|Operator||Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)|
|Launch date||2010-05-20 21:58:22 UTC|
|Carrier rocket||H-IIA 202|
|Launch site||Tanegashima Space Center
|Mission duration||~2 years
elapsed: 3 years and 29 days
|Orbital insertion date||2010-12-06 23:49:00 UTC (failure)|
|Homepage||Venus Climate Orbiter|
|Mass||517.6 kg (1,141 lb)|
|Power||>700 W at 0.7 AU|
|Apoapsis||79,000 km (49,000 mi)|
|Periapsis||300 km (190 mi)|
|Orbital period||30 hours|
Akatsuki (あかつき, 暁, literally "dawn"), formerly known as the Venus Climate Orbiter (VCO) and Planet-C, is a Japanese unmanned spacecraft which was intended to explore Venus. It was launched aboard an H-IIA 202 rocket on 20 May 2010.
The total launch mass of the spacecraft including propellant was 517.6 kg (1,141 lb), with scientific instruments accounting for 34 kg (75 lb) of its total weight. The mission reached Venus on 7 December 2010 (JST) but failed to enter orbit around the planet. It had been intended to conduct scientific research for two or more years from an elliptical orbit ranging from 300 to 80,000 km (190 to 50,000 mi) from Venus. Plans to re-enter a Venusian orbit on a future date are still being evaluated.
Akatsuki is a Japanese space mission to the planet Venus. Planned observations include cloud and surface imaging from an orbit around the planet with an infrared camera, which are aimed at investigation of the complex Venusian meteorology. Other experiments are designed to confirm the presence of lightning and to determine whether volcanism occurs currently on Venus.
The main bus is a 1,450×1,040×1,440 mm (4.76×3.41×4.72 ft) box with two solar arrays, each with an area of about 1.4 m2 (15 sq ft). The solar array panels provide over 700 watts (0.94 hp) of power in Venus orbit. The total mass of the spacecraft at launch was 517.6 kg (1,141 lb). The mass of the science payload is 34 kg (75 lb).
Propulsion is provided by a 500-newton (110 lbf) bi-propellant, hydrazine / nitrogen tetroxide orbital maneuvering engine and twelve mono-propellant hydrazine reaction control thrusters, eight with 23 N (5.2 lbf) of thrust and four with 3 N (0.67 lbf). The total propellant mass at launch was 196.3 kg (433 lb).
Communications is via a 8 GHz, 20-watt X-band transponder using the 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) slot array high-gain dish antenna used for most telemetry data. Akatsuki also has a pair of medium-gain horn antennas mounted on turntables and two low gain antennas for command uplink. The medium-gain horn antennas will be used for housekeeping data downlink when the high-gain antenna is not facing Earth.
The scientific payload consists of six instruments including a Lightning and airglow camera (LAC), an ultraviolet imager (UVI), a longwave infrared camera (LIR), a 1 μm camera (IR1), a 2 μm camera (IR2), and the radio science (RS) experiment. The five imaging cameras will explore Venus in wavelengths from ultraviolet to the mid-infrared.
The LAC will look for lightning in the visible wavelengths of 552 to 777 nanometers. The LIR will study the structure of high-altitude clouds at a wavelength where they emit heat (10 μm). The UVI will study the distribution of specific atmospheric gases such as sulfur dioxide in ultraviolet wavelengths (293–365 nm). The IR1 will peer through semi-transparent windows in Venus' atmosphere to see heat radiation emitted from Venus' surface rocks (0.90–1.01 μm) and will help researchers to spot active volcanoes, if they exist. The IR2 will detect heat radiation emitted from the lower reaches of the atmosphere (1.65—2.32 μm).
There was a public relations campaign held between October 2009 and January 2010 by The Planetary Society and JAXA, to allow individuals to send their name and a message aboard Akatsuki. Names and messages were printed in fine letters on an aluminum plate and placed aboard Akatsuki. 260,214 people submitted names and messages for the mission. Around 90 aluminum plates were created for the spacecraft, including three aluminum plates in which the images of the Vocaloid Hatsune Miku and her super deformed figure Hatchune Miku were printed.
Akatsuki left the Sagamihara Campus on 17 March 2010, and arrived at the Tanegashima Space Center's Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building 2 on 19 March. On 4 May, Akatsuki was encapsulated inside the large payload fairing of the H-IIA rocket that launched the spacecraft, along with the IKAROS solar sail, on a 6-month journey to Venus. On 9 May, the payload fairing was transported to the Tanegashima Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, where the fairing was mated to the H-IIA launch vehicle itself.
Orbit insertion failure
Akatsuki was planned to initiate orbit insertion operations by igniting the orbital maneuvering engine at 23:49:00 on 6 December UTC. The burn was supposed to continue for 12 minutes, to an initial orbit of 180,000 to 200,000 km (110,000 to 120,000 mi) apoapsis / 550 km (340 mi) periapsis / 4 days orbital period around Venus.
The orbit insertion maneuver was confirmed to have started on time. But after the expected blackout due to occultation by Venus, the communication with the probe did not recover as planned. The probe was found to be in safe-hold mode, spin-stabilized state with 10 minutes per rotation. Due to the low communication speed through low-gain antenna, it took a while to determine the state of probe. JAXA stated on 8 December, that the probe's orbital insertion maneuver had failed. At a press conference on 10 December, officials reported that Akatsuki's engines fired for less than 3 minutes, far short of what was required to enter into Venus orbit.
JAXA is developing plans to attempt another orbital-insertion burn when the probe returns to Venus in 2015. This requires placing the probe into a hibernation state to prolong its life beyond the original 4.5-year design. JAXA expressed some confidence in keeping the probe operational, pointing to reduced battery wear, since the probe is orbiting the Sun instead of its intended Venusian orbit.
Trial jet thrusts of the probe's onboard orbit maneuver engine (OME) were performed twice, on 7 and 14 September 2011, but acceleration was only about 40 newtons (9.0 lbf)—one ninth of expectations. With these results, insufficient specific impulse will be available for orbit maneuvering by the OME. It is suspected that the OME may have gradually been damaged; therefore it will not be used. The orbit maneuver will be attempted in 2015 using the reaction control system (RCS) thruster instead. A peri-Venus orbit maneuver was executed on 1 November 2011 using the reaction control system (RCS) thruster.
- Takeshi, Sasaki; Tokuhito. "Development of the Venus Climate Orbiter PLANET-C (AKATSUKI)". NEC Technical Journal 6 (1): 47–51.
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- "打ち上げを目前に控えた「あかつき」と「IKAROS」の機体が公開" [The Airframes of "Akatsuki" And "IKAROS" just before Those Launch Are Opened]. Mycom Journal (in Japanese). Mainichi Communications. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
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- JAXA's press briefing, 22:00, 7 December 2010 JST
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- JAXA Akatsuki Planet-C page
- JAXA Akatsuki Special Site
- Planet-C page (Solar Terrestrial Physics Group)
- Presentation about Planet-C from the VEXAG meeting in November 2005 (PDF, 2.7 MB)
- Vieru, Tudor. "JAXA Gets Ready to Launch Venus Probe". Softpedia. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI" (PDF, 1.72 Mb)