Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Venus Climate Orbiter “AKATSUKI” aboard H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 17 (H-IIA F17) at 6:58:22 a.m. on 21st May 2010 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.
The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 27 minutes and 29 seconds after lift-off, the separation of the AKATSUKI was confirmed.
The purpose of the satellite is to explore the climate of Venus, which has clouds of sulphuric acid and high temperatures. The probe will enter an elliptical orbit 300 to 80,000 km above the surface of Venus.
The probe will take close-up photos of Venus and observe the furious winds that blow on the planet’s surface. At speeds reaching 100m per second, the winds circle Venus at sixty times the speed of planetary rotation. This is a phenomenon which the scientists hope to explain. They will also look for thunder and active volcanoes.