A Russian Soyuz booster lifted off Friday from Kazakhstan on a complex mission to deploy 73 satellites into three different orbits, including a Russian spacecraft to locate forest fires, 48 CubeSats for Planet’s global Earth observation fleet, and eight nanosatellites for Spire Global’s commercial weather network.
A balky interplanetary seismic instrument that ran into technical problems in 2015, forcing a two-year delay in the launch of NASA’s InSight lander to Mars, cleared a major test last week after engineers redesigned part of the sensor package, boosting confidence that the mission will be ready to blast off in May 2018.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has continued its survey of the dwarf planet Ceres this year, discovering rock-bound ice hidden just beneath the airless world’s rugged surface and a handful of icy outcrops inside craters in the northern hemisphere, raising hopes that Ceres could have once held a buried habitable ocean of liquid water.
A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off early Wednesday with an assortment of payloads for the Indian government, domestic universities, and institutions and companies from Indonesia, Canada, Germany and the United States, including a pathfinder satellite for Google’s Terra Bella Earth observation division.
Optimistic Europe’s hibernating Philae comet lander can be revived, mission controllers plan to try and contact the spacecraft as soon as January as the search narrows for the probe’s final resting place — a site within arm’s reach of pristine ice and organic matter ripe for analysis if the mission gets a new lease on life.