Astro-H chance to recover stable flight and communication is low

It seems that chances for recovering control and stabilizing flight of Astro-H satellite are shrinking proportionally to number of debris which is separating from satellite.

First signals about debris flying off from Hitomi (Astro-H) seemed to be sad prelude for progressive disintegration of Japanese x-ray observation satellite. Spotted and announced on Twitter by Joint Space Operations Center on March 27, 2016, confirmed on March 28 and supplemented by official JAXA statement: Hitomi is not communicating and probably is tumbling. Next days were not particularly lucky for JAXA; satellite was still out of control and all attempts of resuming communication were not successful. Ground control stations in Uchinoura and Santiago Tracking Station were only able to receive short radio signals which were not giving any information about condition of the Hitomi. JAXA announced about these attempts on March 29, 2016, with the provision of making all efforts to restore control over satellite and to explain reasons of anomaly. After two days satellite was still tumbling and unfortunately next debris appeared on radars of Joint Space Operations Center. JSOC announced on April 1, 2016 that next ten pieces of debris separated from satellite. Debris was so large that parts of satellite had now two different NORAD ID:  41337 is the largest piece of debris which separated on April 1 and 41442 was assigned to previous part of satellite. Radar tracking was also confirmed by independent satellite spotters around the globe. According to which is quoting Paul Maley, amateur satellite observer, two largest parts of Hitomi were spotted by him on 03:20 GMT on April 1, 2016. Both objects are emitting only reflected light but with comparable brightness - it is suggesting that they are similar sized. Condition of the satellite is unknown - another observer, Brad Young, claims that flash period for observed parts of Hitomi gives reason to assess speed of rotation to over 10 rpm. Satellite probably is damaged critically that undertaking any other activity than tumbling would be impossible. Structure of the Hitomi, with long extended bench (Extendable Optical Bench) which is necessary for correct work of X-ray telescope, is sensitive for extended period of rapid movement. Also onboard devices like X-ray telescope are sensitive due their pressurized construction. One small leakage can cause explosion which weakens adjacent elements and satellite will just fall to pieces.

JAXA did not confirm or deny officially any of this information.


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