NASA maps geology of Pluto’s ‘heart’
A newly created geological map of Pluto’s famous heart-shaped region shows just how varied and complex the distant dwarf planet is.
Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission, which performed the first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14, have put together a color-coded geological map of Sputnik Planum, the huge nitrogen-ice plain that occupies the left side of Pluto’s heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio.
The newly released map allows researchers to see variations in Pluto’s terrain, which, in turn, can provide insight into the geological history of the dwarf planet.
Rocket Lab to launch Spire satellites
Rocket Lab, a New Zealand company developing a small launch vehicle, announced a contract Feb. 14 with Spire to launch a number of that company’s small satellites through next year. Under the contract, Spire will launch some of its satellites on up to 12 launches of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from New Zealand.
San Francisco-based Spire is developing a constellation of more than 100 cubesat-class spacecraft to collect weather data through a technique known as GPS radio occultation, and also provide maritime tracking services. Spire launched its first four satellites last September as secondary payloads on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
New launch communications antenna ready for business
ESA inaugurated a new tracking dish in Australia yesterday, marking a significant step in the Agency’s worldwide satcom network. The new antenna is sited at ESA’s existing ground station, in New Norcia, Western Australia, and will be used for communicating with rockets and new satellites, taking advantage of the ideal geographic location under the flight paths of launchers departing from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
In the coming years, the new antenna will track launches from Kourou, as well as high-profile missions such as Galileo navigation satellites, the BepiColombo Mercury probe, and ExoMars going to the Red Planet. It has already proven its technical fitness for operational service, having been used to track LISA Pathfinder in December 2015.
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