Hayabusa update: a little east of Pollux
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla
12-04-2010 11:45 CDT
Word from JAXA is that Hayabusa's approach is going well. The first of what will be five trajectory correction maneuvers (TCMs) is "successfully completed," according to an update posted today to the JAXA website. The TCMs take time to accomplish because they're being performed using low-thrust ion engines, so JAXA is getting help from NASA's Deep Space Network to perform round-the-clock tracking of the spacecraft. The first three TCMs point Hayabusa off Earth's limb; only at TCM-3 will the spacecraft be turned toward Earth's surface.
As Hayabusa approaches Earth, he will eventually be visible to observers. Through April and May, he'll appear to be mostly stationary, poised a little to the east of the bright star Pollux.