A Software Error Destructed The Japanese Satellite

Japanese astronomical satellite Hitomi was lost after the collapse of orbiting during an uncontrolled rotation. The causes of the crash are still under investigation, but initial analysis indicates that the crash occurs due to erroneous data in the software package.

Data were transferred shortly after the separation of the tool from the back of the probe satellite. Hence, the Japanese Space Agency JAXA lost its $286 million astronomical satellite Hitomi, with the three-year planned observations and maybe 10 years of scientific research.

A Software Error Destructed The Japanese Satellite

Japanese astronomical satellite Hitomi also known as ASTRO-H, was successfully launched on February 17, 2016, but on March 26, an accident occurred, leaving only the floating parts in space.

On April 28, researchers stopped trying to restore the operation of the satellite and are now trying to determine the cause of the failure or crash.

On March 26, the Japanese astronomical satellite Hitomi completed the maneuver and aimed the Japanese astronomical satellite Hitomi at galaxy Markarian 205. By controlling the location of the satellite, thus, the attitude control system (ACS) began using the star tracker system data.

At some point, the star tracker system would have updated the location of the satellite data using a monitoring inertial guidance system (IRU), which led the satellite to pass the South Atlantic magnetic anomaly.

This fact is important for two reasons. First, the Japanese astronomical satellite Hitomi was on the other side of the Earth from Japan. Hence, there was no active monitoring from the ground situation. Secondly, the covering of the Earth in this region is a lower emission zone (a kind of “dent” in the magnetic zone).

Objects in low-Earth orbit, passing through the anomaly, out from under the protection of a magnetosphere and become vulnerable to destructive currents from space. This can lead to disruption of the onboard electronics.

STT systems and IRU disagreed over the position of the satellite. In this case, IRU has priority, but these systems are not correct, indicating a rotation speed of 20 degrees per hour.

The position control system tried to stop the satellite’s rotation using flywheels. However, the information loaded earlier was wrong, as the flywheels only increased the wheel. Further, the other systems have also increased the rotation, using the same incorrect information in an attempt to stop the satellite. Ultimately, the rotation speed exceeds the design parameters.

Some parts (Solar sails) have come off, and at least 5 parts are separated from the main body. According to the reports, maybe about 10 pieces, 2 large and 8 small pieces, are still floating in orbit. All 10 pieces were likely separated simultaneously, but their proximity did not allow us to identify them on the radar images as separate parts.


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