Tag Archives: Hayabusa 2

Hayabusa-2 in “tip-top” shape

Launched in December for a 2018 rendezvous with an asteroid, Hayabusa-2 has successfully completed its initial check-out according to Japanese officials.

Checkups on early-phase functionality are being carried out over a three-month period. Although the first Hayabusa had suffered malfunctions of its ion engines, it is confirmed that the four ion engines of Hayabusa-2 are functioning properly, JAXA said. Kuninaka said: “With the engines functioning, the explorer can set out on its voyage with a lot of leeway. I feel like, ‘Way to go!’”

A planetary cubesat mission by Japan

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.

Hayabusa-2 scheduled for launch

Delayed due to weather twice, the launch of Japan’s Hayabusa-2 asteroid probe has now been scheduled for Wednesday.

This probe comes with four mini-rovers and an impactor!

Hayabusa 2’s target is a 1km-wide asteroid labelled 1999 JU3, after the year when it was discovered. It is a C-type asteroid, thought to contain more organic material than other asteroids, and so might again help scientists understand how the Solar System evolved.

The Japanese space agency JAXA intend for Hayabusa 2 to catch up with asteroid 1999 JU3 in 2018. It will land a small cube-shaped probe called MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) developed by the German Space Agency (DLR) together with French space partners the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The lander is able to move its centre of gravity so that it can tip itself over in order to move across the asteroid’s surface. The three small rovers, called Minerva-II, will also roam the asteroid, gathering data. Hayabusa 2 also carries an impactor that will blast a 2-metre-wide crater in the asteroid’s surface, which will allow the spacecraft to collect fragments and bring them home for study in the laboratory. The spacecraft itself is designed to touch down briefly three times to gather samples.

Hayabusa ready for launch

In a press photo op the Japanese have unveiled the completed Hayabusa 2, ready for its journey to an asteroid.

Hayabusa 2 will deploy one of five target markers that it will use to guide itself into landing and collecting a sample. It will deploy a European-built lander named MASCOT and three (count them, three) “rovers” called MINERVA-II. I put “rovers” in quotes because I think these are not wheeled rovers but rather bouncy hoppers like Hayabusa 1’s MINERVA (which was deployed but sadly missed Itokawa). Then it will do an experiment like Deep Impact’s, releasing an impactor to make a crater on the asteroid’s surface. But because Hayabusa 2’s impactor won’t have much kinetic energy, they made it explosive. The mothership will have to hide in the shadow of the asteorid as the explosion happens, so they have also added the deployable DCAM3 to try to get a view of the crater’s formation.

Rendezvous is set for around 2018 with the spacecraft’s sample return to Earth sometime in 2020.