The Hayabusa2 mission – investigating a near-Earth asteroid

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  • Mascot
    MASCOT launches from the Tanegashima Space Center

    On 3 December 2014 at 05:22 CEST, an H IIA launch vehicle lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center and the Japanese Hayabusa 2 spacecraft and its MASCOT lander, developed by DLR, began their journey to Asteroid 1999 JU3.

  • Raumsonde Hayabusa2 mit Ionen%2dTriebwerken
    Hayabusa2 spacecraft with ion engines

    The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft with the German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander on board has completed its 3200-million-kilometre journey to asteroid Ryugu.

  • Asteroid Ryugu aus rund 22 Kilometern Entfernung fotografiert
    Asteroid Ryugu imaged from a distance of approximately 22 kilometres

    On 26 June 2018, the Japanese Optical Navigation Camera – Telescopic (ONC-T) on board Hayabusa2 imaged the asteroid Ryugu from a distance of approximately 22 kilometres, shortly before it arrived.

    The ONC was developed and built under the leadership of JAXA in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) with contracted contributions from the company NEC.

  • Asteroidenlander MASCOT an Bord der Raumsonde Hayabusa2
    Asteroid lander MASCOT on board the Hayabusa2 space probe

    The Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe has completed a 3200-million-kilometre long journey carrying the German-French lander MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout).

  • Asteroidenlander MASCOT
    Asteroid lander MASCOT

    A total of four instruments are installed within the 30 x 30 x 20-centimetre lander. A DLR radiometer and camera, together with a spectrometer from the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale and a magnetometer from the TU Braunschweig, are set to examine the mineralogical and geological composition of the asteroid’s surface and gauge its surface temperature as well as the asteroid’s magnetic field. A built-in swing arm gives MASCOT the required propulsion to make jumping manoeuvres over the surface.

The Hayabusa2 space probe is currently en route to C-type asteroid 162173 Ryugu (1999 JU3). It is operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and carries the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in collaboration with the French Space Agency (CNES). Its target Ryugu is what is known as a near-Earth asteroid. Hayabusa2 is the immediate follow-on mission of the Hayabusa mission, which saw the first probe return to Earth with samples taken from asteroid Itokawa in June 2010.

The aim of the Hayabusa2 mission is to learn more about the origin and evolution of the Solar System. Like comets, asteroids are some of the most primordial celestial bodies. Researching asteroids gives us a glimpse into our cosmic past. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), such as Ryugu, also pose a potential threat to Earth and therefore need to be investigated to learn about and reduce their threat.

This unique mission will:

  • observe and map the asteroid from a distance,
  • provide measurements of the asteroid,
  • deposit the first measurement laboratory (MASCOT) that is capable of moving on an asteroid,
  • conduct on-site experiments and reference measurements at multiple locations, and
  • return samples of the asteroid to Earth.

Hayabusa2 and MASCOT will work together as a team: Hayabusa2 will transmit data so that a suitable landing place can be found for MASCOT, whereas MASCOT will carry out experiments on the asteroid's surface, and provide data on materials and the surrounding area to find a location to gather soil samples. For this, Hayabusa2 will lightly touch the asteroid's surface in order to gather material, which it will then bring back to Earth. The measurements taken by MASCOT will also serve as an important reference for the samples brought back to Earth, because there is a possibility that the material gathered could have changed during the extraction process.

Big challenges for a small lander

The low gravitational force of the asteroid, which amounts to just one 60,000th of the gravitational force on Earth, presents a challenge for the mission. This force is insufficient to 'pull' the lander out of the Hayabusa probe. As such, MASCOT will be pushed out of its holder by a spring mechanism and fall to Ryugu from a height of approximately 60 metres. If this happens too quickly, then there is a risk that MASCOT will bounce off the asteroid's surface. It is also important that the lander's 'hopping' on the asteroid from site to site is programmed from start to finish so that it does not reach escape velocity. The escape velocity from Ryugu is calculated to be 38 centimetres per second. By way of comparison, the escape velocity from Earth is 11.2 kilometres per second, and that from the Moon is 2.3 kilometres per second.

The mineralogical and geological composition of the asteroid surface and its surface temperature and magnetic field will be investigated with a radiometer and a camera developed by DLR, as well as a spectrometer of the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale and a magnetometer by TU Braunschweig.

The duo reached Ryugu on 27 June 2018, with Hayabusa2 returning samples to Earth in 2020.

DLR participation in the Hayabusa2 mission

The DLR Institute of Space Systems, based in Bremen, together with CNES (Centre national d'études spatiales), designed, manufactured and tested the lander in the Institute's laboratories under space conditions, for example on a shaker, in the thermal vacuum chamber and during parabolic flights in the drop tower at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM). The DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems in Braunschweig was responsible for the lander's stable structure. The DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center in Oberpfaffenhofen developed the arm that allows MASCOT to ‘hop’ on the asteroid. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin contributed to the MASCAM camera and the MARA radiometer. The MASCOT lander will be monitored and operated from the DLR control centre at the Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) in Cologne.

CNES contributed the power subsystem to MASCOT, as well as a part of the telecommunications system, which included the development of antennas, and the agency will assume responsibility for the descent and landing mission analyses.

Last modified:
07/12/2018 10:37:02



Elke Heinemann
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Public Affairs and Communications

Tel.: +49 2203 601-2867

Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
Dr Tra-Mi Ho
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

DLR Institute of Space Systems

Tel.: +49 421 24420-1171
Prof.Dr. Ralf Jaumann
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Institute of Planetary Research, Planetary Geology

Tel.: +49 30 67055-400

Fax: +49 30 67055-402