Kaguya: First of two mini-satellites successfully deployed
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla
09-10-2007 8:59 CDT
I'm taking a coffee break from sessions at DPS and just came across the news that Kaguya, the Japanese lunar orbiter also known as SELENE, has just successfully released the first of two mini-satellites. Even cooler, their onboard camera recorded the separation:If you're having trouble figuring out the geometry, here's a diagram of the spacecraft, You can see the two octagonal mini-satellites on the end: When they released the images for this animation, they also released some taken a few days ago that show them approaching the Moon: These two mini-satellites will enable Kaguya to gather the first data set of its kind at any body other than the Earth, an incredibly precise map of the lumps and bumps of the lunar gravity field. It's esoteric stuff but it's the best way of probing what's going on beneath the lunar surface, in the absence of a Moon-wide network of seismometers.
JAXA has had a lot of successes in their planetary exploration program, but they tend to be mixed with stories of overcoming incredible challenges. So far, this mission has been ho-hum routine, which I'm sure is a great relief to anyone who works in Japan's space program. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for their continued good luck with the last tricky maneuvers that have to be performed before Kaguya can start its science operations at the Moon! There's still one more mini-satellite to release, and that's supposed to happen on October 14; science orbit, 100 kilometers above the Moon, should be achieved on October 21.
For a little more Kaguya fun, you can read an English translation of a Japanese transcript of a press conference held October 5, after the successful lunar orbit insertion. It contains information that the first HDTV images of the moon should be taken on October 19, when they have entered lunar orbit -- which is two days earlier than I thought they were entering lunar orbit. I need to dig in to those dates and see which one is correct.
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