In a groundbreaking move, JAXA, the Japanese space agency, is preparing to launch two distinct missions from a single rocket: an innovative X-ray telescope set to explore the universe’s most intense regions and a pioneering robotic moon lander. However, the highly-anticipated launch has been put on hold due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM, is a bus-sized telescope developed in collaboration with NASA and the European Space Agency. It is designed to study cosmic X-rays that can only be detected above Earth’s atmosphere. On the other hand, the lunar mission, known as Smart Lander for Investigating Moon or SLIM, aims to demonstrate a precise navigation system. This compact robotic moon lander, about the size of a small food truck, is expected to touch down within the length of a football field of its targeted landing site. The success of these missions could lead to significant advancements in space exploration and our understanding of the cosmos.
JAXA’s Dual Space Missions: Exploring Hotspots of the Universe and Landing on the Moon
The Japanese space agency, JAXA, is preparing to launch two distinct space missions from the same rocket. The missions include an X-ray telescope, XRISM, designed to monitor some of the universe’s hottest spots, and an experimental robotic moon lander, SLIM. However, due to severe weather conditions, the launch has been postponed.
The Launch Delay
The launch of XRISM and SLIM was scheduled from an H-IIA rocket at Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center. However, less than 30 minutes before the launch, JAXA announced a delay due to high-altitude winds that posed a risk to the safe launch. This comes after a previous postponement due to poor weather conditions. The next launch attempt has not yet been announced, but a launch period is reserved through September 15th.
A Closer Look at XRISM
XRISM, an X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, is a collaboration between JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency. The telescope, about the size of a bus, will study cosmic X-rays that can only be detected from above Earth’s atmosphere.
The mission will utilize advanced spectroscopy to measure the brightness of celestial objects at different wavelengths, providing insights about the motion and chemistry of extreme cosmic spots such as black holes, galaxy clusters, and remnants of massive stars.
XRISM houses two significant instruments: Resolve, designed to collect high-resolution spectroscopic data, and Xtend, providing wider area views of X-ray sources. These instruments will operate simultaneously, providing scientists with complementary views of the universe.
The SLIM Mission
SLIM, or Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, is a compact robotic moon lander weighing over 1,500 pounds at launch. Its primary mission is not scientific but technological; to demonstrate a pinpoint navigation system to enable future spacecraft to land closer to scientifically interesting rugged terrains.
The XRISM telescope will be placed approximately 350 miles above Earth. After a few months of tests and adjustments, the telescope’s science operations will commence in January, with initial results expected in about a year.
SLIM has a longer journey ahead. Its destination is the Shioli crater on the moon’s near side, a journey that will take a minimum of four months due to a roundabout route designed to save propellant. After reaching lunar orbit, SLIM will spend a month circling the moon before attempting to land on the surface.
These ambitious missions from JAXA offer exciting prospects for space exploration. The XRISM telescope will provide unparalleled insights into the universe’s most extreme conditions, while SLIM’s pinpoint landing could revolutionize how we approach lunar landings. Despite the delay, the anticipation for these missions continues to grow, underscoring the global interest in further space exploration.