JAXA’s Akatsuki Enters Venus Orbit after 5 Years

The Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency (JAXA) announced that its Venus orbiter spacecraft Akatsuki has successfully rendezvoused with Venus. Originally, the national agency intended for Akatsuki to slip into Venus’ orbit five years ago in December 2010.

“We had a perfect operation!” said project manager Masato Nakamura, of the Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency‘s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

Known as the Morning Star and the Evening Star, Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. Venus possesses similar dimensions to Earth’s proportions, though their climates and atmosphere differ quite a bit. By studying the relatively similar Venus, scientists and researchers can learn about how the two planets evolved to develop the different atmospheres and terrains that they possess today.

In contrast to Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere, Venus’ atmosphere is mostly comprised of carbon dioxide. With a denser atmosphere producing 90 times more surface pressure than on Earth, Venus has a volatile surface temperature of 460 degrees Celsius. The Akatsuki will explore Venus’ meteorology and climatology to determine how two planets that started out similarly could end up so differently.

Major characteristics of the Akatsuki mission are as follows:
  • 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 twin wing-type solar array paddles
  • Weight: 500 kg mass at liftoff
  • Destination: Venus elliptical orbit
  • PeriVenus Altitude: 300 km
  • ApoVenus Altitude: Approx. 80,000 km
  • Orbital Inclination: Approx. 172 degrees
  • Orbital Period: Approx. 30 hours

As of right now, the Akatsuki orbiter is closer to Venus than Earth is closer to the Moon.

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