Ion engine propulsion unit on Hayabusa2, shown in pre-launch photo.
Credit: JAXA



Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer is homeward bound, a cruise phase back to Earth nudged by ion engine propulsion.

Hayabusa2 operators report that an ion engine test operation has ended.

“This trial run has not had any problems and the preparations for the ion engine operation during the cruise phase of the return journey are complete,” a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tweet explains.

Hayabusa2 controllers applaud the asteroid explorer’s departure back to Earth.
Credit: Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)/JAXA

Ion engine operation for the Earth return cruise operation will start on December 3.

“We are finally beginning full-scale return operations,” a JAXA tweet adds. “Incidentally, December 3 is also the 5th anniversary of the launch of Hayabusa2!”



Earlier, JAXA confirmed that Hayabusa2 left the target asteroid Ryugu on November 13, 2019 utilizing chemical propulsion thrusters for the spacecraft’s orbit control.

Credit: JAXA

At the end of 2020, Hayabusa2 plans to return to the Earth with the samples collected from asteroid Ryugu.


JAXA is currently working with the Australian Government to support the recovery of the Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule in late 2020 at the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) located in the outback desert of South Australia.

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