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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Japan Space Agency Readies Another Asteroid Probe Mission

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), plans are afoot to do a one-up on the highly successful Hayabusa space mission which grabbed samples from the Itokawa asteroid and returned to earth back in 2010.

For this new mission, a newly designed spacecraft - NEC Corporation of Tokyo had earlier this year announced it had begun designing a new asteroid explorer spacecraft - dubbed the Hayabusa 2, will check out another asteroid.

According to initial plans, the Hayabusa 2 will launch in July 2014, and arrive at the asteroid in 2018. It will, during its 1-1/2 year long survey it, drop two landers onto the surface of asteroid 162173 1999 JU3 (spectral type C), blast it with an impactor explosive device to find fresh asteroid surface material and when departing in December of 2019, it will arrive back on Earth with the samples in December 2020.

The point of the mission is to get more clues as to the origins of the Universe. 

Here's some more information on the whole Hayabusa 2 mission: HERE

Plans from NEC indicate it will be a 1,300-pound spacecraft with a Ka-band communications system and an intermediate infrared camera. NEC was the builder of the original Hayabusa probe, so they know what they are doing. Other improvements on the Hayabusa 2, according to NEC, will be more durable ion engines, an upgrade on the guidance and navigation technology, and new antennas and attitude control systems.

Compiled by Andrew Joseph

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