Credit: JAXA

 

Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer is soon to dispatch a new robot onto space rock of ages, Ryugu.

The spacecraft is slated to unload the roughly 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) Minerva-II2 next month – a device equipped with a camera, thermometer, photodiode, and accelerometer.

Minerva is short for MIcro-Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid.

Credit: JAXA

This mobile robot was fabricated by a university consortium led by Tohoku University, co-developed with Tokyo Denki University, Osaka University, Yamagata University, and the Tokyo University of Science.

Hop and move

The MINERVA-II2 (Rover-2) exploration robot is designed to use various mobility techniques to hop and move across the asteroid’s surface.

Credit: JAXA

 

On launch back in early December 2014, Hayabusa2 was outfitted with four rovers: the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), Rover-1A, Rover-1B, and Rover-2. Since its rendezvous with asteroid Ryugu in June 2018, the spacecraft has successfully deployed all but Rover-2, still mounted in a container onboard the Japanese asteroid probe.

 

Target markers

As prelude to the release of Rover-2 in October, two target markers have already been dispatched to the asteroid. This target marker activity on September 17 served as a rehearsal for the separation operation of the Minerva-II2 Rover-2.

First of two target markers makes its way to asteroid Ryugu.
Credit: JAXA

Target marker 2 en route to space rock.
Credit: JAXA

If all continues to go as planned, Hayabusa2 is slated for departure from the asteroid at year’s end, headed for return to Earth of asteroid specimens the pioneering probe has gathered at the end of 2020.

This spacecraft mission is under the direction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

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