Emily Lakdawalla • May 08, 2015
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!
Thanks to Junya Terazono for the news tip and to Paolo for the link to the news story.
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