First test on Japanese soil
The MASCOT asteroid lander will be delivered to the Japanese space agency JAXA at the start of next year. It will be integrated into the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft and prepared for launch, scheduled for late 2014. There is still a long way to go, but there is little time!
The small box manufactured by DLR mastered its first performance test on Japanese soil. JAXA conducted the first major Hayabusa-2 test campaign, the Initial Integration Test (or just 'IIT') on the campus of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) in Sagamihara, Japan , between March and May 2013. During this campaign, the spacecraft was, for the first time, fully assembled with all of its subsystems, enabling analysis of their ability to communicate across all interfaces and satellite bus.
The first MASCOT engineering prototype, or the IIT model as we call it, does not look like a real spacecraft. The plastic walls are transparent and it resembles more of a display box for an exhibition. Mass dummies made of aluminium are fitted in place of the scientific instruments, while the electric cables are loose and disorderly around its interior. The external circuit boards used to simulate the payload sensor heads resemble a gadget that could have been made by MacGyver.
With this box sitting before you on the table, it is quite hard to imagine how it is meant to land on a faraway asteroid, transmitting pioneering scientific insight directly from the surface back to Earth, just a few years down the line. But there is good reason for this simple design! The IIT campaign took place in parallel to the tests conducted in Bremen to analyse the mechanical and thermal properties of the current MASCOT model. This is why it was necessary to create and assemble an independent model for IIT, designed to simply complete the required tasks. In this way, it was possible to stick to the tight schedule and complete this campaign cost-efficiently.
Team colleagues during the first communication test
Modifying MASCOT's thermal insulation in the clean room
All images: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)