Hope of salvaging Japanese environmental satellite fades

Posted: October 31, 2003

Japanese space officials acknowledged Friday that chances of recovering a wayward Earth observing satellite were "extremely slim" after nearly a week of trying to restore communications with the $587 million craft.

Launched 10 months ago, the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite 2, nicknamed Midori 2, was a joint mission between the Japanese and U.S. space programs to monitor our planet's health from orbit.

But last Saturday, the satellite experienced an unknown power system problem and fell silent.

Midori 2 was deployed to replace its predecessor, which ironically malfunctioned 10 months after its 1996 launch due when its solar array broke.

Officials believe to the two mishaps aren't exactly the same, and suggested the Midori 2 problem may be in the power circuity.

A radar image of Midori 2 taken this week. Credit: JAXA
"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been investigating the possibility of recovering the observations of Midori 2 after an anomaly was detected in the satellite on October 25, 2003. JAXA has been continually trying to send the satellite commands to restore its functions, and analyze its current status," officials said in a statement Friday.

"However, as a result of our investigation, analysis, and inability to re-establish any communications with the satellite, JAXA found today that the possibility of restoring the operations of Midori 2 is extremely slim.

"JAXA will continue to do its utmost to send commands and investigate the condition of the satellite to clarify the cause of the anomaly and to prevent a recurrence of the problem for future satellite programs.

"JAXA will also do its best to provide users of Midori 2 with as much acquired data during its nine-month operation period in order to maximize their use.

"In addition, we will examine future earth observation activity plans by consulting with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Space Activities Commission, and other parties concerned, taking into consideration the importance of earth observations to solve global environmental issues as highlighted during the Earth Observation Summit.

"JAXA would like to express our sincere apologies to all Japanese citizens, Midori 2 users, and parties concerned, including the Ministry of Environment, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and CNES (Center National d'Etudes Spatiales), whose observation equipment is onboard Midori 2."

Midori 2 was expected to last at least three years, using its suite of five scientific payloads for global environmental research. Studies included the distribution of water vapor in the atmosphere, along with ocean winds, sea surface temperatures, and sea ice, monitoring plant life and vegetation in marine areas and keeping tabs on the Earth's ozone layer.

An illustration of Midori 2 in orbit. Credit: JAXA