Japan’s Akatsuki Probe Enters Orbit Around Venus
published during a new moon.
12/11/2015

Japan’s space agency announced that it successfully inserted the Venus Climate Orbiter “Akatsuki” into the orbit circling around Venus at an altitude of about 400 km. This was the agency’s second attempt to do so. A previous mission in 2010 ended after the probe failed to enter Venus’ gravitational pull due to problems with the main engine.

“The orbit period is 13 days and 14 hours. We also found that the orbiter is flying in the same direction as that of Venus’s rotation,” JAXA officials wrote in a statement. “The Akatsuki is in good health.”

Akatsuki, meaning “Dawn” in Japanese, is on a mission to study the planet’s clouds, weather and atmosphere. In order to do so, Akatsuki’s handlers will deploy and test three instruments; the 2μm camera (IR2), the Lightning and Airglow Camera (LAC) and the Ultra-Stable oscillator (USO).  These instruments will perform initial observations along with three other instruments, the Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), the Longwave IR camera (LIR), and the 1μm camera (IR1).

Akatsuki is on track to enter its final science orbit by April 2016, with a period of about nine days and an apoapsis around 310,000 km. The probe will then shift to full observation of Venus.

 

 

Venus as captured by the Akatsuki spacecraft's Ultraviolet Imager instrument on Dec. 6, 2015, from a distance of about 44,700 miles (72,000 kilometers). Credit: JAXA

Venus as captured by the Akatsuki spacecraft’s Ultraviolet Imager instrument on Dec. 6, 2015, from a distance of about 44,700 miles (72,000 kilometers). Credit: JAXA