27 Jun 2003
(Source: Institute of Space and Astronautical Science)
Future Schedule of "Hayabusa"
June 27, 2003
After its successful launch on May 9, 2003, MUSES-C (Hayabusa) is now flying normally and smoothly. The functional checks of its onboard observation instruments, attitude and orbital control system, and data processing system have been completed. The on-orbit operation of the ion engine has just begun.
The term "high performance ion engine" conjures an image of a very powerful acceleration engine like the "F-1 machine" or the "Space Warship Yamato." The reality is different however. The thrust of the ion engine is almost the same as the weight of two one-yen coins. As it continues to operate for one year, however, Hayabusa accelerates up to 4,500km/hr. The fuel (though not firing) needed for one year is just 20kg. This is the same amount of fuel needed to accelerate a light car. With such little fuel, Hayabusa can reach speeds to fly over the Pacific Ocean in about two hours.
The ion engine will be run continuously for about nine months. If Hayabusa continues to fly well as planned, the engine will be stopped once in March 2004 and then accelerated again in May, by making use of the earth's gravity.