Satellites and Spacecraft Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI" (PLANET-C)

In Operation

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Jan. 31, 2012 Updated

AKATSUKI current status and future operation

JAXA decided to carry out orbit control of the AKATSUKI using its liquid-fuel thrusters for altitude control (or the reaction control subsystem, RCS.) Based on this decision, almost all of the unnecessary oxidizer was discarded in Oct. 2011. As a result, the satellite became lighter, and remaining fuel can be more efficiently used for orbit control. In November 2011, orbit control operation at perihelion was performed three times using the RCS for the future rendezvous with Venus, and the orbit...

About Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUK" (PLANET-C)

(Courtesy of Akihiro Ikeshita)

AKASTUKI will elucidate the mysteries of Venus, Earth’s twin sister.
Japan will initiate the beginning of a new era of Venusian exploration.

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.

Launch date: May 21, 2010

Re-entry plan to Venus orbit

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.

Characteristics of Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUK" (PLANET-C)

Infrared light enables more detailed investigation of Venus.

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.

Major Characteristics

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

Mission talk by team leaders

Project manager Masato Nakamura

Here are messages from Project Managers.

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