresholds for action, understanding risk, developing more-effective mitigation procedures and practices, and enhancing response and recovery planning," according to the report. (11/6)

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