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When Japan launched Hayabusa-2 last week it also sent a secondary payload towards the asteroid, a cubesat designed to test the engineering of using minisats for future planetary missions.
PROCYON, which stands for PRoximate Object Close flYby with Optical Navigation, is a 65-kg (143 lb.) spacecraft designed to demonstrate that micro-satellites can be used for deep-space exploration. In addition to testing out micro-sat systems in deep space, the spacecraft is to conduct a close flyby of an asteroid. Developed by the University of Tokyo and JAXA, PROCYON was launched as a secondary payload along with Hayabusa2 on Dec. 3. JAXA reports that controllers have received confirmation that PROCYON was inserted into its planned interplanetary orbit as scheduled two hours after launch.
The spacecraft, which measures only 630 x 550 x 550 mm (24.8 x 21.65 x 21.65 in), has a mission that is divided into nominal and advanced phases.
If this engineering proves viable, which we have every reason to expect, it will open the door to many more planetary missions, costing far less and requiring much smaller rockets to launch.