Due to ion engine failure, PROCYON will not fly by an asteroid
It's been less than a month since the PROCYON mission announced their plans to fly by asteroid 2000 DP107, but sadly, the flyby is not going to happen. The ion engines ceased working in mid-March; my last update talked about their plans for troubleshooting. Today, reports in Japanese media indicate that these efforts were not successful, so they will not be able to change their course to fly past 2000 DP107. They think that a tiny metal fragment wandered into the space between the two electrical grids used for accelerating the ionized fuel, preventing the engine from working properly. The same report does say that the spacecraft is still functioning, and they'll continue to use it to test out its miniaturized equipment in operation in deep space.
It was a super-mini deep-space mission, so it's not surprising that it ran into challenges, but it's still sad to have lost the opportunity for an asteroid flyby. Better luck next time!
PROCYON (PRoximate Object Close flYby with Optical Navigation) is a 50 kg-class microsatellite developed by the University of Tokyo (UT) and JAXA/ISAS (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency/Institute of Space and Astronautical Science). Launched with Hayabusa2, its goal is to perform a close flyby of an asteroid in early 2016.
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