Buggy Software Update Destroys Japanese Sattelite

astro-h-TechnosearchA Japanese Satellite called Hitomi has been officially termed as lost, after being torn apart while spinning out of control and disintegrating into the orbit. Apart from the reported financial loss around $286 million US dollars, 10 years of worthwhile research was lost as well. The reason behind this mishap are under investigation but the individuals carrying out the research claim that bad data in a software package being the cause of the tragedy.

The satellite was successfully launched on February 17, 2016, and was also referred to as ASTRO-H. It had just been over a month since its successful launch that calamity struck on March 26th. On March 28 efforts of recovering the wreckage were stopped as nothing much remained of it. Further investigations are being carried out in an attempt to prevent similar mishaps in the future.

It is still doubted software update might not solely be responsible for the satellite being blown to pieces. As the satellite was passing over the South Atlantic Anomaly, placed Hitomi in a communications blackout region, which meant there was no active ground monitoring of the situation. Another thing that needs to be considered is that here the belts of radiation encircling the earth are low in this region, as a result of which particle density is higher than in other parts of the orbit. As a result of this High energy, particles may have disrupted the onboard electronics.

Currently, the Satellite was in a phase called ‘Safe Hold’ mode and the thrusters were called upon to stop the rotation of the machine. Later the Software patch was updated and the same configuration information increased the spin further, resulting in the satellite’s rotation to exceed design parameters.

As a result of the spin several parts ranging from solar sails started to come off. In total at least 5 pieces were observed in addition to the main body. The primary function of Hitomi was to study hard X-ray sources in the Universe. X-Ray Satellites like Hitomi are known to be unstoppable by elements like dust clouds, though it appears it cannot protect itself against a buggy software update.


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