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Shoal Group supports safe return of Hayabusa2 mission

Stephen Kuper

Shoal Group, in conjunction with the Australian Space Agency, has played an important role in supporting the safe return of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 mission at the Woomera Prohibited Area of South Australia.

Shoal Group supports safe return of Hayabusa2 mission
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In August 2020, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews authorised the return of the capsule to Earth at Woomera.

Shoal, supported by Asia Pacific Aerospace Consultants, conducted an independent assessment of the JAXA application to support the Australian Space Agency in providing detailed advice to the minister.

Shoal also performed detailed hypersonic re-entry trajectory modelling and analysis to assess a range of risks and potential safety issues in the lead up to the return.

Shena Howell, space systems engineering lead at Shoal, said, “A key challenge was the development and assurance of sufficiently detailed models to represent the hypersonic re-entry of the Hayabusa2 Sample Return Capsule.”

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These challenges extended across all mission phases from the capsule’s re-entry starting point, which begins in space by entering the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, through to the separation of the heat shields and final descent under parachute.

A Shoal team provided technical advice to the Australian Space Agency to support key decisions during the trajectory correction manoeuvre events over the final days of the return journey to Earth.

“This had to be done for both nominal and failure conditions, including uncertainties in key environmental and vehicle design parameters,” Howell added.

Shoal has almost two decades of experience in the Australian space sector and has deep expertise in space safety analysis.

The company has conducted a wide range of space (and military guided weapon) activities, including the safety analysis for the return to Earth of the first Hayabusa mission in 2010.

The Hayabusa2 mission launched on 3 December 2014 and saw the mission’s spacecraft to reach the asteroid Ryugu and extract two samples, before heading back to Earth on 13 November 2019.

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