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Japan to Abandon ASTRO-H Astronomical Satellite After Communication Lost

Sputnik News

13:47 29.04.2016

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said that it would abandon the Hitomi (ASTRO-H) X-ray astronomy satellite over a month after communication with the spacecraft was lost.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The satellite, which had been designed to study high-energy processes in the universe by observing high-frequency x-rays, ceased communicating with Earth in late March due to problems with altitude control and the breakup of certain weak elements in its structure.

"JAXA will cease the efforts to restore ASTRO-H and will focus on the investigation of anomaly causes. We will carefully review all phases from design, manufacturing, verification, and operations to identify the causes that may have led to this anomaly including background factors," JAXA said in a statement on Thursday.

Analysis of the space observatory's failure indicate that its solar array paddles broke off at the base because they were vulnerable to rotation, JAXA said, adding that various organizations from other countries have also pointed to the solar array breakup as a contributing factor.

Attempts to restore communication with the satellite have not been successful despite the numerous efforts made by JAXA, according to the statement.

"JAXA expresses the deepest regret for the fact that we had to discontinue the operations of ASTRO-H and extends our most sincere apologies to everyone who has supported ASTRO-H believing in the excellent results ASTRO-H would bring, to all overseas and domestic partners including NASA," JAXA said.

ASTRO-H is a joint project between the Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries engineering company and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Its aim was to collect data on the formation of galaxies as well as on the properties of space and time around black holes. The satellite was expected to gather data for three years, maintaining orbit near the equator.


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