Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators

 

The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 is in “home position” at 12 miles (20 kilometers) away from asteroid Ryugu.

Hayabusa2 has been confirming instrument operations in preparation for future observations. New images have shown the results of part of this rehearsal observation, notes the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).

As the asteroid has rotated, Hayabusa2 imagery almost reveals back-to-back sides of the object.

Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators

Surface scout

Meanwhile, first signals have been received from the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), an asteroid lander soon to be deployed onto the space rock. The team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) MASCOT Control Center in Cologne received the first signals from the German-French asteroid lander.

“Now begins the period of intensive landing preparations, because we can only intervene to a limited extent during the landing,” says MASCOT Ground Segment and Operations Manager Christian Krause from the DLR Microgravity User Support Center.

Landing sequences

Since the launch of Hayabusa2 on December 3, 2014, the researchers have, together with JAXA, been working through and refining the landing sequences and instrument calibrations with a ground model. For the most part, they have had to work without much information about the asteroid and make broad assumptions about the surface conditions and reflectivity which they can now adapt and refine, explains a DLR press statement. MASCOT is targeted for an October deployment.

Artwork shows MASCOT jumper on asteroid’s surface.
Credit: German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR)

Four instruments are installed inside the 30 × 30 × 20 centimeter lander. It weighs only 22 pounds (10 kilograms).

Jumping maneuvers

The mineralogical and geological composition of the asteroid surface will be investigated and the surface temperature and magnetic field of the asteroid determined by means of a radiometer and a camera from DLR, a spectrometer from the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale and a magnetometer from TU Braunschweig.

MASCOT will receive the necessary kinetic energy for its “jumping” maneuvers on the asteroid’s surface via a built-in swing arm. Programmed “jumps” of up to 230 feet (70 meters) are slated in order to perform measurements at various points on the asteroid’s surface.

The ambitious Hayabussa2 project involves 18 months of asteroid study, including touch-and-go landings to snag samples of the object for return to Earth.

For more information on this impressive and record-setting mission, go to:

http://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/hayabusa2/

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