Category Archives: JAXA

JAXA Sees Asteroid Ryugu Up Close

JAXA shows us the very unique shape of Asteroid Ryugu. The image was taken from JAXA’s Hayabusa2 using the ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera). Image Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST

The range from spacecraft to asteroid was only 40 km / 25 miles on 24 June 2018.

The caption from JAXA (Project Manager, Yuichi Tsuda): The shape of Ryugu is now revealed. From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a beautiful shape similar to fluorite [known as the ‘firefly stone’ in Japanese]. Now, craters are visible, rocks are visible and the geographical features are seen to vary from place to place. This form of Ryugu is scientifically surprising and also poses a few engineering challenges.

First of all, the rotation axis of the asteroid is perpendicular to the orbit. This fact increases the degrees of freedom for landing and the rover decent operations. On the other hand, there is a peak in the vicinity of the equator and a number of large craters, which makes the selection of the landing points both interesting and difficult. Globally, the asteroid also has a shape like fluorite (or maybe an abacus bead?). This means we expect the direction of the gravitational force on the wide areas of the asteroid surface to not point directly down. We therefore need a detailed investigation of these properties to formulate our future operation plans.

The Project Team is fascinated by the appearance of Ryugu and morale is rising at the prospect of this challenge. Together with all of you, we have become the first eyewitnesses to see asteroid Ryugu. I feel this amazing honor as we proceed with the mission operations.

Launch Day for JAXA

JAXA the Japanese Space Agency is going to launch its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 at 8:26 a.m. EST / 13:26 UTC.

About the mission:
Loaded with more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – will set sail on a four-day flight to the station. Also aboard the resupply vehicle are six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates that will replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of spacewalks currently scheduled in January.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft and install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.

AKATSUKI Gets to Venus


The AKATSUKI spacecraft reaches Venus. Congratulations JAXA!

The JAXA press release:

As a result of measuring and calculating the AKATSUKI’s orbit after its thrust ejection on Dec. 7, JAXA found that the AKATSUKI was inserted into the Venus orbit. We have already received images from three instruments whose function has already been confirmed, namely the Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), the Longwave IR camera (LIR), and the 1μm camera (IR1). We will check the function of the three other scientific mission instruments and perform initial observation for about three months while gradual… read the rest

Image: JAXA

Canadarm2 Grabs HTV-5


A nice image taken from the ISS showing Japan’s Kounotori 5 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5)a grappled by the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.

In 2013 during his stay aboard the ISS, Expedition 34 crew member and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield made a video showing us the Canadaarm 2 controls and a bit about how they work.


Images: NASA / JAXA

Fly Kounotori

As I mentioned yesterday the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is scheduled to launch a cargo ship to the International Space Station this morning.

The cargo ship named Kounotori which means “White Stork”, is set to deliver more than 3,600 kg (8,000 lb) of supplies and equipment.

Launch coverage begins at 11:00 UTC / 07:00 EDT.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

ISS Cargo Ships


The cause for loss of the Space X cargo ship has not yet been released (other than an oxygen overpressure event) yet. There are other options in the short term for ISS resupply.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle, “Kounotori” (HTV5) is JAXA’s next cargo ship to deliver supplies to the ISS.

The Kounotori is an unmanned cargo ship capable of delivering six tons of supplies of all types to the International Space Station. The cargo ship will be launched by the H-IIB launch vehicle and can remain berthed to the ISS for about 45 days. The vehicle and will be loaded with waste material before departure and will burn up in the atmosphere.

Kounotori is being assembled at the Tanegashima Space Center in preparation for launch.

The scheduled launch date will be 16 August at around 10:01 p.m. Japan Standard Time (JST). If weather or other issues delay the launch there is a wide launch window stretching from 17 August to 30 September.

Launch will occur at Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center.

Image of JAXA’s HTV in flight. credit: JAXA et al.

Akari’s View of Cygnus

The JAXA mission Akari recently released an all-sky survey. The mission observed 99 percent of the entire sky over a period of 16 months at four far infrared wavelengths: 65, 90, 140 and 160 micrometers.



This particular image of the constellation Cygnus was constructed from three wavelengths: 65 micrometers coded as blue, 90 for green and 140 for red. The result is very nice and much different that we see when we look up at this very familiar constellation.
From ESA (Space in Images):

The constellation of Cygnus is one of the most recognisable in the northern hemisphere. During the summer months, the stars of its long neck stretch along the Milky Way and its wings sweep from side to side.

Switch to the invisible wavelengths of the far-infrared and the Milky Way’s river of stars disappears to reveal tendrils of cold dust. Shown here, in this image from Japan’s Akari space observatory, are the central regions of Cygnus, and it can be seen that the Milky Way displays a rich stock of dust.

This dust is part of the interstellar medium, which also contains gas. These infrared images reveal the detailed distribution of the interstellar medium, highlighting areas where bright, new stars are about to emerge in the Milky Way.

Far-infrared light is the key wavelength range for investigating stars and planet formation. When the interstellar medium gathers together under the attraction of its own gravity, it forms a giant molecular cloud. These can be hundreds of light-years across. Denser parts, just a few tenths of a light-year across, are known as molecular cloud cores. These are where stars and planets form.

Akari images, such as this one, are the only images in which scientists can closely examine the entire giant molecular cloud with the resolution of a molecular cloud core.

Credit: JAXA and ESA. I should note that ESA is a participant in the Akari mission.