Note: this is a repost of an article from Feb. 2015 with a couple of updates.
If any of you remember it back in Dec. 2010 Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter spacecraft AKATSUKI (aka 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 — and final — attempt on Monday, Dec. 7.
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 on Dec. 7 — coincidentally the same day as the failed 2010 try.
If successful, AKATSUKI will collect data on Venus’ atmosphere from within an eight-to-nine-day-long orbit.
According to the JAXA site AKATSUKI is in good condition and has so far successfully completed orbital maneuvers earlier in the year for the Dec. 7 attempt. If successful, a confirmation will be known a few days later. Stay tuned!
Learn more about the AKATSUKI/Planet-C mission here, and read messages from supporters here or send your own via Twitter with the hashtag #akatsuki.