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Japan’s Venus Orbiter: Not Injected into Planned Orbit

Japan’s Venus orbiter — the AKATSUKI spacecraft — has failed to reach an intended orbit insertion around the veiled planet.

Officials at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced that the planned December 7 injection into Venus orbit was not attained.

In a JAXA statement: “unfortunately, we have found that the orbiter was not injected into the planned orbit as a result of orbit estimation.”

JAXA has set up an investigation team within JAXA to study the cause of the failure and will look into countermeasures and issue investigation results.

Also underway is a review of a Venus orbit injection plan again to take the next opportunity in six years when the AKATSUKI flies closest to Venus.

According to Japanese space officials, AKATSUKI is in a Sun circular orbit. The probe’s High Gain Antenna is working and telemetry from the spacecraft is back to normal function as is full stabilization of the probe.

As AKATSUKI flies through space it will face some six years of exposure to heat and radiation from the Sun. How that space environment will treat the craft, its batteries and other gear, remains to be seen.

The spacecraft was launched by JAXA on May 21, 2010 atop that country’s H-IIA booster from the Tanegashima Space Center.

In many ways, the plight of AKATSUKI might be considered a replay of worries over Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft that surveyed an asteroid – overcoming great difficulties over a 7 year period to successfully return bits of the space rock back to Earth earlier this year. 

Special thanks to Toshiki Hasegawa for information used in this story.

By LD/CSE

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