Uncovering the origins of the solar system
Raytheon Australia supports Hayabusa2 capsule re-entry and landing
The asteroid is 4.5 billion years old. It’s seen a thing or two in its time. And now, scientists have a sample of its soil – and they’re hoping it will solve some of the mysteries about the origins of life on Earth. Collecting that soil sample was the goal of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which recently completed a six-year, 5.1 billion-kilometre voyage.
Raytheon Australia supported the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Australian Department of Defence during the capsule’s re-entry and landing at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia.
“JAXA’s exploration activity to collect asteroid soil samples have great potential to enhance our understanding about the solar system,” said Jim Gardener, Raytheon Australia’s Joint Battlespace Systems general manager. “The Hayabusa2 capsule re-entry and landing was an amazing feat for JAXA, and we are proud to have been a part of team responsible for the success of the mission by providing communication and radar support at the Woomera Test Range.”
The Woomera Test Range – the world’s largest overland test environment – has undergone extensive capability upgrades, which have been delivered by Raytheon Australia as part of the AIR3024 Phase 1 program.
With the aim of uncovering the origins of the solar system, JAXA launched the spacecraft in December 2014 to collect soil samples from a distant 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid called Ryugu. Hayabusa2 successfully released its capsule, which returned to Earth on Dec. 6, 2020 with samples unaffected by space radiation and environmental factors. Researchers hope it will provide insight as to the origin of life on Earth.
In support of JAXA and the Australian Department of Defence, Raytheon Australia and major subcontractor CEA Technologies were responsible for the deployment of radars and communication controls during the capsule re-entry and landing.
Raytheon Australia provided maintenance for the mission system equipment at the Woomera Test Range. This includes a state-of-the-art Range Control Centre and a number of tracking radars and optical trackers, which track high-velocity targets at extreme ranges.
“Our extensive experience with the next-generation range allowed us to support the Australian Air Force Test Ranges Squadron and JAXA through the utilisation of range capabilities, including surveillance radars to monitor the capsule during re-entry and landing,” Gardener said.
In addition to radar tracking, the Raytheon Australia team were responsible for the capture of infrared imagery through the target deployable camera system, and range control and communication, allowing for range safety and data collection during capsule recovery.
“Our support of the Hayabusa2 capsule re-entry and recovery enabled and supported the Department of Defence and JAXA to conduct this critical activity while ensuring safety for the range,” Gardener said. “The event showcased the capabilities of the new infrastructure and sensor network recently delivered by Raytheon Australia and subcontractor CEA Technologies under the AIR3024 Phase 1 program.”