(ORDO NEWS) — The Hayabusa-2 interplanetary station began its flight to the near-earth asteroid 2001 CC21, which became the first target of the extended scientific program of the apparatus. The station is expected to make a close flyby past the asteroid in July 2026, the mission said on Twitter.
The objectives of the main scientific program Hayabusa-2 were a comprehensive study of the 900-meter near-Earth asteroid (162173) Ryugu, obtaining soil samples from the surface and from the inner layers and their subsequent delivery to Earth. It took the station six years to fulfill these goals, and the main program ended in early December 2020 when the capsule with soil landed in Australia. Later it was transported to Japan, where the world‘s first sample of the gas mixture released from the soil was recovered, as well as 5.4 grams of Ryugu soil itself.
After dropping the capsule, the station began to move away from the Earth, surveying the planet using cameras. On January 5, 2020, Hayabusa-2 turned on ion engines, which have about 30 kilograms of xenon as a working fluid, and began a flight to the first target of the expanded scientific program – the 700-meter near-Earth asteroid 2001 CC21, which belongs to a rare spectral type L and makes one revolution around its axis in five hours. The station is expected to fly close by in July 2026 and will be able to obtain images of the surface, as well as information about the asteroid itself.
In December 2027 and June 2028, Hayabusa-2 will perform two gravity assist maneuvers near the Earth, and in July 2031 it will arrive at the near-Earth asteroid 1998 KY26. This body is only 30 meters in diameter, belongs to spectral class X, and rotates very quickly. It is assumed that the data received by the station will help to better understand the features of different types of asteroids and the mechanisms of their formation, as well as help in the development of methods for planetary protection of the Earth from such bodies.
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