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On to Itokawa
On to Itokawa
20 May 2004
(Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

Hayabusa Earth Swing-by
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
May 20, 2004

The Space Engineering Spacecraft "Hayabusa" (MUSES-C) launched on May 9, 2003, by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been flying smoothly in a heliocentric orbit for about a year using its ion engines.

On May 19, Hayabusa came close to the Earth, and successfully carried out an earth swing-by to place it in a new elliptical orbit toward the asteroid "ITOKAWA".

The earth swing-by is a technique to significantly change direction of an orbit and/or speed by using the Earth's gravity without consuming onboard propellant. Hayabusa came closest to the Earth at 3:22 p.m. on May 19 (Japan Standard Time) at an altitude of approximately 3700 km. The combination of acceleration by the ion engines and the earth swing-by performed this time was the first technological verification in the world, both in the sense of plot and implementation.

After its precise orbit is determined in a week, Hayabusa will restart its ion engines to fly toward "ITOKAWA".

Hayabusa acquired earth images using its onboard optical navigation camera (which is for detecting a relative position to an asteroid and for scientific observations) as it neared the Earth. You can find these images at the following websites:

Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)

Prof. Yasunori Matogawa
Director, Office of Public Outreach and Space Education
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, JAXA

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Last Updated: 20 May 2004