Hayabusa2 Set to Land on Asteroid Ryugu on Feb. 22

JAXA Hayabusa2 Mission Status Report
(Week of 2019.1.28)

Hayabusa2 returned to the home position (HP) on 1/31 from the BOX-B operation which observed the north pole of Ryugu. At the HP, we carried our regularly performed observations for one rotation period. The distance of the Sun from Ryugu varies from 0.96au to 1.42au (1 au is the average distance between the Sun and Earth, about 150 million km). The angle formed by the Sun, Ryugu and the Earth (equivalent to the SPE angle) also varies from 0 degrees (at the conjunction time) to a maximum of about 40 degrees.

Depending on the current solar distance and solar angle, the characteristics of the reflected sunlight observed by the ONC and the characteristics of the thermal radiation observed by the TIR vary. We therefore observe Ryugu regularly from the HP because it is helpful to acquire data under different observation conditions. The observations on 1/31 were particularly valuable as the Sun’s distance about 1.42 au (near aphelion: the furthest distance) while the SPE angle was 10.1°.

Due to the relative positions of the Sun, Earth and Ryugu, the operation start time at the Usuda ground station is now so early that it is before the first train in the morning! The person in charge of operations and “Commander-san” who is responsible for sending commands to the spacecraft, are not able to reach the campus in time, so we first started acquiring telemetry data only from the Usuda station. Then in Sagamihara, we began our command operations a little later. We call operations like this “ripuro-nyukan”, which indicates that the telemetry is received automatically at the beginning of the operation. It is helpful for extremely cold mornings…

JAXA Hayabusa2 Mission Status Report
(Week of 2019.1.21)

This week was the tour or “BOX-B” operation. Here, the spacecraft’s altitude is lowered from the Home Position (HP) by about 2km and shifted towards the north pole by about 9km. We moved slowly over several days, arriving on 1/24. In the previous BOX-B operation, we observed the south pole hemisphere of the asteroid, so this time we moved to observe the north pole region from above.

We stayed at that location for about 1 day to make scientific observations, after which a ΔV (acceleration) was performed and we are now returning to the HP (schedule to arrive at HP on 1/31). Observations were made with all scientific instruments; ONC, TIR, NIRS3 and LIDAR. Working with both the Goldstone and Madrid ground stations, as well as Usuda, we were able to acquire the observational data over the weekend. We also gathered additional valuable data, including a health check for the ONC and dark imaging from the TIR during the tour.

ESA Plans Mission to Smallest Asteroid Ever Visited

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS, 4 February 2019 (ESA PR) — ESA’s planet-defending Hera mission will set a new record in space. The asteroid investigator will not only be the first spacecraft to explore a binary asteroid system – the Didymos pair – but the smaller of these two worldlets, comparable in size to Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, will become the smallest asteroid ever visited.

From afar, one asteroid looks much like another, until comparing them directly. Checking the well-known scale chart prepared by the Planetary Society of all asteroid and comets so far surveyed by spacecraft and the larger Didymos asteroid would form a modest dot, with its smaller moonlet struggling to make a single pixel.


NASA Selects ULA’s Atlas V to Launch Lucy Mission to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

Centennial, Colo., Jan. 31, 2019 ULA PR) – NASA’s Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch the Lucy mission, which is the first mission to Jupiter’s swarm of Trojan asteroids. This award resulted from a competitive Launch Service Task Order evaluation under the NASA Launch Services II contract.


Locations Named on Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Place names for locations on the surface of Ryugu were discussed by Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (hereafter IAU WG) and approved in December 2018. We will introduce the place names in this article and the background to their selection.


Updates on JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Mission to Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 2: Image of the surface of Ryugu captured with the ONC-W1 at an altitude of about 47m. The image was taken on October 15, 2018 at 22:45 JST. The red circle indicates the candidate point for touchdown, L08-B. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

Hayabusa2 Status (2019.1.1 – 6)
Jan. 10, 2019

Our first Hayabusa2 operation of the year was carried out on 1/4. Based on observational data collected during the solar conjunction, we had recalculated the orbit of Ryugu. This recalculated orbit was used after returning from solar conjunction to resume the home position at an altitude of 20km above the asteroid surface. We were able to confirm that using this new orbit allows us to more stably maintain the home position.

Hayabusa2 status (2018.12.24 – 31)
Jan. 04, 2019

This week, Hayabusa2 returned perfectly from solar conjunction to hover back at the home position at 20km from the asteroid. Although this situation was similar to when we approached the asteroid in June, it was a tense operation as there was no room for mistakes.

However, the spacecraft was able to return to its orbit exactly as planned. New Year’s Eve on the 31st December was the last operation of the year. The distance to the asteroid could be measured once again with LIDAR and we returned to normal operations without any problems. The beginning of the New Year is a holiday in Japan, but full-scale operations will begin with adjustments for the 2019 touchdown operation.

Latest Updates From NASA on OSIRIS-REx’s Mission to Asteroid Bennu

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

January 14, 2019

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues to orbit Bennu at an altitude ranging from 1.6 to 2.1 km, with an orbital period of 61 hours. The spacecraft has completed 5.5 orbits of Bennu to date. The one-way communication time from the spacecraft back to Earth is around 5.5 minutes.

On the ground, the mission held its 14th Science Team Meeting at the University of Arizona last week. This was the first science team meeting since the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid, which means it was also the first gathering where the entire science team was able to work with detailed Bennu data from the spacecraft.

January 07, 2019

On Dec. 29 and 31, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed the two maneuvers required to enter orbit about Bennu. The accurate performance of these orbit insertion maneuvers, as well as the continued accurate navigation performance since orbit insertion, allowed for the wave-off of several planned updates to the spacecraft’s orbit determination (OD). The mission’s navigation team will continue to study OD performance over the first few weeks of spacecraft orbits to further refine and predict orbital operations – which will eventually allow the team to reduce the trim burn schedule.

The first orbit of Bennu, which started on Dec. 31, ended 61.4 hours later on Jan. 3. The spacecraft will continue orbiting the asteroid through mid-February.

Steam-Powered Asteroid Hoppers Developed through UCF Collaboration

By using steam rather than fuel, the World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore “forever,” as long as water and sufficiently low gravity is present. (Credit: UCF)

By using steam rather than fuel, the microwave-size spacecraft prototype
can theoretically explore celestial objects “forever.”

By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
University of Central Florida News

Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida.

UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.


CubeSats Joining Hera Mission to Asteroid System

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.


Deep Space Industries Acquired by Bradford Space

SAN JOSE, Calif., January 2, 2019 (Bradford Space PR) — Bradford Space, a U.S.-owned space systems manufacturer with locations in the Netherlands and Sweden, announced today that it has acquired control over Deep Space Industries, Inc., often known as DSI. In becoming part of the Bradford group, DSI will become Bradford’s first substantial U.S. presence, providing an outlet and location for activities in the U.S. space market.

Founded in 2012 as an ambitious effort to mine the resources of the asteroids, DSI has more recently become known for the production of the Comet water-based electrothermal propulsion system. Four Comet systems are currently on orbit on spacecraft operated by Capella Space and HawkEye 360. Other customers of DSI include LeoStella, a joint venture of Spaceflight and Thales Alenia Space, and the Space Flight Laboratory, a satellite development group inside the University of Toronto.


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Enters Close Orbit Around Bennu, Breaking Record

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

TUCSON (University of Arizona PR) — At 2:43 p.m. EST on December 31, while many on Earth prepared to welcome the New Year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) away, carried out a single, eight-second burn of its thrusters – and broke a space exploration record. The spacecraft entered into orbit around the asteroid Bennu, and made Bennu the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.


Japan’s AKARI Space Telescope Detects Water in a Number of Asteroids

Figure 1: An artist’s illustration of the near-infrared spectroscopic observation of asteroids with the infrared satellite AKARI. By using a space-borne telescope, the team was able to successfully detect the presence of water in many asteroids.

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Using the infrared satellite AKARI, a Japanese research team has detected the existence of water in the form of hydrated minerals in a number of asteroids for the first time. This discovery will contribute to our understanding of the distribution of water in our solar system, the evolution of asteroids, and the origin of water on Earth.


Holiday Asteroid Imaged with NASA Radar

These three radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 were obtained on Dec. 15-17, by coordinating observations with NASA’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 330-foot (100-meter) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NSF/GBO)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The December 2018 close approach by the large, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 has provided astronomers an outstanding opportunity to obtain detailed radar images of the surface and shape of the object and to improve the understanding of its orbit.

The asteroid will fly safely past Earth on Saturday, Dec. 22, at a distance of about 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers). This will be the asteroid’s closest approach in more than 400 years and the closest until 2070, when the asteroid will safely approach Earth slightly closer.