A Look Ahead in 2017

Category: Space Watch: Global Space

Last month, we looked back in Space Watch at accomplishments in space during 2016. This month, we're looking ahead to the future to see what 2017 has in store for the global space community.

Rocket Lab finished building its New Zealand launch pad, and the company hopes to conduct a test launch of its new Electron rocket before the year is out. Terra Bella (Skybox) has had five of its satellites launched in 2016, but one company, Planet, has deployed more satellites in one year than some mainstream satellite manufacturers have managed to build during their entire existence. But don't count the other manufacturers out. Companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Space Systems Loral, Airbus, Surrey Satellites, Ball Aerospace, Mitsubishi Electric and Thales are all working with customers to build more satellites.

Moon Express plans to send its MX-1 lunar lander to the moon atop a Rocket Lab Electron booster in 2017. The organization has expressed hope in winning the Google Lunar X-Prize, which is an international challenge of landing a robot on the moon, have it travel at least 1,650 feet and send data and images back to Earth.

From robots to mankind, Blue Origin is on track for the company’s first manned test flight of the New Shepard spacecraft. The spacecraft will fly space tourists or research missions. A manned test flight is anticipated by the end of 2017 with the first commercial flights beginning in 2018.

Further east, the Chinese plan to launch the Chang’e-5 probe from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre atop a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket. The mission intends to not only go to the moon and collect a lunar sample, but also to return it to Earth. This sample will be examined to help understand the formation and evolution of the moon.

Finally, what would the year be without some sort of spectacular astronomical event? A total solar eclipse will be visible to the United States on Mon., Aug. 21, 2017. A few other areas in the world will experience a partial solar eclipse. The eclipse will begin around 10:15 a.m. PST in Oregon and conclude around 2:50 p.m. EST. Not every state in the Union will experience the shadow of the eclipse, but everyone who hope to catch a glimpse of the solar event needs to be aware of sun safety. Even during an eclipse, it is not safe to look at the sun without proper protection, and we don’t mean those designer sunglasses. You can purchase sun/eclipse glasses that will protect your eyes from the dangers of the sun. 

This article is part of Space Watch: January 2017 (Volume: 16, Issue: 1).

Monday, January 2, 2017