Satellite That Hunts for Black Holes in Space Is Lost

PHOTO: Officials of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency bow beside the model of an X-ray astronomy satellite called "Hitomi" in the agency in Tokyo, Japan, April 28, 2016.PlayMunehide Someya/Kyodo News via AP
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Japan is abandoning its recently launched $273 million Hitomi space telescope after two solar array panels apparently broke off the satellite, sending it spinning wildly into space.

Hitomi was launched in February with the goal of using its x-ray vision to shed new light on black holes, supernova remnants and galaxy clusters. One month later, the space agency said it was unable to figure out the health of the satellite after it became unresponsive and debris was spotted around it.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said it received three signals believed to be from Hitomi; however, further investigation revealed the signals were not from the satellite and were “due to the differences in frequencies as a consequence of technological study,” the space agency said.

On Thursday JAXA said "it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation," making it virtually impossible to get the satellite back on track.

While there is no possibility of retrieving Hitomi, JAXA said in a news release it now plans to focus its effort on what caused the anomaly, including scrutiny of design, manufacturing, verification, and operations.

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