Solar Flare Shuts Down Nozomi Mars Probe's Communication System

Communication with Japan's Nozomi Mars Probe was all but severed recently due to a solar flare according to Japanese space officials.

One of Nozomi's communication systems was rendered inoperable by a burst of solar radiation on 21 April 2002. According to Japan's ISAS (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science) it may take up to 6 months to get the system fully operational again. Meanwhile other systems on Nozomi are operating normally thus allowing mission controllers to repair the spacecraft.

Nozomi was originally supposed to enter orbit around Mars on 11 October 1999. However, the spacecraft used more propellant than originally planned in an Earth swingby maneuver on 21 December 1998 . This left the spacecraft with insufficient acceleration to complete its nominal trajectory to Mars. A new trajectory was implemented whereby Nozomi will remain in heliocentric orbit for an additional four years and then reach Mars in December 2003.

Originally known as "Planet-B" before its launch Nozomi (the Japanese word for "hope") is an aeronomy mission to study Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. In addition to studies of the structure, composition and dynamics of Mars' ionosphere Nozomi will study the effects of the solar wind, how Mars' atmosphere leaks out into space, and interactions between the solar wind and Mars' weak magnetic field.

Nozomi will also study dust levels in Mars' upper atmosphere as well as dust that makes it into orbit around Mars.

Nozomi is also equipped with a camera system and will send back images of Mars' surface.

Related Links

  • NOAA SEC Report of Solar-Geophysical Activity 22 Apr 2002, Space Environment Center

  • 10 April 2001: NOZOMI, Sun, Earth and Moon in a Straight Line, ISAS

  • Nozomi Website, ISAS

  • Nozomi, NASA GSFC


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