The asteroid lander MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) was built by DLR in cooperation with the French space agency CNES and was launched on its journey onboard the Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 in December 2014. On the 27th of June 2018, they reached the target asteroid called Ryugu and Hayabusa2 has started to map and characterize it. The institute SR uses the new information to optimize the control of the mobility unit which was developed by the sister institute RM. This will enable MASCOT to perform measurements on multiple points on the asteroid when it starts its mission in October 2018.
Because the gravitational forces on asteroids like Ryugu are very small, locomotion methods based on traction are not useful. Therefore, an arm with an eccentric mass was developed that is accelerated inside the lander to create the momentum required to move MASCOT. It can also be used to rotate the lander on the spot and correct its orientation if the instruments are pointing in the wrong direction.
Carrying out a defined motion in microgravity requires not only precise control of the mobility mechanism, but also knowledge and accurate modeling of the surface conditions. The institute SR aims at using the results from MASCOT to improve methods of locomotion on small bodies like asteroids.