Hayabusa2 Lands on Asteroid Ryugu, Fires Projectile to Collect Sample

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) executed the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 operation to touch down the surface of the target asteroid Ryugu for sample retrieval.

Data analysis from Hayabusa2 confirms that the sequence of operation proceeded, including shooting a projectile into the asteroid to collect its sample material. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is in nominal state. This marks the Hayabusa2 successful touchdown on Ryugu.

Rosetta’s Comet Sculpted by Stress

Single frame enhanced NavCam image taken on 27 March 2016, when Rosetta was 329 km from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The scale is 28 m/pixel and the image measures 28.7 km across. (Credit:  ESA/Rosetta/NavCam)

18 February 2019

MARSEILLE, France (ESA PR) — Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. ESA’s Rosetta mission has revealed that geological stress arising from the shape of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has been a key process in sculpting the comet’s surface and interior following its formation.

Small, icy comets with two distinct lobes seem to be commonplace in the Solar System, with one possible mode of formation a slow collision of two primordial objects in the early stages of formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A new study using data collected by Rosetta during its two years at Comet 67P/C-G has illuminated the mechanisms that contributed to shaping the comet over the following billions of years.

(more…)

NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

(more…)

SpaceX Protests NASA Contract Award to ULA

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has filed a protest over NASA’s decision to award an $148.3 million contract to rival United Launch Alliance for the launch of the Lucy asteroid mission.

“NASA has issued a stop work order on the agency’s Lucy mission after a protest of the contract award was filed with the Government Accountability Office,” agency spokesperson Tracy Young said Feb. 13. “NASA is always cognizant of its mission schedule, but we are not able to comment on pending litigation.”

SpaceX confirmed that the company was protesting the contract. “Since SpaceX has started launching missions for NASA, this is the first time the company has challenged one of the agency’s award decisions,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to SpaceNews.

“SpaceX offered a solution with extraordinarily high confidence of mission success at a price dramatically lower than the award amount, so we believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” the spokesperson added. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin….

A key factor in the decision to award the contract to ULA was schedule certainty. Lucy has a complex mission profile with a series of flybys in order to visit several asteroid either leading or following Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. That results in a launch window that is open for only about 20 days in October 2021. Should the launch miss that window, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

The Government Accountability Office has until May 22 to render a decision.

Hayabusa2 Set to Land on Asteroid Ryugu on Feb. 22

JAXA Hayabusa2 Mission Status Report
(Week of 2019.1.28)

Hayabusa2 returned to the home position (HP) on 1/31 from the BOX-B operation which observed the north pole of Ryugu. At the HP, we carried our regularly performed observations for one rotation period. The distance of the Sun from Ryugu varies from 0.96au to 1.42au (1 au is the average distance between the Sun and Earth, about 150 million km). The angle formed by the Sun, Ryugu and the Earth (equivalent to the SPE angle) also varies from 0 degrees (at the conjunction time) to a maximum of about 40 degrees.

Depending on the current solar distance and solar angle, the characteristics of the reflected sunlight observed by the ONC and the characteristics of the thermal radiation observed by the TIR vary. We therefore observe Ryugu regularly from the HP because it is helpful to acquire data under different observation conditions. The observations on 1/31 were particularly valuable as the Sun’s distance about 1.42 au (near aphelion: the furthest distance) while the SPE angle was 10.1°.

Due to the relative positions of the Sun, Earth and Ryugu, the operation start time at the Usuda ground station is now so early that it is before the first train in the morning! The person in charge of operations and “Commander-san” who is responsible for sending commands to the spacecraft, are not able to reach the campus in time, so we first started acquiring telemetry data only from the Usuda station. Then in Sagamihara, we began our command operations a little later. We call operations like this “ripuro-nyukan”, which indicates that the telemetry is received automatically at the beginning of the operation. It is helpful for extremely cold mornings…

JAXA Hayabusa2 Mission Status Report
(Week of 2019.1.21)

This week was the tour or “BOX-B” operation. Here, the spacecraft’s altitude is lowered from the Home Position (HP) by about 2km and shifted towards the north pole by about 9km. We moved slowly over several days, arriving on 1/24. In the previous BOX-B operation, we observed the south pole hemisphere of the asteroid, so this time we moved to observe the north pole region from above.

We stayed at that location for about 1 day to make scientific observations, after which a ΔV (acceleration) was performed and we are now returning to the HP (schedule to arrive at HP on 1/31). Observations were made with all scientific instruments; ONC, TIR, NIRS3 and LIDAR. Working with both the Goldstone and Madrid ground stations, as well as Usuda, we were able to acquire the observational data over the weekend. We also gathered additional valuable data, including a health check for the ONC and dark imaging from the TIR during the tour.

ESA Plans Mission to Smallest Asteroid Ever Visited

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS, 4 February 2019 (ESA PR) — ESA’s planet-defending Hera mission will set a new record in space. The asteroid investigator will not only be the first spacecraft to explore a binary asteroid system – the Didymos pair – but the smaller of these two worldlets, comparable in size to Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, will become the smallest asteroid ever visited.

From afar, one asteroid looks much like another, until comparing them directly. Checking the well-known scale chart prepared by the Planetary Society of all asteroid and comets so far surveyed by spacecraft and the larger Didymos asteroid would form a modest dot, with its smaller moonlet struggling to make a single pixel.

(more…)

NASA Selects ULA’s Atlas V to Launch Lucy Mission to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

Centennial, Colo., Jan. 31, 2019 ULA PR) – NASA’s Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch the Lucy mission, which is the first mission to Jupiter’s swarm of Trojan asteroids. This award resulted from a competitive Launch Service Task Order evaluation under the NASA Launch Services II contract.

(more…)

Locations Named on Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Place names for locations on the surface of Ryugu were discussed by Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (hereafter IAU WG) and approved in December 2018. We will introduce the place names in this article and the background to their selection.

(more…)

Updates on JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Mission to Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 2: Image of the surface of Ryugu captured with the ONC-W1 at an altitude of about 47m. The image was taken on October 15, 2018 at 22:45 JST. The red circle indicates the candidate point for touchdown, L08-B. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

Hayabusa2 Status (2019.1.1 – 6)
Jan. 10, 2019

Our first Hayabusa2 operation of the year was carried out on 1/4. Based on observational data collected during the solar conjunction, we had recalculated the orbit of Ryugu. This recalculated orbit was used after returning from solar conjunction to resume the home position at an altitude of 20km above the asteroid surface. We were able to confirm that using this new orbit allows us to more stably maintain the home position.

Hayabusa2 status (2018.12.24 – 31)
Jan. 04, 2019

This week, Hayabusa2 returned perfectly from solar conjunction to hover back at the home position at 20km from the asteroid. Although this situation was similar to when we approached the asteroid in June, it was a tense operation as there was no room for mistakes.

However, the spacecraft was able to return to its orbit exactly as planned. New Year’s Eve on the 31st December was the last operation of the year. The distance to the asteroid could be measured once again with LIDAR and we returned to normal operations without any problems. The beginning of the New Year is a holiday in Japan, but full-scale operations will begin with adjustments for the 2019 touchdown operation.

Latest Updates From NASA on OSIRIS-REx’s Mission to Asteroid Bennu

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

January 14, 2019

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues to orbit Bennu at an altitude ranging from 1.6 to 2.1 km, with an orbital period of 61 hours. The spacecraft has completed 5.5 orbits of Bennu to date. The one-way communication time from the spacecraft back to Earth is around 5.5 minutes.

On the ground, the mission held its 14th Science Team Meeting at the University of Arizona last week. This was the first science team meeting since the spacecraft’s arrival at the asteroid, which means it was also the first gathering where the entire science team was able to work with detailed Bennu data from the spacecraft.

January 07, 2019

On Dec. 29 and 31, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed the two maneuvers required to enter orbit about Bennu. The accurate performance of these orbit insertion maneuvers, as well as the continued accurate navigation performance since orbit insertion, allowed for the wave-off of several planned updates to the spacecraft’s orbit determination (OD). The mission’s navigation team will continue to study OD performance over the first few weeks of spacecraft orbits to further refine and predict orbital operations – which will eventually allow the team to reduce the trim burn schedule.

The first orbit of Bennu, which started on Dec. 31, ended 61.4 hours later on Jan. 3. The spacecraft will continue orbiting the asteroid through mid-February.

Steam-Powered Asteroid Hoppers Developed through UCF Collaboration

By using steam rather than fuel, the World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore “forever,” as long as water and sufficiently low gravity is present. (Credit: UCF)

By using steam rather than fuel, the microwave-size spacecraft prototype
can theoretically explore celestial objects “forever.”

By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
University of Central Florida News

Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida.

UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.

(more…)

CubeSats Joining Hera Mission to Asteroid System

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

(more…)

Deep Space Industries Acquired by Bradford Space

SAN JOSE, Calif., January 2, 2019 (Bradford Space PR) — Bradford Space, a U.S.-owned space systems manufacturer with locations in the Netherlands and Sweden, announced today that it has acquired control over Deep Space Industries, Inc., often known as DSI. In becoming part of the Bradford group, DSI will become Bradford’s first substantial U.S. presence, providing an outlet and location for activities in the U.S. space market.

Founded in 2012 as an ambitious effort to mine the resources of the asteroids, DSI has more recently become known for the production of the Comet water-based electrothermal propulsion system. Four Comet systems are currently on orbit on spacecraft operated by Capella Space and HawkEye 360. Other customers of DSI include LeoStella, a joint venture of Spaceflight and Thales Alenia Space, and the Space Flight Laboratory, a satellite development group inside the University of Toronto.

(more…)