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.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.