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Japan loses contact with newly launched X-ray satellite 'Hitomi'

Japan says it has lost contact with its X-ray satellite, launched on February 17, 2016.

Japan loses contact with newly launched X-ray satellite 'Hitomi'

Tokyo: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it has lost communication with its X-ray Astronomy Satellite 'Hitomi' (Astro-H), newly launched to observe black holes and galaxy clusters.

JAXA found that contact with the satellite 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.

In a series of tweets, JAXA said that it is still trying to recover communication with 'Hitomi' while the cause of failure is being investigated.

Meanwhile, the US Joint Space Operations Centre, which tracks artificial objects orbiting the Earth, reported that it has observed five objects near the Japanese satellite, suggesting that the device could have suffered several "ruptures".

Jonathan McDowell, an astronaut from the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Centre, said that the presence of "rubble" does not mean that the unit is shattered, but small parts may have come off and that the satellite "could basically be intact".

The device, manufactured by JAXA and NASA together with other institutions, aimed to orbit about 580 km high above the Earth to observe black holes and distant galaxy clusters through its gamma ray detectors and four x-ray telescopes, including the microcalorimetre X-ray, a latest generation instrument that has the highest spectrum to observe X-rays in space.

The satellite was launched on February 17, 2016 (JST) aboard an H-2A rocket from the space station on the island of Tanegashima in Kagoshima prefecture.

The Astro-H, about 14 metres long and weighing 2.7 tonnes, is the heaviest satellite launched by Japan.

(With Agency inputs)

From Zee News

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