spacecraft in space near earth

An artist's depiction of the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft passing near Earth. Credit: JAXA

Hayabusa 2 is a Japanese mission launched in December 2014 on a six-year mission to study the asteroid Ryugu and to collect samples to bring to Earth for analysis.

  • The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in June 2018.

  • The spacecraft deployed two rovers and a small lander onto the surface.

  • The spacecraft will fire an impactor in early 2019 to create an artificial crater. This will allow the spacecraft to collect a sample from beneath the surface of the asteroid.

  • Hayabusa 2 will bring the asteroid sample to Earth in 2020.

Launch Date Dec. 3, 2014
Launch Site Tanegashima Space Center, Tanegashima, Japan
Destination Asteroid
Type Orbiter, Sample Return, Lander, Rover
Status In Progress
Nation Japan
Alternate Names 2014-076A, 40319


Hayabusa 2 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

Oct. 14 2018: Rehearsals began for touchdown on the asteroid

Early 2019: Deployment of impactor followed by touchdown to gather a sample

July 2019: Deployment of remaining rovers

Nov. - Dec. 2019: Spacecraft departs asteroid

December 2020: Hayabusa 2 will bring the asteroid sample to Earth

rocky asteroid in dark space
Asteroid Ryugu photographed from a distance of about 12 miles (20 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

Objective: Asteroid Rendezvous and Sample Return

Spacecraft Mass: 1,323 pounds (600 kilograms)

Mission Design and Management: JAXA

Scientific Instruments:

1. Near infrared spectrometer (NIRS3)

2. Thermal infrared imager (TIR)

3. Multiband imager (ONC-T)

4. Laser altimeter (LIDAR)

5. Separation camera (DCAM)


1. MicrOmega infrared microscope

2. magnetometer (MAG)

3. radiometer (MARA)

4. wide-angle camera (CAM)

Hayabusa 2 is a Japanese spacecraft on a six-year mission to rendezvous and land on a C-class asteroid, asteroid Ryugu (162173), dispatch a series of landers and a penetrator, collect multiple samples from the asteroid and then return to Earth.

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

Hayabusa 2 was launched in December 3, 2014. The mission includes a main spacecraft, small rovers, a lander, and an impactor that will be launched into the asteroid’s surface to create an artificial crater. The spacecraft is expected to touch down on Ryugu multiple times starting in early 2019 to collect samples to bring to Earth in late 2020.

After launch, the spacecraft completed an initial checkout period by March 2, 2015 and then moved into its “cruising phase” toward asteroid Ryugu.

Less than a year later, on December 3, 2015, Hayabusa 2 carried out an Earth flyby at a range of 1,920 miles (3,090 kilometers) over Hawaii to increase the spacecraft’s velocity.

The spacecraft performed the first major firing of its ion engines between March 22 and May 5, 2016. It conducted a shorter (3.5 hour) firing on May 20, 2016 to adjust its trajectory.

Hayabusa 2 arrived at asteroid Ryugu in June 2018.

In September 2018, the spacecraft deployed the MINERVA-II1 container onto the asteroid’s surface. MINERVA stands for MIcro-Nano Experimental Robot Vehicle for Asteroid. MINERVA-II1 contained Rover1A, named HIBOU for Highly Intelligent Bouncing Observation Unit, and Rover1B named OWL for Observation unit with Intelligent Wheel Locomotion. A third rover carried in the MINERVA-II2 container will be deployed in 2019. The rovers move by hopping. They take pictures and collect temperature data on the asteroid.

In October 2018, MASCOT, or Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, was deployed. MASCOT is a joint French-German lander that was also capable of hopping on the asteroid to relocate. It made three hops and operated for 17 hours and 7 minutes, about an hour longer than expected, collecting data on the asteroid’s composition. The data was sent up to Hayabusa 2. MASCOT will remain on the asteroid.

Hayabusa 2 deployed a target marker in October 2018 to establish an artificial landmark.

In early 2019, the spacecraft is expected to begin gathering samples from the asteroid. This process will including firing an explosive projectile called the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) into the asteroid to create an artificial crater, allowing the spacecraft to take a sample from beneath the asteroid’s surface. A palm-size camera (DCAM3) will observe the explosion while Hayabusa 2 takes cover on the opposite side of the asteroid.

Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to leave Ryugu in December 2019 and return the asteroid samples to Earth in December 2020.

animated sequence showing spacecraft rising from surface and casting a shadow
Images taken with Hayabusa 2's small monitor camera (CAM-H) during the Touchdown 1 Rehearsal 3 operation (TD1-R3). One image was captured every second from immediately after the spacecraft began to ascend on Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: JAXA)

Additional Resources


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