TOKYO — Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) is feared lost after abruptly powering down April 22 as it was carrying out a mapping mission of the nation’s earthquake- and tsunami-ravished coastline. Engineers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were struggling to find what caused the 5-year-old satellite to suddenly lose power shortly after dawn.
The satellite, known as Daichi, shifted from normal operations into a low-load mode around 7:30 a.m. local time and turned off all of its on-board observation devices, according to JAXA. The satellite’s power generation continued to deteriorate rapidly following the anomaly, which was detected through data relayed by Japan’s Kodama Data Relay Test Satellite. Hours after the incident, the satellite showed no signs that it was generating power.
“Daichi lost power this morning and there has been no change since then. We are still investigating the cause,” JAXA spokesman Eijiro Namura said April 22. “With the loss of power, after this [much] time, we don’t see much chance of a recovery.”
The satellite, built by NEC-Toshiba Space Systems to last at least three years, was launched aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket in January 2006.
At the time the power failure occurred, Daichi was mapping the eastern coast of Japan’s Tohoku region, which suffered severe and widespread damage after being hit by an enormous tsunami following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck offshore March 11, leaving more than 27,000 people dead or missing.
Daichi carries three sensors: a stereoscopic mapping sensor that measures precise land elevation; a radiometer; and a phased-array radar used for mapping, precise regional land coverage observation, resource surveying and disaster monitoring.