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Emily LakdawallaDecember 6, 2010

Akatsuki enters orbit at Venus today!

In just a few hours, Venus will have a second orbiter. Japan's Akatsuki is due to start firing its orbit insertion engines on December 7 at 08:49 Japan time (which is today, December 6, 23:49 UTC / 15:49 PST). There has already been a successful trajectory correction maneuver today, lining the spacecraft up for orbit insertion. (EDIT: This was not correct; I misunderstood the Google translation. The last rocket firing was on December 1.) A timeline of today's plans is below. I edited it from a Google translation of this Japanese-language website, so any errors are mine.

Date/time (UTC)Time w.r.t. closest approachEvent
Dec 6 23:49:00 - 11m Orbit insertion burn begins
23:50:43 - 9m Ground station communication blackout expected
Dec 7 00:01:00 +1m End orbit insertion burn
00:12:03 +12m Communication should resume
00:36:37 +37m Enter into Venus' shadow
01:40:44 +1h 41m Exit from Venus' shadow
01:59:00 +2h Orient attitude to Earth for orbit determination
03:09:00 +3h Switch between medium-and high-gain antennas
12:00:00 +12h Orbit determination should be complete; decide if further course correction necessary

Via Twitter I've heard that there will be a live webcast (in Japanese of course) beginning at 23:00 UTC / 15:00 PST at this website.

Since the orbit insertion happens during after-school time for me, I am, sadly, not going to be able to follow it live, though I'll be monitoring Twitter when I can. I recommend following cosmos4u; you may also want to bookmark the Google translation of Akatsuki's own Twitter feed and the Google translation of the mission website. For any machine-translated websites, wherever you see the word "somehow," you should mentally replace it with "Akatsuki."

Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki (PLANET-C)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki (PLANET-C)

Read more: mission status, Akatsuki (Planet-C), Venus

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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