The Sentinel-3A blasting off atop a Rockot launch vehicle (Photo ESA)

A few hours ago the Sentinel-3A satellite, part of the GMES / Copernicus program, was launched from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Rockot launch vehicle. After about an hour and a half it separated from the rocket’s last stage, called Breeze KM, it started communicating with the control center and to deploy its solar panels. Its final orbit is Sun-synchronous, which means it will pass over a certain area of ​​the Earth at the same local time, with an altitude of about 815 kilometers (about 506 miles).

The Jason-3 satellite right after blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It was morning in California when the Jason-3 satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg U.S. Air Force Base. After nearly an hour it separated from the rocket’s upper stage and started deploying its solar panels. It will operate from a low Earth orbit of polar type, which means that it will pass over the poles, with an altitude between 1,328 and 1,380 kilometers (825 to 860 miles).

A Long March 3B rocket blasting off, officially carrying the TXJSSY-1 satellite (Photo courtesy Xinhua agency. All rights reserved)

Saturday, September 12, China launched a satellite announcing it only later. It’s not the first time that something like that happened because the Chinese provide information on their space missions when their government decides it and typically in limited amount. Officially, the launch involved a test communications satellite called TXJSSY-1 of a new type called Communications Engineering Test Satellite. However, various rumors spread out about the real nature of the launch, partly because of growing tensions in the South China Sea.

The Magellanic Clouds and an interstellar filament seen by the Planck Surveyor satellite (Image ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

ESA has released an image created using data from the Planck Surveyor satellite offering a very special portrait of an interstellar filament and the Magellanic Clouds. Those are two dwarf galaxies that are part of the Milky Way’s neighborhood and Planck detected the dust between the stars within them during its mission. The main purpose of this satellite was to study the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB or CMBR), but the data collected are also useful to map the galaxies’ dust and magnetic fields.

Artistic concept of NASA's SMAP satellite wit its huge rotating mesh reflector (Image NASA)

NASA announced the impossibility to reactivate the radar of its SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite. The instrument ceased to function on July 7 and NASA engineers had been trying to reactivate it for weeks but without success. SMAP is an observatory designed to monitor the moisture present in the top 5 centimeters (2 inches) of soil and now will continue its mission in a limited way.