The last two VEXAG meetings (in May 2008 and February 2009) had status updates for the upcoming 2010 Japanese Venus orbiter, otherwise known as Planet-C. This mission will focus on atmospheric studies, with some measurements of the surface through atmospheric spectral windows. The missions goals (from the 2008 presentation) will be to:
- Study atmospheric dynamics including Venus' super rotation, circulation, and meso-scale phenomenon
- Other atmospheric studies relating to lightning and cloud physics
- Surface studies including searching for active volcanos and geological survey of surface minerals
The mission will use the extremely fast rotation of the upper atmosphere (the super rotation) to allow multi-hour observations of atmospheric dynamics. The orbiter will assume an elliptical equitorial orbit. For 24 hours, the 5 cameras on board will observe planet as the upper atmosphere rotates below in near synchronicity with the orbiter. This will allow the study of the small scale dynamics of the upper atmosphere.
Planet-C's five cameras will be optimized to probe phenomenon at different levels of the atmosphere and on the surface.
The Japanese mission will overlap with the expected extension of Europe's Venus Express mission. That "spacecraft is in a good health [sic] and very productive, but shows some signs of ageing." It appears from the ESA update at the VEXAG meeting that the limiting resource (barring catastrophic failure) will be the fuel supply, which is expected to last well into 2013. The overlap of the Japanese and ESA missions will allow simultaneous measurements at Venus from different orbits and from different suites of instruments.
JAXA Planet-C website
Planet-C 2008 VEXAG update (with information on scientific goals)
Planet-C 2009 VEXAG update (mostly engineering and schedule)
ESA Venus Express VEXAG update