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AKATSUKI (PLANET-C) is the next planetary exploration project for the Martian orbiter NOZOMI. Venus has long been referred to as Earth’s sister planet not only because its size and distance from the sun are similar to those of the Earth, but also because its birth formation is considered to be similar to that of the Earth at the genesis period of the solar system. However, Venus is actually very different from the Earth as it is veiled in high-temperature carbon dioxide and thick sulfuric-acid clouds. Also, above the surface of Venus, violent winds which reach some 400 kilometers per hour blow over. Clarification of the causes for such an environment will provide us with clues to understand why the Earth has become a peaceful and lively planet unlike Venus as well as to help understand climate change on Earth. Therefore, Venus is a very important subject for exploration to learn about the Earth’s environment.
The AKATSUKI is expected to usher in a new era of Venusian exploration. It was launched aboard an H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 17 in May 2010 (JST.) It smoothly flew and spurted out jets from its orbit control engine on Dec. 7, 2010. Unfortunately, the AKATSUKI failed to inject itself into the orbit of Venus. JAXA set up an investigation team not only to examine and study the causes of the failure and countermeasures, but also to see if it is possible to insert the AKATSUKI again into the orbit when it comes closer to Venus in about six years.
The probe vehicle of AKATSUKI will enter an elliptical orbit, 300 to 80,000 km away from Venus’s surface. This wide variation in distance will enable comprehensive observations of the planet’s meteorological phenomena and of its surface, as well as observations of the atmospheric particles escaping from Venus into space. It will also be possible to take close-up photos of Venus, and to observe the storm winds that blow on the Venusian surface, at speeds that reach 100 m a second - 60 times the speed at which Venus rotates. This phenomenon remains the biggest mystery of Venus, as it cannot be explained meteorologically. AKATSUKI will employ infrared light to observe and elucidate the mysteries surrounding the atmosphere under the clouds and the conditions on the planet’s surface. In addition, it will confirm the presence of active volcanoes and thunder.
|International Designation Code||2010-020D|
|Launch Date||6:58, May 21, 2010 (JST)|
|Launch Vehicle||H-IIA Launch Vehicle No.17|
|Location||Tanegashima Space Center|
|Shape||Box shape with two wing-type solar array paddles|
|Weight||Mass at liftoff: about 500 kg|
|Orbiter||Venus elliptical orbit|
|Altitude||PeriVenus: 300 km
ApoVenus: about 80,000 km
|Orbital Inclination||Approx. 172 degrees|
|Orbital Period||Approx. 30 hours|
Mar. 5, 2010
JAXA Explores the Planets of the Solar System