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Orbit Success! A New Dawn for Japan’s Venus Mission

posted: 12/08/15
by: Jason Major for Discovery News
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After five years of soaring around the solar system Japan's Akatsuki spacecraft has performed the necessary maneuver to enter orbit around Venus!

Launched on May 20, 2010, Akatsuki -- which is the Japanese word for "dawn" -- failed to enter orbit at Venus six months later on Dec. 7, 2010 due to a malfunctioning thruster valve. Akatsuki sailed past Venus and has been in orbit around the sun ever since, awaiting its second and final chance to try again.

At 8:51 a.m. on Dec. 7 JST (6:51 p.m. EST/3:51 p.m. PST Dec. 6) the spacecraft executed a 20-minute-long attitude control thruster burn that allowed it to establish an orbit around Venus.

Akatsuki spacecraft and Venus
JAXA

The exact details of the orbit are still being determined.

According to a JAXA news brief, "The orbiter is now in good health. We are currently measuring and calculating its orbit after the operation. It will take a few days to estimate the orbit, thus we will announce the operation result once it is determined."

Now the only operational spacecraft at Venus Akatsuki's mission is to investigate details of the planet's dense atmosphere, mapping its weather patterns with ultraviolet and infrared imaging instruments as well as peering through its clouds down to the surface in radio wavelengths. Learn more about the mission here.

This article originally appeared on Discovery News

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