MASCOT - Travelling on asteroids

The asteroid lander MASCOT flies with the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 to the asteroid Ryugu. There it is "pushed" out of the probe using a release mechanism and lands on the asteroid. The four instruments on board - a spectrometer from the French space agency CNES, a magnetometer from TU Brauchschweig and a camera and radiometer from DLR - then carry out measurements. The lander hops from measuring point to measuring point.

The asteroid lander MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), which was built by DLR in cooperation with the French space agency CNES, was launched in December 2014 and travelled in space for 3.5 years on the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2. It arrived at its destination on 27 June 2018 and began characterising the asteroid called Ryugu. The SR Institute is using the data obtained to optimise the control of the mobility mechanism developed by its sister institute RM. This will make it possible to carry out scientific measurements at different locations when MASCOT begins its mission at the beginning of October.

As the gravitational forces on asteroids such as Ryugu are very small, traction-based locomotion is not possible. Therefore, a flywheel arm was developed that accelerates a mass within the lander and thus generates a momentum of motion. This also enables MASCOT to correct its orientation if it is on the wrong side and the measuring instruments are not pointing in the right direction.

In order to generate certain movements under microgravity, not only precise control is required, but also good knowledge and a correct description of the surface. The aim of the SR Institute is to use the results from the MASCOT mission to develop even better models and methods for travelling on small asteroids.