While the Orion spacecraft beamed back incredible images of the Earth and the Moon during its closest flyby to the lunar world, not all is well with the mission. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has lost connection with one of its CubeSats launched onboard the Artemis-1 mission.
CubeSats OMOTENASHI and EQUULEUS were launched with the Artemis-1 mission to the Moon alongside the Orion spacecraft. EQUULEUS and OMOTENASHI were deployed on November 16 and while the first was confirmed to be operating normally, there was no response from the other CubeSat.
“The CubeSat has not completed sun acquisition and communication is not stable. We are therefore continuing operations to stablise attitude, secure power, and establish communication,” Jaxa had said earlier. The Japanese space agency has now confirmed that “it was determined that the lunar landing maneouver (DV2) operation required for landing on the Moon would be unable to be performed.”
The space agency maintained that while the Moon landing objective of the mission was unable to be achieved, recovery operations will continue to perform radiation measurements outside the Earth’s magnetosphere. The space agency has also formed a response team led by the Director of the Space Science Program at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.
“The team plans to investigate the cause, take action for the future, and compile knowledge that will contribute to the field of CubeSat development,” the team said in a statement.
The Orion spacecraft, meanwhile, completed the outbound powered flyby to the Moon and is now headed into a distant retrograde orbit beyond the Moon. Nasa said that the orbit is “distant” in the sense that it’s at a high altitude from the surface of the Moon, and it’s “retrograde” because Orion will travel around the Moon in opposite the direction the Moon travels around Earth.
Orion will travel about 57,287 miles beyond the Moon at its farthest point from the Moon on Nov. 25, passing the record set by Apollo 14 for the farthest distance traveled by a spacecraft designed for humans.