The Japanese Venus reconnaissance Orbiter "akatsuki" serious problems

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2017-03-04 14:30:08

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The Japanese Venus reconnaissance Orbiter

Following the news about the unexpected leak of energy, the Japanese space Agency had to shut down two of the five cameras onboard the Venus orbital spacecraft "akatsuki". To probe this can be very bad news, as the level of space radiation exposure on the camera was much higher than expected.

In December last year, the electronics unit, which manages two of its cameras, is to consume an increased amount of power, which made it impossible for the specialists of the center of the machine control the use of his scientific instruments. After several weeks of unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem of energy leakage, control center, a decision was made to shut down two camera — IR1 and IR2. The Japanese space Agency JAXA will periodically attempt to restart the camera probe in the hope that the problem of power can somehow be resolved itself, but the prospects are still not optimistic.

The Core of the problem, according to experts of JAXA, most likely, is the degradation of the electronic parts of a computer system, which, as it turned out, was subjected to excessive amounts of cosmic radiation. In 2010 the unit was not able to precisely perform its task on rapprochement with Venus, bringing him over the next five years had unplanned circling around the Sun. And yet, 7 Dec 2015 "akatsuki" was finally able to reach its destination and was released to alternative elliptical orbit of the planet. The probe began to study the Venusian atmosphere in April 2016, and it seems that even with everything going well.

But, most likely, an earlier episode in the history of space adventure apparatus – orbit the Sun – had a negative impact on the electronics "akatsuki", and she got more higher than planned dose of radiation that could cause problems in her work.

Vortex storm in the clouds of Venus. Despite the fact that similar phenomena were observed in our atmosphere on Venus phenomenon was noted for the first time (Photo: JAXA)

In the end the problems started with cameras IR1 and IR2, which was planned to be used for imaging of thermal radiation of the surface of Venus, when the craft had to descend into the lower layers of its atmosphere. The three remaining camera continues to operate in normal modes, allowing the control center to obtain images of the surface of the planet under normal light, in the ultraviolet and long infrared. The mission of the unit continues as planned, however, there are fears that other it tools could be subjected to an increased amount of radiation and can also lead to failure. The original planned working time of the probe is 4.5 years old, but he already started to show signs of degradation after only 1 year spent in orbit, the initial purpose of the study.

Of Course, this can not be upset, as "akatsuki" really made a truly unique scientific data about the planet. For example, last year the camera IR2 caught in the clouds of Venus whirling storm, not a little interest to scientists, because these phenomena are usually not observed in the planets atmosphere, where the wind speed is 360 miles per hour.

Within the probe found a structure stationary air mass, stretching almost 10,000 miles in the atmosphere of Venus. According to JAXA, they have witnessed the largest "gravitational waves" ever documented in the Solar system. Probe "akatsuki" showed all of us that Venus is a very interesting planet, concealing many mysteries. And so many of them to unravel, it would be sent to the surface Autonomous Rover.

Now we can only hope that the incident is local and "akatsuki" will be able to continue their research activities for at least another couple of years. Meanwhile, engineers on Earth will consider how to make space science tools of the future vehicles even safer and tougher against the invisible effects of harmful cosmic radiation.

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