International Space Station Construction Began 20 Years Ago

Left: Launch of the Zarya Functional Cargo Block from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Right: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center on the STS-88 mission to deliver the Unity Node 1 module. (Credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.

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Hayabusa2 Rehearses Landings on 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)

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft spent the last several weeks rehearsing for a landing on asteroid Ryugu scheduled for early next year. JAXA’s status reports for the last three weeks are reproduced below.

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JAXA Returns Capsule With ISS Experiments Aboard

HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA has successfully recovered a capsule with experiments aboard from the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time.

The HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC) splashed down in the ocean under a parachute near the island of Minamitorishima. The experimental capsule separated from the HTV-7 (Kounotori) resupply ship after the latter separated from ISS. Kounotori burned up in Earth’s atmosphere as planned.

Cross section image of HSRC (Credit: JAXA)

“Towards the goal to acquire Japan’s first cargo recovery capacity from the ISS, the Small Re-entry Capsule will be demonstrating its guided lift flight capabilities that will enable the capsule to descent under reduced G-forces, as well as its heat protection capability of the ablator while its re-entry into the atmosphere,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said in a press release. “We expect that these efforts will lead to securing flexibility in our future space flight activities.”

HRSC provides another way to return experiments from the space station. SpaceX’s Dragon resupply ship is currently the only dedicated cargo vehicle that can return research. Russia’s crewed Soyuz vehicle has limited space available for experiments when there are three astronauts aboard.

HTV-7 carried approximately 6.2 metric tons of cargo to the space station. Supplies included new ISS batteries using Japanese Lithium-Ion batteries, large experiment racks provided by NASA and ESA,  three CubeSats and fresh food

Hayabusa2 Completes Asteroid Ryugu Landing Rehearsals

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — During the second touchdown rehearsal (TD1-R1-A), we captured a sequential set of images as the spacecraft reached the point of lowest altitude and then began to rise. The spacecraft reached the lowest altitude of 22.3m above the surface of Ryugu on October 15, 2018 at 22:44 JST. [Editor’s Note: Hayabusa2 has completed three landing rehearsals.]

The most promising candidate site for touchdown is L08-B and is also captured in these images (Figure 2). As you can see in Figure 2 and Figure 1, there are not any large boulders in L08-B, but there is a big cliff-like boulder in the upper right of Figure 2 so care is still needed.

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)

In the future, these images obtained during the rehearsals will be analyzed in more detail to aim for a safe touchdown.

Figure 3: Enlargement of the shadow of the spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

If you enlarge the shadow of the probe shown in Figure 2, you will see the following figure. The gap between the panels of the solar paddle is easily visible, as is the shape of the spacecraft and the two star trackers.

BepiColombo Blasts Off to Explore the Mysteries of Mercury

BepiColombo liftoff (Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana, 20 October 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the New Norcia ground tracking station at 02:21 GMT confirmed that the launch was successful.

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Video: An Overview of the BepiColumbo Mission to Mercury

Video Caption: BepiColombo is scheduled for launch at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Final assembly of the two orbiters and transfer module has taken place, ready for the spacecraft to be integrated into its Ariane 5 launcher.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.

JAXA Postpones Hayabusa2 Landing on Asteroid Ryugu

Image of Ryugu captured by the ONC-T at an altitude of about 64m. Image was taken on September 21, 2018 at around 13:04 JST.This is the highest resolution photograph obtained of the surface of Ryugu. Bottom left is a large boulder. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On the basis of the recent observations and operations in the vicinity of asteroid Ryugu by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, the project team have decided to postpone the touchdown (TD) from the end of October this year (2018) to after January next year.

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MASCOT Successfully Completes Exploration of Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1c (Credit : JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)
  • As planned, MASCOT was able to acquire data about the composition and texture of the asteroid at several locations.
  • Before the battery depleted, the lander sent all scientific data to the Hayabusa2 mothercraft.
  • New images from MASCOT’s landing on asteroid Ryugu were presented by DLR, JAXA and CNES today at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — It was a day full of exciting moments and a happy team of scientists and engineers: late in the afternoon of 3 October 2018, the German-French lander MASCOT completed its historic exploration of the surface of the asteroid Ryugu at 21:04 CEST, as its battery ran out.

On-asteroid operations were originally scheduled to last 16 hours after separation from the Japanese mothercraft Hayabusa2. But in the end, the battery lasted more than 17 hours.

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NASA Deepens International Space Cooperation

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BREMEN, Germany (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine took advantage of the global presence at the 2018 International Astronautical Congress to sign three new agreements, underpinning the agency’s continued commitment to international cooperation. The agreements, with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Japan, covered lunar exploration, X-ray astronomy and human space flight.

NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) agreed to cooperatively utilize the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s commercial lunar mission, expected to land on the Moon in 2019. NASA will contribute a laser retroreflector array to aid with ground tracking and Deep Space Network support to aid in mission communication. ISA and SpaceIL will share data with NASA from the SpaceIL lunar magnetometer installed aboard the spacecraft. The instrument, which was developed in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, will measure the magnetic field on and above the landing site.

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Images of MASCOT’s Descent to Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1c shows the MASCOT lander descending toward asteroid Ryugu. (Credit : JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The small asteroid lander, MASCOT, that was developed in Germany and France, was successfully separated from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft on October 3 and delivered safely to the surface of Ryugu. After landing, MASCOT acquired scientific data on the asteroid surface, which was transmitted to the MASCOT team via the spacecraft. Scientific analysis of this data is expected to be performed by the MASCOT team from now onwards.

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Japan, France & Germany to Study Martian Moon Rover & Sample Return

Martian moon Phobos

Joint Statement
By
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA),
The Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES),
and
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt e.V.,
Linder Höhe, 51147 Köln, represented by its Executive Board
(The German Aerospace Center DLR)
on
Joint Study Activities for a Rover onboard Martian Moon eXploration Mission (MMX)

 The DLR – CNES asteroid lander MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) onboard Hayabusa 2 is intended to land on the surface of asteroid Ryugu on October 3,2018. MASCOT will significantly enhance the mission’s science result through performing remote observation as well as surface composition analysis.

In the light of this success, JAXA, CNES, and DLR jointly declare their wish to cooperate on the MMX (Martian Moons eXploration) mission as follows:

MMX is a JAXA led mission to explore Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, aiming for observation, landing, and sample return.

JAXA, CNES, and DLR have agreed that the rover onboard MMX would be developed through French-German collaboration.

The rover would be released to the surface of Martian Moon prior to the landing of its mother ship, MMX. The rover is to analyze the surface regolith and configuration in great details to optimize the MMX landing and sample return operation. This process is expected not only to reduce the mission risk but also to achieve scientific result as the rover acquires surface data in advance of the physical sample return to the Earth.

While the MASCOT with primary batteries allows approximately 1-day of operation, the rover onboard MMX is to be powered by solar cell, which is to enable mobile surface observation that is expected to last for several months.

The scientific observation instrument to be onboard MMX will be determined in the aim of maximizing the outcome of MMX mission.

JAXA, CNES, and DLR are going to jointly conduct study activities for MMX and the rover with the aim for launch in 2024.

In witness hereof this Statement has been signed on October 3, 2018 at International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.

Hiroshi Yamakawa
President, JAXA

Jean-Yves Le Gall
President, CNES

Pascale Ehrenfreund
Chair of the Executive Board, DLR

Hansjörg Dittus
Member of the Executive Board, DLR

A Closer Look at Hayabusa2’s MASCOT Asteroid Lander

Left: Illustration of MASCOT separating from Hayabusa2. Right: Illustration of MASCOT landing on the surface of Ryugu. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) is the asteroid lander jointly developed by DLR (German Aerospace Center) and CNES (French National Center for Space Studies). MASCOT is stored on the -Y-plane side of Hayabusa2 (this is the left-hand side surface when the high gain antenna is at the head and the ion engine is at the spacecraft back) and deployed from this position (see Figure 1).
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MASCOT Lands Safely on Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 3: Left: Illustration of MASCOT separating from Hayabusa2. Right: Illustration of MASCOT landing on the surface of Ryugu. (Credit: JAXA)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, located approximately 300 million kilometres from Earth, has a new inhabitant: On 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) landed on the asteroid and began to work.

The lander successfully separated from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe at 03:58 CEST. The 16 hours in which the lander will conduct measurements on the asteroid’s surface have begun for the international team of engineers and scientists.
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Hayabusa2 Images Ryugu’s Surface at Highest Resolution Yet

Figure 1. Image of Ryugu captured by the ONC-T at an altitude of about 64m. Image was taken on September 21, 2018 at around 13:04 JST.This is the highest resolution photograph obtained of the surface of Ryugu. Bottom left is a large boulder. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — When Hayabusa2 descended towards Ryugu for the MINERVA-II1 deployment operation, the ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic) captured images at the highest resolution to date.

This next figure shows the location of Figure 1 on Ryugu.

Figure 2. Region of the highest resolution image. Yellow boxes correspond to the region in Figure 1. (Left) The region is shown on the ONC-T global image of Ryugu. (Right) ONC-W1 image, taken at 70 m height. 2018-09-21 13:02(JST). (Image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

Highest resolution image obtained by Hayabusa

Figure 3. High resolution image of the surface of asteroid Itokawa photographed by Hayabusa. “D” is taken from an altitude of 63m. It is thought that the so-called “Muses Sea” (official name “MUSES-C Regio”) is covered with a “gravel” of granules with diameters from a few mm to few cm. (From Yano et al, Science Vol 312 2, June 2006)

Amazing New Minerva Images & Video From the Surface of Asteroid Ryugu


Rover-1B successfully shot a movie. 15 frames captured on September 23, 2018 from 10:34 – 11:48 JST. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The MINERVA-II1 rovers were deployed on September 21 to explore the surface of asteroid Ryugu. Here is the second report on their activities, following our preliminary article at the start of this week. Above is a video taken by one of the rovers that shows the Sun moving across the sky as seen from the surface of Ryugu. Please take a moment to enjoy “standing” on this new world.

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