UPDATE: A successful launch! Look for a launch wrapup post tomorrow.
- Part I - launch - 12:25-13:40 JST (03:25-04:40 UTC / 19:25-20:40 PST)
- Part II - separation - 14:55-15:25 JST (05:55-06:25 UTC / 21:55-22:25 PST)
Hayabusa2's H-IIA rocket has just reached its launchpad! Japan's next asteroid sample return mission was supposed to launch this weekend, but weather has not been good at the Tanegashima launch site and it has been delayed four days already. The current launch date and time is December 3 at 04:22 UT (13:22 JST, or December 2 at 20:22, PT). There may be a live webcast available here, and as usual, Spaceflightnow.com will be providing live text and hopefully video updates. I also suggest the NASASpaceflight.com forumas an excellent place to look for screen caps of launch milestones. That's where I found this video of the launch rollout, all 32 minutes of it:
The main engine of the H-IIA rocket will burn for only about six and a half minutes, and the second stage's first firing will be complete after 11 minutes. Then the spacecraft coasts in orbit for about an hour and a half before firing again. An hour and 47 minutes after the launch (15:09 JST / 06:09 UT / 22:09 PT), Hayabusa2 will separate from the launcher and begin its journey to 1999 JU3. (I suspect that the asteroid will get a more colloquial name after a successful Hayabusa launch, as Itokawa did in 2003, but until then, it's just 1999 JU3.) After Hayabusa2 departs, three more mini-satellites will push off: Shin-en 2, ARTSAT2-DESPATCH, and PROCYON. One more mini-spacecraft, the MASCOT lander built by French and German space agencies CNES and DLR, will remain attached to Hayabusa2. Here is a detailed timeline of today's events:
|Solid rocket burnout||00:01:39||20:23:43||04:23:43||13:23:43|
|Solid rocket separation||00:01:48||20:23:52||04:23:52||13:23:52|
|First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)||00:06:36||20:28:40||04:28:40||13:28:40|
|Second stage engine start||00:06:50||20:28:54||04:28:54||13:28:54|
|Second stage engine stop (SECO1)||00:11:18||20:33:22||04:33:22||13:33:22|
|Second stage engine 2nd start||01:39:23||22:01:27||06:01:27||15:01:27|
|Second stage engine 2nd cutoff (SECO2)||01:43:24||22:05:28||06:05:28||15:05:28|
|Shin-en 2 2 separation||01:53:55||22:15:59||06:15:59||15:15:59|
Shin-en 2 is a student-built ultralight satellite carrying an amateur radio transponder; ARTSAT is a 3D-printed sculpture containing a computer that will generate and transmit poetry to Earth; and PROCYON is a microsatellite that will return to Earth for a gravity assist in 2015 that will send it on to a near-Earth asteroid flyby, the target of which has yet to be selected.
While we're tapping our feet through the two hours after launch, you might check out these cute Hayabusa2 manga from artist Go Miyazaki: "Departure" in English or Japanese, and "Hayabusa2 and MASCOT" in English or Japanese. (The English versions preserve the read order of the original Japanese manga format, which means you start with the upper right panel and read down, then shift left.) I printed these out and gave them to my daughters to color! Or you can watch this 12-minute video giving an overview of Hayabusa2 and how it differs from the first Hayabusa:
Go H-IIA! Go Hayabusa2! On Shin-en, on ARTSAT, on PROCYON and MASCOT! On Donner and Blitzen and....wait.