Japan’s Hayabusa2 Blasts Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After billions of years of being bombarded by cosmic debris, the Earth finally struck back on Friday.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft bombed the asteroid Ryugu in an ambitious attempt to collect samples from beneath the rocky world’s surface. JAXA has confirmed that the orbiter is safe and sound following the operation. The space agency is still downloading images and data acquired during the operation.

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Earth Strikes Back: Hayabusa2 Prepares to Blast the Bejesus Out of Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For billions of years, the surface of the Earth has been bombarded by unwanted cosmic visitors. Meteors, comets and asteroids have blasted massive holes in the surface of our planet, resulting in catastrophic climate change, mass extinctions and, according to one theory, the moon itself.

Early next month, the Earth will finally strike back. Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft is preparing to bomb the asteroid Ryugu to obtain a sample from beneath the world’s rocky surface.

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Hayabusa2 Status Reports From JAXA

Figure 2: Touchdown image overlapped with the planned touchdown site. The white dot at the end of the arrow is the target marker. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

Status Reports From Asteroid Ryugu
Courtesy of JAXA

Hayabusa2 Status (Week of 2019.3.4)

This week, we conducted the “Descent Observation” operation (DO-S01) from 3/6 to 3/8 in order to observe a future touchdown candidate site (S01) in detail. This was the first descent to an altitude of 22m since the 2/22 touchdown. In the first half of the week, we adjusted the pressure of the RCS (thrusters) and found them to be in good condition.

As the Optical Navigation Camera (ONC-W1) appeared to be dusty from the previous touchdown, we did not know if there would be any issues during this descent with the camera or other instruments that we would have to deal with. Luckily, all devices worked normally and we obtained detailed data of S01. The spacecraft returned to the home poison on 3/9 and we are now preparing for the next “crater search” operation (CRA1).

Hayabusa2 status (Week of 2019.2.25)

Immediately after returning to the “home position” at a 20km altitude after the TD1-L08E operation on 2/23, we began a BOX-C operation in which the spacecraft descends to an altitude of about 5km. As one of the observations in this this operation, we observed around the Otohime boulder.

We also downloaded the data obtained by the last touchdown operation (TD1-L08E) and from this BOX-C operation, as well as checking the health of the bus equipment for next week’s “Descent Observation” operation (DO-S01). We had many days of bad weather, and the operation time at the Usuda station was shortened due to wet snow in a late winter. Despite this, we managed many operations in a short time. The spacecraft began to rise back towards the home position on 3/1.

Hayabusa2 Captures Amazing Images From Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1: Image captured near the touchdown site immediately after touchdown. The photograph was taken with the Optical Navigation Camera – Wide angle (ONC-W1) on February 22, 2019 at an onboard time of around 07:30 JST. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — From February 20 to 22, we conducted the touchdown operation (TD1-L8E1) of Hayabusa2 on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. Figure 1 shows an image taken with the Optical Navigation Camera – Wide angle (ONC-W1) during the spacecraft ascent after touchdown.

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Hayabusa2 Lands on Asteroid Ryugu, Fires Projectile to Collect Sample

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) executed the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 operation to touch down the surface of the target asteroid Ryugu for sample retrieval.

Data analysis from Hayabusa2 confirms that the sequence of operation proceeded, including shooting a projectile into the asteroid to collect its sample material. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is in nominal state. This marks the Hayabusa2 successful touchdown on Ryugu.

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.

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.

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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.

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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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.

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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