Japan’s Hayabusa2 Shoots 2.5kg Copper Bullet at Asteroid 95,000kms from Earth

Japan has successfully deployed the Small Carry-on Impactor to the surface of Ryugu from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Footage captured during the Hayabusa2 Touchdown 1 Rehearsal 3 operation on October 25, 2018 | Image credit: JAXA

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft has successfully deployed its Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) to the surface of the near-Earth asteroid, Ryugu. The deployment of the SCI is just one of several scientific operations the spacecraft has conducted since its orbital insertion with the asteroid in June 2018.

The SCI is one of several deployable scientific instruments that were carried with the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The instrument is essentially a 2.5-kilogram (5.5-pound) copper bullet that was fired from the spacecraft by detonating a 4.5-kilogram (9.9-pound) plasticized HMX shape charge. The crater made by the projectile impacting with the surface of the asteroid can then be used to acquire subsurface samples.

The SCI was successfully deployed at an altitude of 500 meters (1,600 feet) early this morning. Shortly after its deployment, the DCAM3 camera separated from the spacecraft in order to monitor the impact while Hayabusa2 took cover on the other side of the asteroid. An image captured by the DCAM3 at 02:36 UTC confirmed that the projectile had successfully impacted with the surface of the asteroid.

Hayabusa2 SCI impacts with the surface of Ryugu.
An image captured by the DCAM3 camera shows the successful impact of the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) with the surface of Ryugu | Image credit: JAXA

Despite the successful impact, it is not yet clear if the SCI managed to create a significant enough crater on the asteroid’s surface. JAXA has thus far revealed that Hayabusa2 is operating nominally and that it remains at a safe distance until debris from the impact site has cleared.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.