Technology & Science

JAXA abandons Hitomi/ASTRO-H telescope

Japan's space agency has abandoned its efforts to restore the operations of a multimillion-dollar satellite featuring Canadian technology that was to probe the mysteries of black holes using X-ray telescopes.

It's 'highly likely' that satellite's two solar arrays had broken off at their bases, JAXA says

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spokeswoman Izumi Yoshizaki said Monday that efforts to restore communication links with Hitomi or ASTRO-H since the problem began Saturday afternoon have been unsuccessful.

Japan's space agency has abandoned its efforts to restore the operations of a multimillion-dollar satellite that was to probe the mysteries of black holes using X-ray telescopes.

The ASTRO-H telescope, also known as Hitomi, features Canadian technology that sharpens its vision, helping it detect a wider range of x-ray colours than other x-ray telescopes. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced Thursday that it would stop trying to fix the satellite after determining that it was "highly likely" that its two solar arrays had broken off at their bases.

A Canadian research team was hoping to access new data about deep space as part of a partnership between Canada and Japan in the mission. The Canadian Space Agency provided a laser alignment system for the observatory's instruments.

The team was anticipating "science data of black holes and galaxies and galaxy clusters," Brian McNamara of the University of Waterloo told CBC News in February.

Lost in space

Contact was lost with the satellite on March 26, more than a month after its launch from southern Japan on Feb. 17.

The satellite was much larger than previous Japanese scientific satellites, measuring 14 metres (46 feet) in length and weighing 2.7 tonness. It was designed to study X-rays emitted by black holes and other objects in space. The X-rays cannot be detected on Earth, because they are blocked by its atmosphere.

The space agency initially thought it had received signals from the lost satellite on three occasions, but later concluded that the frequencies of the communications indicated they were not from Hitomi.

NASA was a principal partner in the Japan-led mission, which involved eight other nations, including Canada and the Netherlands.

Japan's Kyodo News agency reported that Japan spent about 31 billion yen ($364 million) on the project, and NASA had invested about $87 million.

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