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Japan Space

Japanese Space Probe Akatsuki Enters Orbit Around Venus Five Years Late ( 51

MarkWhittington writes: On May 17, 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency Venus Climate Orbiter probe or as it is now called Akatsuki lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center. It was supposed to enter orbit around Venus on December 6, 2010. However, due to a failure in the probe's orbital maneuvering thruster, Akatsuki did not enter Venus orbit and went into orbit around the sun instead. According to a story on, just about five years to the day of the failure, Akatsuki assumed an orbit around the second planet from the sun. Japanese scientists will determine what sort of orbit that is in a couple of days and, hopefully, begin the probe's science mission.
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Japanese Space Probe Akatsuki Enters Orbit Around Venus Five Years Late

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  • by NMBob ( 772954 )
    Good job. Too bad about the thruster, but nice recovery. Hope it works out.
  • by scunc ( 4201789 ) on Monday December 07, 2015 @05:55PM (#51076349)
    Must be nice to be able to show up five years late and still have a job.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Must be nice to be able to show up five years late and still have a job.

      Only because it's hard to find H1B's on Venus.

    • I imagine that the situation probably actually extended at least a few people's jobs by 5 years. Hmmm.... accident?

  • My understanding of the costs of a space-exploring mission are: design of the unique apparatus. However, the designs are intellectual property — duplication is trivial. So, why aren't we, the Earthlings, sending 2, 3, or 5 identical sibling-apparatuses on each mission?

    Sure, the hardware itself is expensive too, but the space-faring nations are not poor. Moreover, the national prestige is "priceless" for a country like Japan, which sent its first interplanetary device out. Also, with multiple devices,

    • The designs of these devices are not that trivial. They require a power source with most space craft it is either solar or nuclear powered. The solar cells are expensive and the nuclear devices are more even expensive. The cameras and sensors are expensive as well. Also these devices require rad-hardened materials which are not easy to come by as well.

      And all of this is forgetting about the cost of actually getting the devices into space to begin with.

      Duplication isn't trivial for most devices, but if y

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        The solar cells are expensive and the nuclear devices are more even expensive.

        Of course, they are — in absolute terms. But in relation to the rest of the mission, how much is the cost of hardware itself?

        Sending 2-5 items into space isn't worth setting up the type of system which makes these thing trivial as well.

        Well, lots of parts are reusable regardless of the mission's destination — the solar cells and the nuclear "batteries" in particular would be the same whether the flight is to Venus, or

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Actually, the Phoenix Mars Lander was built in part from duplicate spare parts from the failed Mars Polar Lander, plus parts from a cancelled mission called "Mars 2001 Surveyor". NASA does reuse stuff.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The cost of the hardware also needs to factor in testing and certification. Much of the processing needs to be done in a clean-room. Beyond that, there's also the actual rocket launch ($200M+ per launch currently for deep space) and having a mission control crew to monitor the spacecraft. It's still less than non-recurring design costs, but launching and monitoring the actual hardware is probably still a significant double-digit percentage of the overall budget (would be nice to have numbers, but that's a l

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The reason is that it costs money to build two, make that three, identical vehicles. Yea, the second and third copies are cheaper builds because a lot of the NRE (Non-recurring Engineering) costs only happen once, but this just means for a fixed budget, you will do less science. You will spend more on hardware and assembly, so you take money out of the science budget to make up for it. Then, once you've successfully flown one vehicle, the additional science you can get out of a second or third launch sta

      • by matfud ( 464184 )

        They do. Its called a common systems bus. They are available from many manufactures with a variety of capabilities and masses. Then you bolt on you mission specific bits. But they are mostly used for earth orbit missions

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      duplication is [relatively] trivial. So, why aren't we, the Earthlings, sending 2, 3, or 5 identical sibling-apparatuses on each mission?...Why have we not been doing it this way since the time of the Voyagers?

      US probes got much more reliable over time.

      A big part of the cost is the still the launch vehicle and fuel. It may be that probes are now considered reliable enough that the cost of a duplicate launch is not worth it.

      Since the 80's, US probes are roughly 90% successful (excluding annoying non-show-sto

      • by Anonymous Coward

        US probes got much more reliable over time.

        And our missions changed to.

        Old mission style: Flyby. Better build two, because after the few hours of the encounter, you're not going to be back for decades. Take some pictures with the first one and figure out what you want to look really closely at with the second one.

        New mission style: Orbiter/lander. Building two doesn't help you much here; you get twice the data back twice as fast, but you only have the same amount of antenna time/bandwidth from the Deep

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Mariner 8 (failed) was a duplicate orbiter companion to Mariner 9.

          Volume of returned data may also be a factor. The Earth antennas may have difficulty absorbing data from two probes at the same time.

          I suppose you can put them in opposite orbits to spread out rely times, but it's hard to keep them opposite if you want to orbit at different or changing angles, which is often desired for surveys.

    • by hendric ( 30596 ) *

      Have you even played Kerbal Space Program? Get to Moho and then talk about how duplication is trivial.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Have you even played Kerbal Space Program?

        Seriously? Your explanation for why something is difficult in real life is that it is difficult in some obscure game?

        Does this logic work in the other direction? Would it be as easy to fly, reload weapons, encounter aliens, kill people, steal cars, etc. as some other games make it appear?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          some obscure game

          Maybe you should worry more about your continued possession of a nerd card, rather than community organization in Chicago (your sig). This is a Slashdot space article FFS!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Um, actually in the vehicle bay you can click Save and then launch a thousand versions of the same ship as long as you've got funds. You only have to build it once thanks to the wonders of digital computers.

    • Historically, they do build multiples - they just don't launch them unless they have to. You can see some of these extras when you visit the Air and Space museum, or some science museums. I suppose if a mission absolutely, positively could not fail you might try to launch them simultaneously - but most of the time, Venus ain't goin' anywhere.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Two things... Yes, you can see them. They are awesome. I just recently spent a couple of days at the National Air and Space Museum and one day at the second on in Virginia. The second thing, well... Yeah, sort of? Venus is going *somewhere* at various rates of speed. "...Ain't goin' anywhere" seems a bit excessive. ;-)

    • For interplanetary missions, launch weight is a big limiting factor. Sending 2 probes would have meant 2 launches, making the mission much more expensive.

    • Spirit and Opportunity used the same base. Curiosity and MER-2020 use the same tech. Phoenix and Insight-2016 ditto. Some cost savings in make 3 or 4 copies of the same vehicle. The extras are for laboratory backup studies.
  • Great! With the Japanese orbiter in place and broadcasting, we'll finally get to see how Venusians feel about tentacle-based entertainment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2015 @06:11PM (#51076441)

    The impressive thing here is that the thruster is still non-operational, so it wasn't just a matter of waiting 5 years to try again. Instead they're using the RCS system, a low-efficiency thruster which was only meant for steering, to perform orbital injection. Reportedly, this is the first time that's been done for a planetary transfer, and should hopefully let them salvage the science mission which was initially thought to be lost (remains to be seen if the science equipment is still working).

    • by JanneM ( 7445 )

      Instead they're using the RCS system, a low-efficiency thruster which was only meant for steering, to perform orbital injection. Reportedly, this is the first time that's been done for a planetary transfer,

      In real life, yes. Meanwhile, in Kerbal Space Program...

      I think KSP is, in a way, ruining real space exploration for me much the same way science fiction ruins the expectations for real robots. Out of fuel? Use your RCS. RCS also out of fuel? Get out and push! Lander strut broken? Use RCS to balance the l

      • you can just imagine houston going "now jeb, here's what we're going to need you to do. We're going to tell you when, and you're going to get out of the capsule. line up with the hatch... and push it with your face."

        your lander on it's side? easy solve, just power up main thrusts a little, spin and hope for the best.

    • At least it wasnt a manned mission requiring the kerbels to go eva to use their maneuvering jets to keep from missing kerbel reentry. Thats an annoying occurrence.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should have taken the train. Japanese trains are seldom late, and if so never by very much.

  • I never knew Mark Watney had a Japanese brother on the Venus mission at the same time!
  • by Al Al Cool J ( 234559 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2015 @01:57AM (#51078695)

    Akatsuki carries 68 fan-made images of Japanese crowdsourced digital pop star Hatsune Miku, etched onto three aluminium plates. I suppose this makes Miku the solar system's first interplanetary celebrity. (Also last year, a Miku music video was beamed into deep space by the European Space Agency as part of its "Wake up, Rosetta!" campaign).

    I believe the only other pop music purposefully represented in deep space, is the Chuck Berry song Johnny B. Goode, which is on NASA's Golden Records carried by the two Voyager probes.

  • Luck or wisdom? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2015 @04:54AM (#51079115)

    They can do this attempt because when the original orbit insertion failed, Akatsuki entered a heliocentric orbit in an 8:9 orbital resonance with Venus, making sure it'd meet up with Venus eventually. I haven't been able to find if that was a happy coincidence or if the initial approach to Venus was designed for this contingency.

  • Space and Orbital mechanics fascinate me. They are, in essence, just Maths and Physics. There's nothing _overly_ difficult... in theory. Except that, of course, it is really really difficult.

    I have great admiration for the minds that are able to come up with solutions to seemingly impossible problems, and fixing them using these simple tools of Maths and Physics. I know I would probably have thrown in the towel, pointed the instruments at the sun, and gotten whatever readings they may have given during