Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout is set for deployment from Japan’s Hayabusa2.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 asteroid probe is set to deploy on October 3 the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout). MASCOT will join two previously deployed devices; the MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1A and 1B.

MASCOT is a mobile box-shaped landing device measuring 30 x 30 x 20 centimeters and weighing approximately 22 pounds (10 kilograms). The lander was built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt; DLR) in collaboration with the French space agency, CNES.

The lander accommodates four scientific instruments designed to study the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in detail.

Swing-arm

Christian Grimm of DLR’s Institute of Space Systems in the Department of Exploration Systems works with colleagues on MASCOT.
Credit: DLR

MASCOT includes a mechanism that enables movement on the asteroid surface – a swing-arm, made out of tungsten, which is accelerated and decelerated by a motor. That action causes the whole system to swing, so that MASCOT can move by ‘jumping’ and thus maneuver itself into the position required to conduct experiments.

MASCOT’s battery is sufficient for 16 hours of operating time. However, the actual operating time depends on the temperature and actual power consumption on site. During this time, Ryugu will go through about two full asteroid day-and-night cycles.

Pre-launch photo of MASCOT being placed on Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid probe.
Credit: DLR

Free-fall

MASCOT will be let loose by Hayabusa2, pushed out of its holding device by means of a spring mechanism behind a push-off plate.

The lander will free-fall from a height of roughly 200 feet (60 meters), at the falling speed of a sheet of paper, touching down on Ryugu after approximately 15 minutes. The hardware is expected to bounce at least once or several times over the surface. The final landing site and orientation are therefore uncertain.

In order to carry out the experiments, an ‘upright’ position is required: In order for MASCOT to be able to work, the on-board computer is informed of the orientation data by means of position sensors. The swing arm is then activated, making MASCOT change position if necessary, ensuring that it is in the correct position.

As Japan’s Hayabusa2 descended towards Ryugu to deploy the MINERVA-II1 rovers, a camera onboard the asteroid explorer snapped the highest resolution image yet of the space rock’s surface!
Credit: JAXA

Due to long signal propagation times to Earth, intervention from the ground station is not possible, meaning that all actions are autonomously carried out by MASCOT.

Go to this informative DLR video for more information on MASCOT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H4aZX_8hMA

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