Hayabusa-2 to be launched this year               2代目はやぶさ、年内打ち上げへ



The launch of “Hayabusa-2” is one of the asteroid exploration programs being promoted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). As its name indicates, it is a successor to the asteroid explorer “Hayabusa”. A team to push the project was formally inaugurated in 2011. It completed its research phase and started the development of Hayabusa-2 in 2012. The new explorer will lift off later in 2014 if things go on as planned.






After meeting some hardships, its predecessor Hayabusa brought back to Earth examples from asteroid “Itokawa” in June 2011. It is fresh in memory that the feat caused a great sensation not only in Japan but many other countries across the world. The success gave a strong push to the Hayabusa-2 project which had once faced a possible setback due to a budget shortfall.






While Hayabusa drew public attention to its sample return, its prime objective was to prove new technologies needed to develop an ion engine and ensure a return capsule’s atmospheric reentry. In short, it was an experiment to enable a probe to get to an asteroid and come back to Earth. The results brought about by Hayabusa were not quite as envisaged. However, what it attained, along with its sample return, has greatly contributed to the future development of space engineering.






Hayabusa-2 has its explicit missions different from those of its predecessor. It is aimed to elucidate the origin and evolution of the solar system and raw materials of life. It is also designed to bring back samples from an asteroid. But its target, asteroid “1999 JU3”, is different in nature from Itokawa. Asteroids are broadly classified into three types, S, C and D. While Itokawa is of the S type, 1999 JU3 is of the C type. The latter is considered to contain more organic materials and hydrated minerals on its surface. Moreover, it is a more “primordial body” believed to have information about the birth of the solar system and subsequent evolution. So, we may be able to know more about the real history of the universe by exploring it.


今度打ち上げられる「はやぶさ2」には、太陽系の起源、進化と生命のもととなった物質の解明という明確な目的がある。小惑星からサンプルを持ち帰るという点では初代「はやぶさ」と同じだが、今回「はやぶさ2」が目指す小惑星「1999JU3」は、イトカワとは種類が異なり、その表面には有機物や水を含んだ鉱物が存在する。小惑星には大きく分けてS, CDの3タイプがあることが分かっており、イトカワはSタイプ、1999JU3はCタイプ。Cタイプは太陽系が誕生したときやその後の進化の情報を持つ「始原天体」であり、これを探査することで宇宙の歴史に迫ることができると言われている。


Hayabusa-2 has another important mission – to further develop the technologies proven by its predecessor. At one point during their first experiment, JAXA scientists were worried that Hayabusa might not return to Earth. So, they have made various improvements, convinced that they should build the basis for future space exploration by establishing the deep space round-trip exploration technology. Hayabusa-2 has a new function which its predecessor didn’t have. It will be equipped with a metallic collision device aimed to create artificial craters on the surface of an asteroid. From such craters, it can collect fresh samples that are less weathered by the space environment or heat.




According to JAXA’s plan, Hayabusa-2 is scheduled to arrive at asteroid “1999 JU3” in mid-2018, stay there for a year and a half, and leave there at the end of 2019, returning to Earth toward the end of 2020. Will it bring back some hints to unravel the mystery of the universe?




(Written By: Naoto Takeda)



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