Return and Recovery Plan for Hayabusa2 Sample Return Capsule

Hayabusa-2 spacecraft (Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita / JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — This report concerns the current status of the return and recovery plan of the Hayabusa2 sample return capsule.

At the end of 2020, Hayabusa2 plans to return to the Earth with the samples collected from asteroid Ryugu. As with the recovery of the first Hayabusa in 2010, JAXA is currently working with the Australian Government to support the recovery of the Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule in 2020 at the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) located in the outback desert of South Australia.

Chronology

November 2018: The Hayabusa2 Project and the Australian Government signed an agreement to carry-out preparatory work for the capsule recovery at WPA.

December 2018: The recovery site is an Australian Government prohibited area and is not accessible to the public. As part of the preparatory work, a field survey of the proposed recovery site in the WPA was conducted with permission from the Australian Government. This preparatory work confirmed the suitability of both the proposed recovery site and the candidate site for the antenna station that will search for the capsule.

August 2019: JAXA is now able to release the information about its planning and proposed arrangements with the Australian Government for the re-entry of the Hayabusa2 capsule.

Capsule recovery plan

Unlike the Hayabusa spacecraft that entered the Earth’s atmosphere, Hayabusa2 plans to make an escape maneuver after the separation of the capsule. The capsule will return to the ground.

Hayabusa2’s capsule recover plan is currently being discussed with the Australian Government.

Future plans

Authorisation from the Australian Government under the Space Activities Act 1998 is required to finalise the return and recovery. JAXA is preparing to submit an application detailing the recovery and safety plan to the Australian Government.

Final word

The recovery team’s mission is to localise the capsule on the ground after re-entry to Earth and carry it safely to sample analysis researchers. We have successfully completed all operations up to the 2nd touchdown, but there are still important steps to complete, including leaving the asteroid and returning safely to Earth. We will continue to operate carefully so that we can bring the “fragments of Ryugu” back to Japan.