A New Challenge in Space Exploration: Winter 2014 Launch of Hayabusa 2

Technical Expertise Supporting Hayabusa 2 in Unlocking the Mysteries of the Solar System, Earth and Life

Conceptual image of Hayabusa 2 (illustrated by Akihiro Ikeshita)

June 2010 marked a very important event in the history of international space exploration: the return of Hayabusa, Japan’s asteroid explorer. Hayabusa, which landed on the Itokawa asteroid in 2005, collected samples from its surface before safely returning to earth after a five-year journey through the universe.

Hayabusa was the world’s first spacecraft to achieve a “sample return” by successfully collecting samples from the surface of an asteroid and bringing them back to earth. Fujitsu’s technology was used in the systems to determine an orbit to return to earth, monitor spacecraft conditions in real time to diagnose any abnormalities, and transmit images taken in space back to earth.

Today, a new challenge is being taken on to further explore the universe by making the most of the past experience. One plan in this challenge is to launch Hayabusa 2, which is scheduled for the winter of 2014. Fujitsu’s technology is also being used in this new challenge.

Supporting a research project of grand proportions to unravel the mysteries of the solar system, the earth, and life

Fujitsu’s involvement in space exploration dates back more than 40 years. An astronaut on Apollo 11 became the first person to land on the moon in 1969; indeed, we have been involved in space exploration since its start. Fujitsu boasts of world-class technological prowess, particularly in the area of orbital mechanics, which analyzes the paths of artificial satellites and space explorers using data transmitted from space in order to determine their routes.

These technological capabilities are also being effectively used for Hayabusa 2, which aims to reach a C-type asteroid called “1999 JU3.” Its rocky surface and underground layers are thought to contain more of the organic matter and water that existed when the solar system came into being.

The previous Hayabusa explored only the surface of the ground; the major mission of Hayabusa 2 is to dig and retrieve underground samples in addition to collecting samples from the asteroid’s surface. Studying such underground samples is expected to help unravel the mysteries of the birth of the solar system, the earth, and life.

Conceptual image of Hayabusa 2 performing swing by (illustrated by Akihiro Ikeshita)

Hayabusa 2, which is scheduled to be launched in the winter of 2014, is expected to arrive at the asteroid 1993 JU3 and collect samples in 2018, after which it is scheduled to return to earth in 2020. As with its predecessor, Fujitsu is responsible chiefly for the systems to determine Hayabusa 2’s orbit and to transmit data to earth.

A new challenge in space exploration —a research project of grand proportions to unravel the mysteries of how the solar system, the earth, and life came into being— begins now. To carry out this project, JAXA and manufacturers, including Fujitsu, are joining forces.