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All Hopes Lost for 'Hitomi,' Japan Ends Search for Missing Multi-Million Dollar Satellite

Apr 30, 2016 09:38 AM EDT
Artist concept of ASTRO-H satellite.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency puts an end to the retrieval operations of their multi-million x-ray satellite lost in space, shifting their attention in finding out what caused the the anomaly.
(Photo : Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/ NASA)

After a month of tremendous retrieval efforts, Japan decided that it is time to give up and say goodbye to their multi-million X-ray satellite, which went missing just after a month of being launched.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced this week that it will be abandoning all efforts of trying to restore communication with the ASRTO-H telescope, also known as Hitomi.

"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, and to all foreign and Japanese astrophysicists who were planning to use the observational results from ASTRO-H for their studies." JAXA said in their press release.

Hitomi was a joint project of 70 organizations, including NASA. Japan spent about $290 million in the project while NASA had also invested about $70 million.

According to the report from Phys.Org, Hitomi was launched into orbit last February 17. The primary mission of Hitomi is to search for X-rays coming from black holes and cluster galaxies. The satellite was initially doing fine in its orbit, but all of a sudden, on March 26, all communication to the satellite was cut off.

Experts at JAXA worked frantically to re-establish contact with Hitomi. JAXA saw a glimpse of hope when they received three signals coming from space but to their demise, the frequency of the communication revealed that the signal was not from Hitomi.

JAXA has decided that all hopes for Hitomi are gone, when other organizations reported that the two solar array paddles of Hitomi were ripped off, making the multi-million dollar satellite float uselessly in space.

With the retrieval operations now stopped, JAXA shifted its focus on determining what went wrong by carefully reviewing all phases from design, manufacturing, verification, and operations.

A satellite similar to Hitomi is set to launch in 2028 by the European Space Agency.

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