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Emily LakdawallaDecember 4, 2015

Timeline for Akatsuki's second attempt at orbit insertion

This is it: Akatsuki's final chance at Venus orbit insertion. The rocket firing should begin on December 7 at 08:51 Japan time (December 6 23:51 UT / 15:51 PST) and last for 20 minutes. If for some reason the first rocket firing doesn't work, they'll turn the spacecraft about and try again with the opposite set of thrusters. We'll know right away if the rocket firing was successful, but it will take a couple of days of radio tracking to be sure that Akatsuki's modified path is one that will remain in a closed loop around Venus.

I don't currently know of any online webcast related to this arrival attempt -- I will update this post if I have any recommended places to view the event other than Akatsuki's official Twitter account. Just a few minutes ago, they posted an update that they are now only 430,000 kilometers from Venus -- similar to the Earth-Moon distance. So close...

Akatsuki attempting orbit insertion

Go Miyazaki

Akatsuki attempting orbit insertion

You can read Ralph Lorenz' excellent story for the details on how we got here. A Japanese fan website has posted an incredibly detailed slide presentation on the upcoming orbit insertion and science plans, in Japanese of course. I found a diagram describing the orbit insertion and a timeline and ran text through Google Translate and read some tweets by a helpful space fan and can provide the following, hopefully correct, information.

Here's the translated diagram -- you can see how small a change in trajectory the orbit insertion makes, at least initially:

Akatsuki orbit insertion trajectory

JAXA / translated by Emily Lakdawalla

Akatsuki orbit insertion trajectory

 Everybody cross your fingers for a successful arrival for Akatsuki at Venus!

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

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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