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  1. Japan's Akatsuki spacecraft is visiting Venus for the second time -- this time to stay, hopefully. The JAXA spacecraft had failed orbital insertion in 2010, with its main engine prematurely shutting down less than 3 minutes into a 12 minute burn due to a salt formation. On December 7, Akatsuki will attempt a second orbital insertion manoeuvre, a 20 minute, 33 second burn that will be carried out by the spacecraft's 20 N, RCS thrusters. The thrusters have already been tested for 10-minute burns, which is still way beyond the very short angular-moment-dumping manoeuvres they were designed for. However, on a positive note, the engineers have managed to make the spacecraft a bit lighter by dumping 65 kilos of propellant from the main engine tank. During its 5-year unplanned heliocentric cruise, Akatsuki has almost always been inside Venus' orbit, exsposing itself to temperature and radiation conditions 37% worse than those planned. The probe reached its last perihelion in August and is now getting further away from the Sun. Also, even if Akatsuki succeeds in this second orbital insertion attempt, it will be on a not-so-scientifically-rewarding orbit, at least compared to the original orbit it was designed to reach. The new orbit will have a period of 15 days, instead of the 30-hour-orbit engineers and scientists originally hoped for. A manoeuvre scheduled for March should lower the orbital period to around 9 days. Despite everything, there are some good signs: three of Akatsuki's five camers have recently been turned on for the first time in more than four years and everything seems fine with them. The other two will be activated only after the orbital insertion burn. The orbital insertion burn is slated to start 541 km above Venus' surface. Sources: SpaceflightNow and Polluce Notizie