Akatsuki Encounters Problems at Venus

by Nancy Atkinson on December 7, 2010

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 works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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