Emily LakdawallaAug 31, 2014

Hayabusa2 complete, ready to begin its journey to asteroid 1999 JU3

The excitement is building for Hayabusa2! The spacecraft is now complete and ready to be shipped to its launch site. JAXA unveiled its next interplanetary traveler to the media in a special event on August 31. Soon the spacecraft will begin its journey to asteroid 1999 JU3 by departing JAXA's Samagihara spacecraft assembly facility for the Tanegashima Space Center. Launch is planned for December.

Here's a photo of the spacecraft, shared by Japanese space blogger Koumei Shibata on Twitter:

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft Image: Koumei Shibata

Hayabusa2 is very similar to its predecessor, but there a few differences clearly visible from the outside. The most obvious difference is the switch to two high-gain antennas (one each in Ka- and X-band). You can also see the stowed solar panels and the four ion engines. Looking at the spacecraft from the side:

Side view of Hayabusa2
Side view of Hayabusa2 Image: Koumei Shibata

The ion engines are similar to Hayabusa's, but produce more thrust (10 millinewtons as opposed to 8 millinewtons). In this view you can also see the steerable X-band medium-gain antenna on the top deck of the spacecraft (it looks like a gold ball with a black horn angled to the right). You can also see a bunch of little nozzles at corners and edges of the spacecraft, all part of the reaction control system (that is, the maneuvering rockets). There are 12 in total, one at each corner and four on edges. Here's a closeup on one of those little guys:

One of Hayabusa2's ion engines
One of Hayabusa2's ion engines Image: Koumei Shibata

A closer look at an ion engine, which has a "remove before flight" cap on. I'm not sure what the square thing is with the lens cap that says "non flight item" on it.

Closer look at an ion engine
Closer look at an ion engine Image: Koumei Shibata

Here's a view of the opposite face:

Opposite face of Hayabusa2
Opposite face of Hayabusa2 Image: Koumei Shibata

The two objects with red "remove before flight" covers are the star trackers. The hemispherical object is the sample return capsule. The large gray box next to the sample return capsule is the near-infrared spectrometer. The black box below right of the sample return capsule is the laser altimeter. Here's a slightly different perspective on the near-infrared spectrometer and sample return capsule:

Hayabusa2 near-infrared spectrometer and sample return capsule
Hayabusa2 near-infrared spectrometer and sample return capsule Image: Koumei Shibata

Here's a view of the sampling horn in its stowed configuration:

Hayabusa2 sampling arm (stowed)
Hayabusa2 sampling arm (stowed) Image: Koumei Shibata

And here's a close-up of the top deck:

Hayabusa2 top deck
Hayabusa2 top deck Image: Koumei Shibata

The little mushroom cap between the two high-gain antennas is the X-band low-gain antenna. The little blue thing is DCAM3, a deployable camera that will hopefully take pictures of the explosion and impact of Hayabusa's "Small Carry-on Impactor" while the mothership hides safely in the shadow of the asteroid.

Here's a view of the development test model of the MASCOT lander; the flight one is already attached to the spacecraft (to the bottom, I presume).

If that's not enough photos for you, check out this gallery from the Asahi Shimbun website, or a video from Nikkei.com.

And another photographer, Hiromitsu Uesaka, has tweeted his gallery of images. Enjoy: wide view from observation deck - closeup from observation deck - low perspective on ion engine face - side view of sample return capsule face - side view of ion engine face - closeup on ion engines - closeup on sample return capsule face - closeup on sample return capsule - closeup on star trackers - another wide view from observation deck - another close view from observation deck - even closer view from observation deck (focus on DCAM3) - side view with engineer for scale

I don't pay too much attention to missions until they're ready for launch. So today is really the first time I've read much about Hayabusa2, and I am just amazed by its audaciousness. Its profile is much like its predecessor's: it'll rendezvous with an asteroid, collect a sample, and return to Earth. But they plan to do so much more at the asteroid than Hayabusa (which I suppose I now need to refer to retroactively as Hayabusa 1) did. Hayabusa2 will deploy one of five target markers that it will use to guide itself into landing and collecting a sample. It will deploy a European-built lander named MASCOT and three (count them, three) "rovers" called MINERVA-II. I put "rovers" in quotes because I think these are not wheeled rovers but rather bouncy hoppers like Hayabusa1's MINERVA (which was deployed but sadly missed Itokawa). Then it will do an experiment like Deep Impact's, releasing an impactor to make a crater on the asteroid's surface. But because Hayabusa2's impactor won't have much kinetic energy, they made it explosive. The mothership will have to hide in the shadow of the asteorid as the explosion happens, so they have also added the deployable DCAM3 to try to get a view of the crater's formation.

Here's a cool video summarizing just the sampling part of the mission:

This content is hosted by a third party (youtube.com), which uses marketing cookies. Please accept marketing cookies to watch this video.

Animation of Hayabusa2 sampling 1999 JU3 Video: JAXA

In the video you can see that, once the crater is formed, they'll descent to take a second sample, transfer it to the sample return capsule, and return it to Earth. So you have a spacecraft; sample return capsule; lander; 3 rovers; 5 target markers; deployable camera; and an impactor. Add up all of those items and the five target markers that Hayabusa2 carries in order to help guide it to its sampling touchdowns, and I get 13 distinct and inedependently operating spacecraft. That's not a spacecraft, it's a colony!

You can read more about Hayabusa2 in this presentation given by Paul Abell to the most recent Small Bodies Advisory Group meeting, or this one by Hitoshi Kuninaka given to the 10th IAA International Conference on Low-Cost Planetary Missions last year. Or follow Koumei Shibata or Avell Shinnosuke on Twitter! Now that the spacecraft is ready for launch I'll be paying much closer attention to this mission. I'll update you whenever I hear news!

Hayabusa2 at Asteroid
Hayabusa2 at Asteroid Hayabusa2 will arrive at an asteroid in 2018 to investigate it for one and half years, before returning to Earth in 2020.Image: JAXA / Akihiro Ikeshita

The Planetary Fund

Your support powers our mission to explore worlds, find life, and defend Earth. Give today!