The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced plans to re-inject the Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter into orbit around Venus.

The spacecraft was launched on May 20, 2010 with the intent to orbit Venus. However, it was unable to attain orbit when it arrived at the planet on December 7, 2010 and has remained in a heliocentric orbit since.

JAXA now has plans to re-inject Akatsuki in to orbit around Venus on December 7, 2015. It is expected that the orbit will take the craft between 3,100 to 186,000 miles from the surface of Venus.

Once in orbit the vehicle will take up the original mission of observing the atmosphere of Venus. While orbiting Venus it will:

• Observe Venus and study its clouds, deep atmosphere, and surface conditions when at the furthest point of its orbit.
• Conduct close-up observations to clarify cloud convection, the distribution of minute undulatory motions and their changes, and observe the layer structure of clouds and the atmosphere from a lateral direction while at the closest point of its orbit.
• Monitor lightning and nightglow when orbiting in the shade of the sun.
• Emit radio waves through the atmosphere and on to the surface of the planet to study the atmospheric layer structure and its changes.

Akatsuki is Japan’s first planetary mission since the Nozomi probe, which was launched in 1998 and failed to go into orbit around Mars in 2003.

The scientific payload includes six instruments including a lightning and airglow camera, an ultraviolet imager, a longwave infrared camera, three-micrometer camera, and a radio science experiment.


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