Hayabusa leaves for Earth
Hayabusa spacecraft, which lost the functions of two of three reaction wheels and bi-propellant thrusters during the proximity operation around the asteroid Itokawa, sailed across the aphelion with the spin attitude stabilization in 2006. The trial and adjustment on the non-spin attitude control using both a single reaction wheel and the ion beam jets have been executed since February 2007.
The Hayabusa project team managed to acquire a skill to cancel the disturbance torque originated from an ion engine by means of the solar pressure and to establish the operational scheme. And then Hayabusa spacecraft stated the homeward journey with an ion engine driven on April 25 2:30PM, 2007 (JST) aiming at the Earth return in 2010. It stays at the heliocentric space of 81,000,000 km (0.54 AU) apart from Earth, and 154,000,000 km (1.03 AU) from Sun.
The project team will operate Hayabusa spacecraft paying attention to remaining lives of components and devices. The onboard microwave discharge ion engines have executed the following space operations as of April 30, 2007;
May 1, 2007