Five years ago, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tried to send a probe into orbit around Venus, but failed to do so. JAXA has now decided to give it another go.
In December 2010, the Akatsuki space probe (which means “dawn” in Japanese), also known as the Venus Climate Orbiter (VCO), was designed and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to orbit Venus and explore the planet’s atmosphere. However, Akatsuki spun off course because of an abrupt rise in temperature to its main engine. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency failed to put the space probe in Venus orbit by only a matter of minutes.
Five years later – on December 6 – the Akatsuki space probe was launched once again, and now JAXA is waiting to see whether the launch was successful.
Because the main engine of the Akatsuki space probe is damaged, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is counting of the probe’s manoeuvring thrusters to reach Venus’ orbit.
To get into orbital position, four of Akatsuki’s Reaction Control System thrusters were fired up for about twenty minutes. That was the longest burn ever performed by the probe’s thrusters. It will take a few days before JAXA can confirm that Akatsuki is in orbit.
JAXA officials stated that the probe is currently in good health, and that the result of the operation will be announced once it is determined.
With the help of Akatsuki – which cost $300 million – scientists are hoping to better understand why Venus is a lot more barren and much hotter than Earth, by studying its atmosphere, as well as weather and cloud patterns.
Venus Express (VEX) of the European Space Agency (ESA) is another orbiter sent on a mission to Venus. It was launched in 2005 and it arrived at Venus in 2006. On 16 December 2014, the European Space Agency announced the end of the Venus Express mission.
Dr. Masato Nakamura, project manager of the Japanese Venus orbiter mission Akatsuki, said on Sunday that two more days had to pass until they could confirm the orbit, and that he was very optimistic that the mission would be a success this time around.
Image Source: americaspace