Illustration of Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft in space near Earth

An artist's depiction of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft passing near Earth. Credit: JAXA

What is Hayabusa2?

Hayabusa2 is a Japanese spacecraft that studied asteroid Ryugu, collected samples, and brought them to Earth for analysis. The spacecraft is on an extended mission to asteroid 1998 KY26.

Launch Date Dec. 3, 2014 | 04:22:04 UT
Launch Site Tanegashima Space Center, Tanegashima, Japan
Destinations Asteroid Ryugu | Asteroid 1998 KY26
Type Orbiter, Sample Return, Lander, Rover
Status Extended Mission In Progress
Nation Japan
Alternate Names 2014-076A, 40319
Scientific Instruments 1. Near-infrared spectrometer (NIRS3)
2. Thermal infrared imager (TIR)
3. Multiband imager (ONC-T)
4. Laser altimeter (LIDAR)
5. Microscopic Imager (MI)
6. Separation camera (DCAM)

1. MicrOmega infrared microscope
2. Magnetometer (MAG)
3. Radiometer (MARA)
4. Wide-angle camera (CAM)


Hayabusa2 deployed the first rovers to operate on an asteroid.

Key Dates

Dec. 3, 2014: Launch

Dec. 3, 2015: Earth Flyby

June 27, 2018: Arrival at asteroid Ryugu

Sept. 21, 2018: Deployment of two Minerva-II1 rovers

Oct. 3, 2018: Deployment of MASCOT lander

Feb. 22, 2019: Deployment of impactor followed by touchdown to gather a sample

July 2019: Deployment of remaining rovers

Nov. 13, 2019: Spacecraft departs asteroid Ryugu

Dec. 6, 2020: Hayabusa2 delivers asteroid sample to Earth

Nov. 30, 2021: JAXA delivers a sample of asteroid Ryugu to NASA

rocky asteroid in dark space
Asteroid Ryugu photographed from a distance of about 12 miles (19 kilometers). Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST.

In Depth: Hayabusa2

Hayabusa2 is a Japanese spacecraft that explored asteroid Ryugu (162173) from June 2018 to November 2019. It dispatched a series of landers and a penetrator, and it collected multiple samples from the asteroid.

JAXA launched Hayabusa2 in December 2014 to collect samples from Ryugu. After arriving at the asteroid in June 2018, Hayabusa2 deployed two rovers and a small lander on the surface. Then, on Feb. 22, 2019, Hayabusa2 fired an impactor into the asteroid to create an artificial crater. This allowed the spacecraft to retrieve a sample beneath Ryugu’s surface.

This movie was taken on Feb. 22, 2019, (JST) when Hayabusa2 first touched down on asteroid Ryugu to collect a sample from the surface. It was captured using the onboard small monitor camera (CAM-H). The video playback speed is five times faster than the actual time. Credit: JAXA

On Dec. 6, 2020, Hayabusa2 delivered the asteroid sample to Earth. The spacecraft swooped by Earth to drop a landing capsule containing the asteroid sample. The capsule made a fiery entry through our planet’s atmosphere and parachuted to a soft landing inside the Woomera Range Complex in the South Australian outback. The spacecraft is now on an extended mission to a smaller asteroid, called 1998 KY26.

The Hayabusa2 mission is similar to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu.

Asteroid Bennu
This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2019, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 kilometers). Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

OSIRIS-REx successfully collected a sample from Bennu in October 2020 and will bring it to Earth in 2023.

Both missions explored carbonaceous asteroids, which are thought to be the rocky building blocks of the early solar system. These asteroids could help scientists better understand how the solar system formed, and how life later emerged.

NASA and JAXA are sharing samples from each mission to give scientists everywhere as much material as possible to closely study and compare.

On Nov. 30, 2021, NASA received 23 millimeter-sized grains and 4 containers of even finer material from Ryugu – 10% of the total collected by Hayabusa2. A JAXA official and a JAXA scientist delivered the asteroid fragments to the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Hayabusa2 Sample
A canister containing a sample of asteroid Ryugu is transferred from JAXA to NASA. Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

"This is an exciting opportunity to amplify science return through international cooperation,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters. “The collaboration will help both countries get the most out of their returns and share the responsibility of sample curation independently cross-check results."

Hayabusa2 is a follow-up to Japan’s original Hayabusa mission, which was the first spacecraft to take samples from an asteroid, and was also the first mission to successfully land and take off from an asteroid. It returned samples from asteroid 25143 Itokawa to Earth on June 13, 2010.

Key Sources

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