October 8, 2007

Japan's Lunar Orbitar

SELENE, the Roman lunar deity later supplanted by Artemis, is alive once again. She's headed back to the moon with a mission: to study the origins of the Moon, its geologic evolution, and to map its surface. SELENE has a double-meaning: part lunar deity, and part Selenological and Enginnering Explorer, and is better known by its nickname Kaguya.

Kaguya carries a HDTV camera which it has used to capture the first HD images of Earth from space. Kaguya however is full of firsts. It will be the first probe to orbit the Moon at an extremely close proximity of about 100 km.

Kaguya will break into three main parts once it achieves orbit: the main orbiter, a VRAD satellite (Vstar) and a relay satellite (Rstar). The main orbiter will use its instruments in conjunction with the other peripheral satellites.

The instrument payload includes:
  1. HDTV High-Definition Video Camera
  2. X-Ray Spectrometer
  3. Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  4. Multiband Imager
  5. Spectral Profiler
  6. Terrain Camera
  7. Lunar Radar Sounder
  8. Laser Altimeter
  9. Lunar Magnetometer
  10. Charged Particle Spectrometer
  11. Plasma Energy Angle and Composition experiment
  12. Radio Science
  13. Upper atmosphere and plasma imager
  14. RSAT Gravity Four-Way Doppler
  15. Differential VLBI Radio Source

Check out the official instrument page for detailed descriptions of what each instrument does.

Kaguya is expected to be in lunar orbit on October 19th.