By Greta Keenan Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
In 2005, the Hayabusa spacecraft developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) landed on Itokawa, a small near-Earth asteroid named after the famous Japanese rocket scientist Hideo Itokawa. The aim of the unmanned mission was to study the asteroid and collect a sample of material to be returned to Earth for analysis. Contrary to scientific predictions that small asteroids are barren nuggets of rock, photographs taken by the Hayabusa spacecraft revealed that the surface of Itokawa is strewn with different sized particles. Even more puzzling was the lateral separation of small and large particles – with large boulders occupying the highlands and small pebbles occupying the lowlands.
Undaunted by a launch failure last month, JAXA has decided to try another flight of its new SS-520-4 micro-satellite booster later this year.
January’s rocket was a three-stage version of the existing two-stage SS-520, modified to carry a miniature satellite. Off-the-shelf consumer product technology was incorporated to keep costs down. The rocket blasted off successfully. But during the first stage of the launch sequence, transmission of such critical data as its temperature and position ceased. The agency aborted the second stage, letting the vehicle fall into the ocean.
After the failed launch, JAXA scrutinized data from minirocket’s communications equipment and other components, and conducted new vibration tests. It eliminated parts that could have been responsible for the failure and put in place measures to prevent a recurrence of the problems. It will report in detail on the findings of its inspections at a section meeting of the technology ministry starting Monday.
JAXA’s effort to test an electrodynamic tether (EDT) that could help clean up orbital space debris has hit a snag, Japanese media report.
The 700 meter (2,297 ft) long tether was to have deployed from the Kounotori resupply ship after it separated from the International Space Station on Jan. 27. However, JAXA says the tether, which had a mass on the end that weights about 20 kg (44 lb.), did not deploy as planned.
The agency planned to continue trying to try to deploy the tether through Saturday (today). The supply ship is scheduled to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on Monday.
The tether is designed to slow down a piece of debris by running an electrical current through it. The current will hasten the entry of the debris into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“JAXA plans to perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to establish and demonstrate EDT technology and to obtain some EDT characteristics, such as tether deployment dynamics, and electron emission and collection in space plasma,” the space agency says on its website.
“KITE will help us identify the features and key technologies necessary to design and develop an EDT system as a method for improving space safety by removing large debris,” the website states.
The world’s smallest launch vehicle failed in its maiden launch from a Japanese spaceport on Sunday.
JAXA’s SS-520-4 booster took off from the >Uchinoura Space Center at 8:33 a.m. local time carrying the TRICOM-1 CubeSat. The space agency said although the rocket’s first stage fired normally, the second stage failed to ignite. The booster and its payload fell into the ocean.
The SS-520-4 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket that is designed to launch micro-satellites. The three-stage booster stands only 9.5 meters (31.3 ft) tall and has a diameter of .52 meters (1.7 ft).
The TRICOM-1 spacecraft was developed by the University of Tokyo. The 3-kg (6.6 lb) CubeSat included store-and-forward communications equipment and Earth observation cameras.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
TOKYO (ispace PR) — ispace, inc, a private lunar robotic exploration company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly create a roadmap for lunar resource development. Under this agreement, both parties will utilize their knowledge and network to develop plans and frameworks for creating an industry around lunar resource mining, delivery and utilization.
Japan has taken a first step toward developing a lunar mining industry.
Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan’s space agency, said Friday that it signed a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo-based ispace technologies Inc. to work on building an industry “for the mining, transport and use of resources on the moon,” according to a statement by ispace. A spokeswoman for the agency, known as JAXA, confirmed the agreement….
Ispace manages business operations for Team Hakuto, the only Japanese competitor for the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Sixteen teams are competing to land a probe on the moon, move it 500 meters, and send high-definition photos and video back to earth by the end of 2017.
HOUSTON, December 13, 2016 (NanoRacks PR) – The Japanese Space Agency JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) on its sixth mission on Tuesday, December 13. The berthing occurred after a four-day flight to the station following the spacecraft’s launch Friday evening local time on an H-IIB rocket from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo ship arrived with eight NanoRacks customer payloads on board.
TOKYO, December 14, 2016 (JAXA PR) — The H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI6” (HTV6) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 7:39 p.m. on December 13 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). Being captured and maneuvered by the robotic arm, the HTV6 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 3:24 a.m. on December 14 (JST).
Once after berthing of vehicle, the internal and external cargo will be unloaded by the on board crew.
TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 6 (H-IIB F6) with cargo transporter to the International Space Station, the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI6” (HTV6) on board at 10:26:47 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.
The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately 15 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the separation of HTV6 was confirmed.
At the time of the launch,the weather was fine, the wind speed was 4.3 meters/second, from the north-west, and the temperature was 15.5 degrees Celsius.
Canon, best known for its high-quality cameras, is getting into the space business. It is working with the Japanese space agency JAXA to upgrade a sounding rocket to launch microsats into orbit.
The company’s experience designing and manufacturing devices such as digital cameras will help the team choose the best rocket parts as well as make key control instruments smaller and lighter.
Systems for changing the rocket’s orientation or separating stages once in space have already been developed. IHI unit IHI Aerospace is handling development of key engine parts such as fuel injectors.
The three-stage rocket is an upgrade to JAXA’s two-stage SS-520, which carries instruments for research observations. Measuring 52cm in diameter and less than 10 meters in length, the new version will cost less than one-tenth as much to launch as leading rockets and is expected to be used to lift microsatellites in orbit.
An initial launch is slated for early next year from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.
MARRAKESH, Morocco, 11 November 2016 (ESA PR) — Heads of space agencies are meeting today in Marrakesh, Morocco at the COP22 climate change summit to reaffirm their commitment to a coordinated approach for monitoring Earth’s climate, with particular focus on the water cycle.
Samples exposed to the space environment return to researchers
TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The first samples that had been attached to the Exposed Experiment Handrail Attachment Mechanism (ExHAM) for exposure in the space environment were returned to Earth at the end of August, and then later handed over to researchers at the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) on September 20.