“Horning in” on an asteroid. Sampler horn will be used to gather up space rock material.
Credit: JAXA/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Japan’s Hayabusa2 continues to make progress in preparing for its first touchdown (TD1) on asteroid Ryugu, planned for the week of February 18.

A backup week is March 4.

Newly posted status reports from the Hayabusa2 team explain that a prolonged injection test of the spacecraft’s thrusters has been conducted. This test is in connection with deploying the small carry-on impactor (SCI) that will create a crater on the space rock.

Following the small carry-on impactor (SCI) explosion, Hayabusa2 will sample the crater.
Credit: JAXA/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Seek and hide

After separating the impactor in the SCI operation, Hayabusa2 needs to swiftly hide behind the asteroid to avoid flying debris generated by the SCI explosion.

The recent test checked whether attitude control and the reaction control system (RCS) subsystem functions worked as expected under a strong disturbance that is not usually experienced.

Although the test was run for about half the final injection time, both the attitude control and RCS subsystem worked almost as expected, the Hayabusa2 controllers report, and they acquired valuable data for the actual SCI operation.

Hayabusa2 sampler arm operations.
Credit: JAXA/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Sampler horn

In addition, there’s also been an appraisal of the vibration the sampler horn may encounter.

This vibration test was to confirm that Hayabusa2 will not perform an emergency escape if it incorrectly detects the vibration of the sampler before landing.

With solar conjunction and the New Year holiday now over, Hayabusa2 operations have begun to ramp up.

First was the tour operation, moving Hayabusa2 to a region (so-called BOX-B) that is shifted slightly from the usual home position of the spacecraft – (so-called BOX-A).

A series of scientific observations were carried out, with the Sun directly behind the spacecraft.

From the Hayabusa2 team: “Let’s safely land! Hayabusa2 is working hard to realize the hope of the New Year after a refreshing rest!”

Go to this Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)-supplied video for a perspective on the upcoming touchdown operations:

https://youtu.be/OR-vN1xyfF0?list=PLCQJJ3lTBuyCtMDbvkQcg4fb7yAHheqyN

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