Emily LakdawallaDec 06, 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- 11mOrbit insertion burn begins
23:50:43- 9mGround station communication blackout expected
Dec 7 00:01:00+1mEnd orbit insertion burn
00:12:03+12mCommunication should resume
00:36:37+37mEnter into Venus' shadow
01:40:44+1h 41mExit from Venus' shadow
01:59:00+2hOrient attitude to Earth for orbit determination
03:09:00+3hSwitch between medium-and high-gain antennas
12:00:00+12hOrbit 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)
Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki (PLANET-C) Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

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