Japanese Akatsuki spacecraft gets second chance at Venus

The Japanese space organization JAXA launched a probe aimed at Venus half a decade ago called Akatsuki. The spacecraft traveled through space for a bit over five months and when it went to insert itself into orbit around Venus, a thruster failed and it sailed past its target. At the time, scientists at JAXA thought that the next chance for Akatsuki to reach Venus would be seven years away.

Now almost exactly five years from that first failed attempt at entering orbit around Venus, the Japanese Venus Climate Orbiter spacecraft has a second chance at its primary mission. JAXA engineers developed a plan to fix the thruster and on Monday, December 7, 2015 Akatsuki will get its final chance at entering orbit around Venus.

If the orbital insertion goes as planned, the spacecraft will begin to collect data on the atmosphere of Venus. The craft will orbit in an elliptical orbit that takes eight to nine days to complete. The original mission for the spacecraft was expected to last two years, but the duration of the mission at this point will depend on the life of the batteries.

Mission planners intend to use the reactor control system thruster to insert the spacecraft into orbit since the orbit maneuver engine is no longer functional. It will take a few days after December 7 to get confirmation that the spacecraft has entered orbit around Venus.

SOURCE: Space.com