Monday, March 28, 2016

Japan Loses Contact with Its X-ray Astronomy Satellite

Artist's rendering of the ASTRO-H satellite. Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) found that communication with the X-ray Astronomy Satellite “Hitomi” (ASTRO-H), launched on February 17, 2016 (JST), failed from the start of its operation originally scheduled at 16:40, Saturday March 26 (JST). Up to now, JAXA has not been able to figure out the state of health of the satellite. While the cause of communication anomaly is under investigation, JAXA received short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery.

Under this circumstance, JAXA set up emergency headquarters, headed by the President, for recovery and investigation. The headquarters held its first meeting Sunday, and has been working for recovery and the investigation of the cause.

“It is a seriously critical situation, and the success of the mission will be very bleak if the probe does not recover its functions,” said Saku Tsuneta, director of the JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. “We will make an all-out effort to recover the satellite.”

The cause of the communication problem is being investigated, and the condition of the satellite, which was launched Feb. 17, was unknown as of March 28.

The U.S. Department of Defense suggested it had broken up. It said on its Twitter account that its Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center had confirmed the presence of five separate pieces near the satellite’s orbit as of March 26.

JAXA said it continued to receive signals from Hitomi for short periods even after the U.S. Department of Defense’s announcement.

The agency has set up an emergency headquarters for recovery and investigation, the first time this has been done since the failure of an H-2A rocket launch in November 2003.

No comments:

Post a Comment