Akatsuki Encounters Problems at Venus

by Nancy Atkinson on December 7, 2010

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Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft. Credit: JAXA

Japan’s first Venus space probe encountered problems while attempting orbit insertion and went into safe mode. It took longer than expected (an hour and a half) to regain communications after a known 22 minute blackout with the Akatsuki spacecraft, and apparently controllers are still trying to ascertain the spacecraft’s orbit. From translated Twitter reports and a document posted on the JAXA website, it appears engineers confirmed ignition of the thruster before Akatsuki moved behind Venus, but had trouble pinpointing the spacecraft after the blackout should have ended. They have regained some radio communications.

“It is not known which path the probe is following at the moment,” a JAXA official Munetaka Ueno told reporters at the ground control late Tuesday, according to AFP. “We are making maximum effort to readjust the probe.”

From a document posted early this Tuesday morning on a special JAXA website for Akatsuki (using Google Translate):

“The communication situation analysis has been confirmed that the spacecraft into safe hold mode,” says a translated document. “It is conducted to ensure continued operation of the information obtained at an early state of the spacecraft and orbital …stable spin probe to capture the sun.”

We’ll post more news as it becomes available.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Nexus December 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM

Gee, the Japanese sure are having some awful luck with their interplanetary probes. First all the malfunctions on Hayabusa, now this. But the Japanese are clever, they’ll figure out how to fix it.

Sirius_Alpha December 7, 2010 at 8:53 PM

It goes back before Hayabusa. Nazomi and Hitten had crippling problems.

brento December 7, 2010 at 4:57 PM

It sure would be nice if we could get some high quality pictures of Venus from orbit… come on Japanese, you’re awesome, I know you can fix the problem!!

Aqua December 7, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Bummer! Come on team… figure it out!

sukhoi4700 December 7, 2010 at 9:53 PM

May God bring good luck to Akatsuki and to JAXA……..

paulw December 8, 2010 at 5:00 AM

“…goes like a rocket, corners like a pig” Ford Prefect. Hitchhikers guide to the Universe.

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