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.
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.