Japan: Japan’s Earth-observing satellite DAICHI is dead in orbit, three weeks after a mysterious anomaly crippled the spacecraft, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced.
DAICHI, formally known as the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), unexpectedly powered down on April 22 for reasons that remain murky. The agency had been trying to communicate with the satellite for about three weeks after it developed a power generation anomaly. Now, it decided to complete its operations by sending a command at 10:50 a.m. on May 12 (Japan Standard Time). The agency found it was impossible to recover communication with the satellite.
The death of DAICHI is not a complete failure, JAXA officials said. The satellite craft launched in January 2006 with a planned mission lifetime of three years, and had already outlasted expectations, they added.
The DAICHI satellite was an all-purpose Earth surveyor, tasked with helping map the planet, scout for resources and measure changes in land cover such as deforestation. During its five-year life, DAICHI snapped about 6.5 million images of the planet from an altitude of about 435 miles (700 kilometres), according to JAXA officials.
DAICHI also played a large disaster-monitoring role, helping authorities respond to natural calamities such as earthquakes. The satellite observed about 100 disaster-stricken areas per year worldwide, JAXA officials added.
The satellite beamed down many useful images of Japan’s ravaged eastern coast after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It was during this observation campaign, which lasted well into April, that the power glitch that signalled its death first arose.
JAXA will continue investigating what caused DAICHI to power down in April, agency officials continued.