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AKATSUKI Venus probe successfully launched

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The H-IIA launch Vehicle No. 17 (H-IIA F17) during the lift-off. JAXA Photo

TOKYO (BNS): Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the Venus Climate Orbiter 'AKATSUKI' early Friday, from the Tanegashima Space Centre.

The H-IIA launch Vehicle No. 17 (H-IIA F17) with the Venus Climate Orbiter onboard blasted-off at 6:58:22 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) from the space centre. The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at around 27 minutes and 29 seconds after the lift-off, the AKATSUKI was separated from the H-IIA F17, according to a JAXA news report.

"The flight was very smooth," JAXA said after the lift-off.

It carried with it the experimental 'IKAROS' - an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun - designed to be propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles.

Similar to an ocean yacht pushed by wind, the device has a square, ultra-thin and flexible sail, measuring 14 by 14 metres, that will be driven through space as it is pelted by solar particles.

The name of the spacecraft alludes to Icarus, the figure from Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun. The space yacht, however, is headed in the direction of Venus.

The IKAROS mission aims to verify navigation technology using a solar sail for first time in the world.

AKATSUKI (PLANET-C) is the next planetary exploration project for the Martian orbiter NOZOMI. The main aim of this project is to elucidate the mysteries of the Venusian atmosphere.

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