Category Archives: JAXA

Asteroid Ryugu

Wow, what a great look at asteroid Ryugu. If you would like to see a (much) larger version you can, thanks to and credit to DLR via ESA just click here for the hi-resolution version at ESA (193K) very much worth the click.

HAYABUSA 2 is proving to be an excellent adventure to an asteroid and back.

Original press release with links:

Asteroid Ryugu, an ancient space rock roughly 300 million km from Earth, is now home to three Earth-born inhabitants bouncing across its bouldery surface. In the early morning of 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) gently fell to the asteroid’s surface, joining its Japanese siblings, the MINERVA-II rovers1-A and 1-B.

This remarkable image was taken during MASCOT’s descent, 3.5 minutes after separation from its parentship and 20 metres from its final resting place. At the top right, MASCOT’s fuzzy shadow can be seen, standing out next to the sharp detail of Ryugu’s puckered surface.

Developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with the French space agency CNES, MASCOT was originally thought to have enough power to explore the mile-long rock for just 12 hours. However, the adventurous box delighted its team when it inspected Ryugu’s surface for more than 17 hours, making an extra bounce and sending all the data collected back to the mothership, Hayabusa2.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left Earth in December 2014, carrying four small rovers designed to investigate Ryugu’s surface. Each fell freely to the surface under the asteroid’s weak gravity, bouncing on arrival and immediately collecting data on their strange new world.

The spacecraft is expected to return 3 samples to Earth in December 2020 from varying parts of the ancient asteroid. With these specimens, scientists on Earth hope to learn about the composition of carbonaceous asteroids like Ryugu — a type of space rock expected to preserve some of the most pristine materials in the Solar System.

This class of asteroid also has members who at times come too close to Earth for comfort, near-Earth objects (NEOs). It is hoped that Hayabusa’s incredible mission will shed light on these marauding masses which could come in handy if we one day need to defend ourselves from them.

Undoubtedly, Hayabusa’s insights into this giant pile of space rubble will prove useful to the teams involved in ESA’s ambitious proposed mission to test asteroid deflection, Hera — in particular, understanding the low gravity environment of these unique solar system bodies.

A Selfie Shadow

Now THAT is a selfie, even if it is a shadow.  Even the surface of asteroid Ryugu is a pretty amazing image but add in the shadow – Wow!

Image: JAXA via ESA

Original caption:    On 21 September 2018, 280 million km from Earth, a roughly 1.5 square-metre cube descended towards a primitive space rock. After years of planning and 4 years in flight, this tiny spacecraft captured this ‘shadow selfie’ as it closed in on asteroid Ryugu, just 80 metres from the remnant of our Solar System’s formation, 4.6 billion years ago.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is operated by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), supported in part by ESA’s Estrack Malargüe deep-space tracking station. The spacecraft carries four small landers that will investigate the asteroid’s surface, all four designed to gently fall onto the surface of the rocky boulder, taking advantage of its low gravity environment.

Around the time this remarkable picture was taken, the spacecraft released its two MINERVA-II1 rovers which have since successfully landed and demonstrated an ability to hop around this rock-strewn body.

“I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realize mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid” enthused Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2 Project Project Manager, “I am proud that Hayabusa2 was able to contribute to the creation of this technology for a new method of space exploration by surface movement on small bodies.”

The next stage will see the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander released onto the asteroid’s surface. Developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with the French Space Agency (CNES) MASCOT has enough power for a 12-hour mission, in which it will analyse the asteroid’s surface at two different sites.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft itself will collect three samples from Ryugu, bringing them back to Earth in December 2020. These strange specimens will provide insights into the composition of this carbonaceous asteroid — a type of space rock expected to preserve some of the most pristine materials in the Solar System.

As well as hopefully shining light on the origin and evolution of the inner planets, and the sources of water and organic compounds on Earth, this knowledge should help in efforts to protect our planet from marauding masses that come too close for comfort to our home planet.

Understanding the composition and characteristics of near-Earth objects is vital to defending ourselves from them, if one were to head in our direction. ESA’s proposed Hera mission to test asteroid deflection is an ambitious example of how we can get to know these ancient bodies better, all in the name of planetary defence.

JAXA Sees Asteroid Ryugu Up Close

JAXA shows us the very unique shape of Asteroid Ryugu. The image was taken from JAXA’s Hayabusa2 using the ONC-T (Optical Navigation Camera). Image Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST

The range from spacecraft to asteroid was only 40 km / 25 miles on 24 June 2018.

The caption from JAXA (Project Manager, Yuichi Tsuda): The shape of Ryugu is now revealed. From a distance, Ryugu initially appeared round, then gradually turned into a square before becoming a beautiful shape similar to fluorite [known as the ‘firefly stone’ in Japanese]. Now, craters are visible, rocks are visible and the geographical features are seen to vary from place to place. This form of Ryugu is scientifically surprising and also poses a few engineering challenges.

First of all, the rotation axis of the asteroid is perpendicular to the orbit. This fact increases the degrees of freedom for landing and the rover decent operations. On the other hand, there is a peak in the vicinity of the equator and a number of large craters, which makes the selection of the landing points both interesting and difficult. Globally, the asteroid also has a shape like fluorite (or maybe an abacus bead?). This means we expect the direction of the gravitational force on the wide areas of the asteroid surface to not point directly down. We therefore need a detailed investigation of these properties to formulate our future operation plans.

The Project Team is fascinated by the appearance of Ryugu and morale is rising at the prospect of this challenge. Together with all of you, we have become the first eyewitnesses to see asteroid Ryugu. I feel this amazing honor as we proceed with the mission operations.

Launch Day for JAXA

JAXA the Japanese Space Agency is going to launch its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 at 8:26 a.m. EST / 13:26 UTC.

About the mission:
Loaded with more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – will set sail on a four-day flight to the station. Also aboard the resupply vehicle are six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates that will replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of spacewalks currently scheduled in January.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft and install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.
– NASA

AKATSUKI Gets to Venus

jaxavenus

The AKATSUKI spacecraft reaches Venus. Congratulations JAXA!

The JAXA press release:

As a result of measuring and calculating the AKATSUKI’s orbit after its thrust ejection on Dec. 7, JAXA found that the AKATSUKI was inserted into the Venus orbit. We have already received images from three instruments whose function has already been confirmed, namely the Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), the Longwave IR camera (LIR), and the 1μm camera (IR1). We will check the function of the three other scientific mission instruments and perform initial observation for about three months while gradual… read the rest

Image: JAXA