Japan loses contact with newly launched satellite

Tokyo, March 28 (IANS) Japan has lost contact with its satellite Astro-H, newly launched to observe black holes and galaxy clusters, a spokesperson of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, (JAXA) told EFE on Monday.

The cause of the communication failure is being investigated while JAXA is trying to retrieve the satellite, launched on February 17, from a brief signal it received during its investigations, although it acknowledged it has been unable to establish the current status of the unit.

Meanwhile, the US Joint Space Operations Centre, which tracks artificial objects orbiting the Earth, reported that it has observed five objects near the Japanese satellite, suggesting that the device could have suffered several “ruptures”.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronaut from the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Centre, said that the presence of “rubble” does not mean that the unit is shattered, but small parts may have come off and that the satellite “could basically be intact”.

The Astro-H, about 14 metres long and weighing 2.7 tonnes, is the heaviest satellite launched by Japan.

The device, manufactured by JAXA and NASA together with other institutions, aimed to orbit about 580 km high above the Earth to observe black holes and distant galaxy clusters through its gamma ray detectors and four x-ray telescopes, including the microcalorimetre X-ray, a latest generation instrument that has the highest spectrum to observe X-rays in space.

The satellite was launched aboard an H-2A rocket from the space station on the island of Tanegashima in Kagoshima prefecture.

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