Hayabusa2's next next mission: small, rapidly spinning asteroid

Japan Times -- Sep 30
Expectations are high for the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced earlier this month that an unexplored asteroid will be the new target for the unmanned probe.

Hayabusa2 will head to the asteroid 1998KY26 after completing its current mission of delivering a capsule believed to contain samples of sand from the asteroid Ryugu to Earth in December.

The new target asteroid has a diameter of only about 30 meters and is spinning rapidly.

According to JAXA, it will be the first time in the world that a probe has visited a celestial body under 100 meters in diameter.

After dropping off the Ryugu sand samples, Hayabusa2 will conduct multiple swing-bys using the Earth’s gravity to change direction. The probe is scheduled to reach 1998KY26 in July 2031, covering a distance of some 10 billion kilometers, or about double the distance traveled to reach Ryugu.

During its journey, the spacecraft will travel in the proximity of the asteroid 2001CC21 and observe it in 2026. It will also observe the distribution of dust in the solar system and extrasolar planets.

The journey to 1998KY26 is expected to be a major technological challenge for Hayabusa2 as it will travel closer to the sun than was planned at the time of its creation.

The ion engines and observation equipment used aboard the craft are currently not experiencing any problems.

- Japan Times