Tag Archives: Japan

Hayabusa-2’s second touchdown sample grab

Hayabusa touchdown sequence

The Hayabusa-2 science team yesterday released a series of close-up images taken just as the spacecraft touched down and then backed off from the surface of Ryugu.

I have cropped and annotated that sequence and placed all three images side-by-side above. The red arrows in the first two images highlight similar shadows in both pictures, with the appearance of dust visible in the lower center of the middle touchdown picture. I have not marked any comparable surface features in the third image because the uplift of material makes it too difficult.

That uplift however is exactly what the Hayabusa-2 science team needs, as it is some of this material that has hopefully been captured. Their fear was that this uplift posed a risk to the spacecraft itself, but they took precautions to minimize the risk and it appears that these precautions have worked.

We now must wait until the samples come back to Earth in December 2020 to see exactly what they caught.

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Hayabusa-2’s second touchdown an apparent success

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe has successfully completed its second touch-and-go sample grab on the asteroid Ryugu.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 successfully completed its second touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu and probably captured material from its interior that was exposed by firing a projectile into the asteroid earlier this year. It is the first collection of subsurface materials from a solar system body other than the moon.

Engineers and technicians in the spacecraft’s control room near Tokyo could be seen erupting into cheers and applause on a YouTube live stream when Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda proclaimed the operation a success just before 11 a.m. local time. At an afternoon press briefing, Tsuda said, “Everything went perfectly.” He joked that if a score of 100 indicated perfection, “I would give this a score of 1000.”

They will now begin the journey home, with the samples arriving on Earth in December 2020.

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Hayabusa’s 2nd sample grab on Ryugu

Target 2nd landing site on Ryugu
Click for full resolution image.

The Hayabusa-2 science team today posted detailed information in two posts about the process that led to the decision to attempt a second touch-and-go sample grab on the surface of Ryugu. The first part outlined in detail what they have learned about the target landing site. The second part described the decision making process.

The image to the right, reduced to post here, is from the second part. It shows the crater they created with a projectile and the target landing site, labeled C01-C. The dark areas show the changes on the surface following the impact. Their analysis of the target site found that, first, they can land there without undue risk to the spacecraft, and, second, they have a high probability of getting ejecta thrown up from the crater in their sample.

Based on all this information, they decided to attempt it, on July 11. I especially like how they stated this decision:

The second touchdown will be attempted on July 11. We will proceed with our mission with care, but boldly go. [emphasis mine]

I am sure my readers will recognize the literary reference.

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Hayabusa-2 to attempt 2nd sample grab

The new colonial movement: The Hayabusa-2 science team has decided to attempt a second touch-and-go sample grab from the man-made crater they created on the surface of the rubble-pile asteroid Ryugu.

JAXA engineers confirmed that the probe’s camera and other equipment that were slightly damaged by the first landing are usable, and that there are no big rocks at the candidate site. They gave the go-ahead for a landing on July 11.

Hayabusa2 is scheduled to begin its descent from an altitude of 20,000 meters at around 10 a.m. on July 10 Japan time, and touch down on the asteroid’s surface about 25 hours later.

This is the first time I have heard of any damage to the spacecraft from the first touch-and-go landing. Regardless, they have decided they can risk another sample grab and still have the ability to return the samples to Earth.

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Planning Hayabusa-2’s next sample grab on Ryugu

Target and man-made crater on Ryugu
Click for full image.

The Hayabusa-2 science team today released a mosaic image created using the images taken during the four close approaches to the site of the man made crater put there by a projectile fired from the spacecraft. The image on the right, reduced and cropped to post here, shows this area, with the white spot being the target they dropped onto the site during the most recent close approach. As they note in their release:

In order to collect this material, we need a second touchdown for which the project has been steadily preparing. At this point, it has not yet been decided whether or not to go ahead with a second touchdown, but here we will introduce our preparations in the “Approach to the second touchdown”.

After the operation to form the artificial crater, the spacecraft descended a total of four times above or near the crater site. These descent operations allowed us to obtain detailed data of the region near the artificial crater. In addition, we succeeded in dropping a target marker in the area close to the artificial crater on May 30. Combined, these operations mean that the situation around the artificial crater is now well understood.

Figure 1 [the image to the right] shows an image taken during the low altitude descent observation operation (PPTD-TM1B) conducted from June 11 – 13. The target marker was captured in the image and you can get a handle on the state of the surface. [emphasis mine]

Unfortunately they do not show us exactly where the man made crater is located in this mosaic. Nor was I able to locate it by comparing today’s image to a previous image that did indicate the location.

The only place that seems acceptable for their touch-and-go sample grab seems to be just above or to the left of the target. Whether this will get them any interior material thrown up during the impact however is unclear.

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Hayabusa-2 successfully places reference target at man-made crater

Close-up during Hayabusa-2's close approach

Hayabusa-2 has successfully dropped a small reference target at the man-made crater on Ryugu, getting within 10 meters of the surface.

The image to the right is the last image taken by the spacecraft’s navigation camera during the operation. Unfortunately, the science team did not provide any further information, such as the height from which this image was taken, nor the scale of the features. Based on the sequence of images, it clearly occurred at the moment of closest approach.

I have tried to see if I could pinpoint the crater in the image by comparing it to the planning image post here. Unfortunately, I have been unable to identify comparable features.

Either way with the successful placement of the reference target on the surface, they can now begin planning the sample grab touch-and-go at this location.

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Hayabusa-2 has begun approach to Ryugu

Ryugu during approach

Hayabusa-2 has begun its approach to the man-made impact site on Ryugu in order to drop a reflective reference target there in preparation for a later touch-and-go landing.

The link provides real time delivery of the images taken by the spacecraft’s navigation camera, released approximately once every thirty minutes. The image on the right, brightened slightly to post here, is the most recent image as I write this post.

The approach will take almost twenty-four hours, so viewing the changes at the link will be somewhat equivalent to watching paint dry. I suggest returning every few hours to see the closer images of the asteroid.

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Hayabusa-2’s second approach to artificial crater scheduled

Ryugu impact site
Click for full image.

Based on images obtained during the aborted early May close-in approach to the asteroid Ryugu, the Hayabusa-2 science team was able to get better imagery of the location of their man-made impact site,, and this has allowed them to both reschedule to May 28-30 the next close approach, as well as more accurately aim the spacecraft at that artificial crater.

The image on the right shows the artificial crater as the dark area inside the box labeled C01, their new target site. The S01 box was the target location for the mid-May aborted approach.

The goal of these close-in approaches is to drop a reflective target at the site, giving them a very precise reference point for the touch-and-go sample grab to follow. They were unable to make the drop on the aborted close-in approach, and will attempt it again in this week’s second attempt.

The second link above provides a detailed minute-by-minute outline of this week’s approach. As before, you can watch it happen with the live download of navigation images every thirty minutes or so. A link to that real-time image delivery will be found here.

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Hayabusa-2 aborts close-in drop of visual marker on Ryugu

Japan’s asteroid probe Hayabusa-2 automatically aborted a planned drop of a visual markee on the asteroid Ryugu at the site where the probe created a crater in April.

Thursday’s mission was to observe the targeted area in detail and drop a marker from an altitude of 10 meters. But officials say the probe automatically suspended the operation after it descended to about 50 meters above the surface. It then headed toward its standby position of 20 kilometers above Ryugu. Hayabusa2 is designed to automatically abort its landing if it detected any irregularity. The agency is looking into the cause of the arrested descent.

Once the marker is eventually in place, they will use it for guidance during a a second touchdown to grab further samples, this time hopefully of material churned up by the explosion that created the crater.

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Japanese private company launches rocket on suborbital test

Capitalism in space: The Japanese private company Interstellar Technologies yesterday successfully completed a suborbital test flight of its MOMO rocket.

This success is significant in that Interstellar has tried twice previously to complete a suborbital flight, and failed both times. The first attempt was on July 30, 2017 and the second on June 30, 2018. Furthermore, they had said that the gap between the second and third attempts would be shorter, which it was.

So far, MOMO is designed solely as a suborbital rocket. I would not be surprised if they begin to scale up development to an orbital version once they begin money-making operations with the suborbital version, but this has not been announced by the company.

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Hayabusa-2 confirms man-made crater on Ryugu

In a planned fly-over of Ryugu yesterday Hayabusa-2 took its first direct images of the location where it had fired an explosive projectile and thus confirmed the creation of a man-made crater by that projectile.

“The asteroid’s terrain has clearly been altered,” said Yuichi Tsuda, an associate professor at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Hayabusa2, which began its descent toward the asteroid Wednesday afternoon, captured images of its surface to determine the existence of the crater after it successfully shot a metal projectile at Ryugu on April 5 in an experiment deemed the first of its kind.

According to the JAXA, the probe photographed the area hit by the projectile from a distance of 1.7 km. The agency compared images of the asteroid’s surface before and after the shooting of the projectile to determine the presence of a man-made crater.

They have not yet released any of these images. They will use them however for planning a touchdown and sample grab within this crater in next few months.

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Hayabusa-2 has begun close fly-in of man-made crater

Hayabusa-2 has begun its fly-in of Ryugu to make its first close observation of the man-made crater it created on the asteroid’s surface on April 4.

The link takes you to the images downloaded in real time from the spacecraft’s navigation camera. New images appear approximately every thirty minutes. The approach has only just begun, so Ryugu remains somewhat small in the images. This will change as the day proceeds.

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April 25 set for Hayabusa-2’s first observations of artificial crater

The Hayabusa-2’s science team has scheduled their first observations of the artificial crater the spacecraft made on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu for April 25.

The probe will observe the crater, which was generated during an impact experiment on April 5, from a height of 1.7 kilometers. JAXA will collate the data with photographs of the surface taken near the impact point to measure the size and location of the crater. It will also examine the dispersion of rocks and judge whether Hayabusa2 can land to take samples.

This is only their first assessment. Once they feel comfortable about getting closer, they will then plan the spacecraft’s second touchdown and sample collection, this time hopefully from within that crater.

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Hayabusa-2’s successfully bombs Ryugu

impact on Ryugu

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe yesterday successfully impacted an explosive charge on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu, creating a crater for observing the interior geology.

The image to the right was taken by a camera that has separated from Hayabusa-2 and stayed closer to the impact. It shows material flying off the asteroid’s surface, at the horizon line.

Hayabusa-2 — which moved to the other side of the asteroid to stay clear of any ejecta — will next arc around and get close to this impact site to study it. They first need to make sure the ejecta has cleared.

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Hayabusa-2 to take close look at planned explosive impact point on Ryugu

Flight plan for Hayabusa-2's rehearsal

Beginning today Hayabusa-2 will do a two-day close approach of Ryugu in order to get good baseline images of the point on the surface where they will fire an explosive projectile in the first week in April. As they note:

Currently, we have scheduled the small carry-on impactor operation (SCI operation) for the first week in April. The purpose of the SCI operation is to create a crater on the surface of Ryugu, and it is important to be able to compare the asteroid surface before and after the SCI operation.

The graph on the right shows the flight plan. I expect they will do the same for this maneuver as they have done with previous close approaches, and provide real-time images as they happen.

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Toyota and JAXA to work together to build lunar rover

Capitalism in space? Toyota and and Japan’s space agency JAXA announced yesterday that they have signed an agreement to build lunar rover.

The rover “will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s”, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata told a symposium in Tokyo. “We aim to launch such a rover into space in 2029.”

The rover is still in the conceptual stage, but an illustration in the news release showed a six-wheel vehicle that somewhat resembled an armored personnel carrier.

A spokesman for Toyota, which plans to ramp up fuel-cell cars as a zero-emission alternative to gasoline vehicles, said the project would give the company a chance to test its technologies in the moon’s harsh environment and improve them. [emphasis mine]

Ten years to build a rover? That’s not capitalism, that’s a government jobs program whose only goal is to spend money and never accomplishes anything.

Japan continues to disappoint. Even as India and China forge ahead aggressively with new space technology and exciting projects, Japan seems unable to harness its considerable private resources to bring life to its aerospace industry. Their unmanned planetary program, as illustrated by Hayabusa-2, is right now having some success, but the pace of achievement has tended to be slow and laborious. This rover project seems to continue that trend.

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Hayabusa-2 to get close to Ryugu again to observe next touchdown point

Hayabusa-2’s engineering team has decided it will on March 8 do a close approach to within 75 feet of its next planned touchdown target site in order to inspect it.

The DO-S01 operation schedule is shown in Figure 2. The spacecraft will begin descending on March 7 at 13:27 (JST, onboard time: times below are stated similarly) at a speed of 0.4m/s. The speed will then be reduced to 0.1 m/s around 23:47 on the same day. Continuing descent at this rate, we will reach our lowest altitude at around 12:22 on March 8 and then immediately begin to rise. The altitude of this lowest point will be about 23m. Please note that the times stated here are the planned values but the actual operation times may differ.

As before, they will upload navigation images as this approach is happening.

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Confirmed: Hayabusa-2 grabbed got a sample of Ryugu

The Hayabusa-2 science team has confirmed that in the spacecraft’s quick touchdown on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu today it successfully snagged an asteroid sample.

Mission team members announced at about 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT) today that the order to fire the bullet had been issued, and that Hayabusa2 had moved away from Ryugu as planned. But it took a few more hours for them to confirm that the bullet had indeed fired, and that sample collection occurred.

…The collected samples are key to this objective: The Ryugu material will come down to Earth in a special return capsule in December 2020. Scientists in labs around the world can then scrutinize the stuff with far more advanced equipment than the Hayabusa2 team could pack onto a single spacecraft.

The sample bounty will include more than just the material Hayabusa2 collected today. The mothership is expected to grab two more samples in the coming weeks and months. The second sampling sortie will unfold much like today’s did, but the third will be dramatically different: Hayabusa2 will fire a copper projectile into Ryugu, wait a bit for the dust to clear, and then swoop in to grab material from the newly created crater. This formerly subsurface stuff will be pristine, unaffected by weathering from deep-space radiation.

More thrills to come, obviously.

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Hayabusa-2 has begun approach to Ryugu

Ryugu during approach

Hayabusa-2 has begun its approach to Ryugu, aiming for a quick touchdown and sample grab at approximately 7:06 pm (Eastern) tonight. The image at the right is the most recent taken during the approach.

The risks? From the Hayabusa-2 website:

Our original schedule planned for touchdown in late October of last year (2018). However, Ryugu was revealed as a boulder strewn landscape that extended across the entire surface, with no flat or wide-open regions. Before arriving at Ryugu, it was assumed there would be flat areas around 100 meters in size. But far than finding this, we have not even seen flat planes 30 meters across!

During the scheduled time for touchdown in late October, we did not touchdown but descended and dropped a target marker near the intended landing site. We were able to drop the target marker in almost the planned spot and afterwards we examined the vicinity of the target marker landing site in detail. Finally, the area denoted L08-E1 was selected as the place for touchdown.

From the first link above you can see approach images as they are downloaded today, about once every half hour.

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Hayabusa-2 prepares to land

Ryugu's northen hemisphere

The JAXA science team has released a set of images taken in January by Hayabusa-2 of its landing site on Ryugu, describing how those images helped map the region where touchdown will occur on February 22. The image on the right is one such image.

[It] shows a diagonally imaged photograph of Ryugu, captured by moving the spacecraft towards the direction of the north pole. The upper side of the image shows the north pole and reveals a landscape dominated with many large boulders. The white band extending to the left and right slightly below the center of the image is the equatorial ridge (Ryujin Ridge). The arrow tip marks the planned touchdown site and you can see this site is on the main ridge.

This is the first time we have images the northern hemisphere of Ryugu. In this observation, we acquired data on the equatorial region of Ryugu, the southern and northern hemisphere. Imaging the entire area is very important for creating accurate global shape models for Ryugu.

They should begin beaming images down of the landing approach sometime tomorrow, and will do so about every 30 minutes throughout the sequence.

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Hayabusa-2 to attempt asteroid landing on February 22

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, today announced that Hayabusa-2 will attempt a landing on the asteroid Ryugu on February 22.

The landing was delayed from October because of the unexpected roughness of Ryugu’s surface, which literally has no spot smooth enough and large enough for Hayabusa-2, as planned. This landing will therefore be attempted in one of two places that are almost large enough, but not quite. It thus carries some additional risks.

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Hayabusa-2 names features on Ryugu

The Hayabusa-2 science/engineering teams have now revealed the names they have given to all the significant features on Ryugu that they have photographed.

To name a place on a celestial body in the Solar System, you must first decide on a theme. For example, the theme for places on Venus is the “names of goddesses”. During discussions between the domestic and overseas project members, suggestions such as “names of castles around the world”, “word for ‘dragon’ in different languages” and the “names of deep-sea creatures” were proposed for the place name theme on Ryugu. After an intense debate, the theme was selected to be “names that appear in stories for children” and a theme proposal was put to the IAU WG. The proposal was accepted on September 25, after which the discussion moved to selecting the topographical features to be named and the choice of name.

The link provides a table describing the meaning of many of the names, which is often quite amusing. For example, Kolobok Crater comes from a Russian story about “A small round bread that ran away from home.”

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Japan’s Epsilon rocket launches seven engineering test satellites

The new colonial movement: Japan today used its Epsilon rocket, designed to cost less, to successfully launch seven engineering test satellites.

This was Epsilon’s fourth launch, and the first to launch one than one satellite in orbit.

The standings 2019 launch race:

1 China
1 SpaceX
1 Japan

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Hayabusa-2 to grab asteroid samples in February

The Hayabusa-2 science team has decided that it will make their first attempt to land and grab samples from the asteroid Ryugu in February.

“The time has finally come,” JAXA senior project member Takashi Kubota said at a news conference on Jan. 8. “Two candidate landing spots have their own advantages and drawbacks, but we will robustly try to collect samples.” The two sites are near the equator of the asteroid. JAXA said it will pick one by early February.

Between Feb. 18 and Feb. 23, the Hayabusa 2 will start descending from its “home position” at an altitude of 20 kilometers from the asteroid. JAXA will use “target markers,” which will be dropped on Ryugu beforehand, to guide the probe.

Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to make three touch-and-go landings.

There are clearly risks here, since the asteroid is strewn so completely with rocks and boulders.

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Japan quits global whaling regulatory body

Japan yesterday announced that it is quitting the International Whaling Commission, a global whaling regulatory body founded shortly after World War II to regulate commercial whaling that has instead in recent years attempted to ban all commercial whaling, except for favored native tribes in Russia and the Arctic.

The article’s last few paragraphs provide the real political background to this move by Japan:

An IWC-Japan divorce is the culmination of a wide ideological divide at the commission between ardent anti-whaling nations and countries seeking recognition of limited commercial whaling activities as legitimate. The anti-whaling forces have the upper hand, even though IWC’s expansion has seen more pro-whaling countries joining in recent years.

At the Brazil gathering, Japan had attempted to nudge the IWC toward reforms that would have potentially paved the way for a resumption of commercial whaling. The IWC was initially established to regulate whaling but has enforced an outright moratorium on commercial whaling operations since the 1980s in a desperate bid to prevent the extinction of several whale species. Many whale species have since recovered to a degree, but a few are still considered endangered.

Japan’s reform push was easily voted down. Instead, a majority of IWC members voted to have the commission turn its back on commercial whaling for good. That successful resolution also condemned Japan’s scientific whaling practices, widely regarded as a clandestine commercial operation as Japan’s whaling fleet takes hundreds of whales each year, with the meat ending up in grocery stores and restaurants.

IWC also approved subsistence whale hunts for Arctic aboriginal communities.

The large Japanese delegation at Brazil didn’t hide its frustration. The government accuses IWC members of hypocrisy for allowing culture exemptions from the moratorium for Alaskan and Russian native groups, but not for Japan and Scandinavian whaling cultures.

In other words, this commission has become increasingly political. Rather than focusing on protecting whale populations while allowing whaling by all parties, it has decided to pick and choose who can whale, and has decided to ban Japan while giving others the right to whale.

This political bias is not much different than what was seen at the Paris climate accords. Those agreements put odious restrictions on U.S. commercial activity, while putting no restrictions on China and others. It was this political bias, totally divorced from any sincere effort to reduce CO2 emissions, that prompted Trump to exit that agreement.

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BepiColombo begins first operational engine burn

The European/Japanese mission to Mercury has begun the first operational firing of its four ion engines, set to last for the next two months.

This might seem like a ridiculously long burn, since most conventional rocket engines fire for minutes, not months. These are ion engines, however, far more efficient but producing a very tiny acceleration. It takes a long time for their burns to accumulate a velocity change.

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Japan successfully sends small recoverable capsule back from ISS

Japan’s most recent cargo freighter to ISS, after undocking and beginning its de-orbit maneuvers, released a small recoverable capsule that was successfully recovered on Earth.

A capsule ejected from a space cargo vessel returned to Earth on Sunday, bringing back experiment samples from the International Space Station (ISS) in the first such mission for Japan.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the capsule, measuring 84 wide and 66 cm high, made a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific near the island of Minamitorishima early in the morning and was retrieved later in the day.

“I think we’ve succeeded almost as planned,” Hirohiko Uematsu, technology director of JAXA, told a press conference at the agency’s Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The last quote above suggests that the recovery was not entirely successful, but no details were provided. Regardless, this gives the users of ISS a second way to bring experiments back from the station, with SpaceX’s Dragon the first.

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Company focused on cleaning up space junk raises $50 million

Capitalism in space: Astroscale, a Japanese company with British ties, has raised $50 million in investment capital for developing a robot spacecraft for locating and removing space junk from orbit.

The company plans to use the funding to support several ongoing efforts, including the development of a technology demonstration satellite called ELSA-d. That spacecraft, scheduled for launch in early 2020 on a Soyuz rocket, will feature “target” and “chaser” satellites to demonstrate rendezvous and proximity operations. The target spacecraft is being built by British smallsat developer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. under a contract announced last November.

The funding will support scaling up an operations center Astroscale established in the United Kingdom in 2017 that also handles engineering, procurement and business development. Astroscale said it plans to establish an office in the United States in 2019.

The article notes also that much of this money comes from Japanese investors, including Mitsubishi, and reflects a growing interest in Japan in private commercial space.

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Oblique view of Hayabusa-2’s most recent landing rehearsal

Cool movie time! The Hayabusa-2 science team has released a small movie of images taken by a side-mounted camera of the spacecraft’s most recent landing rehearsal, showing the spacecraft ascend from its closest approach from an oblique angle.

I have embedded the movie from these images below the fold. As they note,

Images taken with the small monitor camera (CAM-H) during the Touchdown 1 Rehearsal 3 operation (TD1-R3). One image was captured every second from immediately after the spacecraft began to ascend (altitude 21m) on October 25, 2018 at 11:47 JST. The spacecraft was rising at about 52cm/s.

It appears the closest image was taken from about 21 meters away, about 65 feet, and gives a sense of scale. It also reveals once again how difficult that landing in January is going to be. Though this location is thought to be the smoothest spot on Ryugu, it is still littered with rocks that could cause problems.
» Read more

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