Japan loses contact with the Venus-exploring spacecraft Akatsuki

An artist's illustration of the Akatsuki spacecraft orbiting Venus
An artist’s illustration of the Akatsuki spacecraft orbiting Venus. (Image credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita)

Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft, which has been orbiting Venus since 2015, lost contact with the mission control room in late April 2024.

The spacecraft consists of five cameras to image the Venusian atmosphere at various wavelengths, from ultraviolet to infrared.

Akatsuki spacecraft was launched on a H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on May 21, 2010. The spacecraft failed to enter the Venus orbit on December 6, 2010, as planned due to an engine failure. After orbiting the sun for five years, the Japanese space agency (JAXA) was able to enter the spacecraft in a Venus orbit on December 7, 2015.

The 500-kg spacecraft was placed in an elliptical orbit of dimensions 300 km by 80,000 km. So the spacecraft is only 300 km above the Venus surface at its closest.

Currently, the spacecraft is on its extended mission, as it was designed for a primary mission duration of 4.5 years since launch.

However, the Japanese space agency (JAXA) said in a statement on May 29, 2024, that they had lost contact with Akatsuki during operations at the end of April 2024 due to a long period of control mode with low attitude maintenance accuracy. 

“Since then, various measures have been taken to restore communication, but communication has not yet been restored. We are currently working to restore communication,” they also added.

Akatsuki is Japan’s first successful mission to explore another planet. It is the only mission that is currently active at Venus.

Even if the Akatsuki mission ends, Venus won’t be alone for long. NASA will launch the VERITAS spacecraft to explore Earth’s twin planet Venus at the beginning of the next decade.  

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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