AKATSUKI to Get a Second Chance at Venus in December
If any of you remember this, back in Dec. 2010 Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter spacecraft AKATSUKI (or Planet-C), after a five and a half month journey through space, failed to enter orbit around Venus due to a faulty thruster nozzle. It sailed right past the cloud-covered planet, going into orbit around the Sun. Fortunately, JAXA mission engineers were able to determine the cause of the problem and come up with some work-arounds for a second attempt when the spacecraft is aligned with Venus later this year.
After some firings of AKATSUKI’s orbit maneuver engine (OME) it was determined that although that particular engine is no longer up to the task, the reactor control system (RCS) thruster should be able to get the spacecraft into Venus orbit – especially now that it’s a bit lighter due to the discarding of unnecessary OME fuel. The second insertion attempt will be made at the end of 2015, on Dec. 7.
If successful, AKATSUKI will collect data on Venus’ atmosphere from an 8–9-day-long orbit.