Hayabusa Re-Entry airborne observing campaign.

mission patch

What: Airborne observation of the Hayabusa Sample Return Capsule re-entry over Australia, using a wide array of imaging and spectrographic cameras.

When: June 13, 2010

Where: Australia

Why: Fast re-entry, similar to that of probes sent to Mars, and similar to natural meteors. Only the second flight test of a thermal protection system under such conditions, following the Stardust SRC entry in January of 2006.

Who: International team of scientists (NASA, JAXA, ...), set up on a research aircraft operated by NASA

Instrument P.I. blogs:

website attendance

Mission statement: A mission to help evaluate the performance of thermal protection systems of atmospheric entry vehicles returning to Earth at superorbital velocities.
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December 1, 2010A Hayabusa Re-Entry image was selected as one of ten "Best Space Pictures of 2010" by National Geographic. This image was obtained onboard NASA's DC-8 Laboratory with the RED1 camera by Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal, Brigitte Berman, and James Breitmeyer of the Clay Center Observatory at the Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline, MA.

November 16, 2010 Today, JAXA announced that the dust particles found inside the sample-collection container from the Hayabusa probe are indeed specks of dust from asteroid Itokawa. Wow!

Hayabusa Re-Entry video
Hayabusa re-entry, enhanced and image-stabilized video (mp4 format, 33.3 MByte) taken onboard NASA's DC-8 Airborne Laboratory during the NASA Hayabusa Re-Entry MAC mission by the Clay Center Observatory team (courtesy of NASA/SETI Institute/Clay Center Observatory and Dexter and Southfield Schools). [NASA compliments student participation in mission] [See also Hayabusa Re-Entry video from DC-8 by Jesse Carpenter and Greg Merkes of NASA Ames].

Post-flight public talks:

June 18, 2010 Our congratulations to JAXA for the successful return of Hayabusa and a perfectly executed field test of a thermal protection system. We all are proud to be a member of the Hayabusa Joint Science Team. To all who made the airborne observing campaign Hayabusa Re-Entry MAC a success: thank you! Signing off, for now, with a group photo of the DC-8 team returning back from a successful mission. We are planning a post-event workshop to discuss the science results of the mission early next year.

Thank you(Click image for larger version)

Tarcoola W June 15, 2010 Ground observing teams report success. Chris Kitting of CSU East Bay, who led one team 10 km west of Tarcoola (photo), reports: "Good INT2 data by Julie Bellerose, capturing fine details very early, through late. The event was detected from 13:51:48 UT (pre brightening) for a bit over a full minute. Andy (from the University of Stuttgart, Germany) obtained spectra with good detail. A sonic boom was heard 5 minutes after the event. Record breaking cold, below freezing by dawn, and some dew, but the team is OK, in all respects. Temperatures were warmer at Coober Pedy, with little dew there. Kelly Beatty and Yannis Karavas obtained good spectroscopic and imaging data. They, too, were supported by University of Queensland and University of Southern Queensland teams. NASA Ames videographer Ed Schilling teamed with photographer Andrew Cool of Adelaide and observed from Kingoonya, east of Tarcoola, where low-level clouds interfered (photo). All teams met at Woomera on June 14 for backup of data. We then had a smal reception with a few of the Japanese chief ground scientists last night after dinner here in Woomera. We congratulated and thanked the Japanese, of course. Everyone is in fine spirits". [Photos]

ground view Kingoonya (Click image for larger version)

This video was obtained by Mike Taylor and Jonathan Sniveley of Utah State University at Logan, using an intensified camera onboard the DC-8 aircraft.

More Hayabusa re-entry images are posted here.

June 14, 2010 - This image (below) is by Ron Dantowitz of Clay Center Observatory / Dexter and Southfield Schools and Erin Leidy (SETI Institute). It shows a wide-angle view of the Hayabusa entry left, moving from top to bottom. To the right are the first and second order spectra. Early spectra were dominated by the bus breakup. Later in flight emerged the spectrum of the capsule itself, showing continuum emission proportional to the temperature of its surface.

Spectra (Click image for larger version)

June 14, 2010 - Press release from Clay Center Observatory about student involvement in the mission.

June 14, 2010 - A second video is now on Youtube, this one showing a compressed 720p resolution of the entry as observed from NASA's DC-8 Airborne Laboratory by Jesse Carpenter and Greg Merkes of NASA Ames Research Center.

Low resolution images from the video:

Hayabusa Reentry (Click image for a larger version)

Hayabusa Reentry (Click image for a larger version)

Hayabusa Reentry

Capsule+Bus June 13, 2010 - Success! The Hayabusa capsule and bus entered the Earth's atmosphere over Woomera at 11:21 pm local time (6:51 PDT)today. From the perspective of the DC-8 airborne observation team, the capsule moved below and slightly ahead of the bus and stayed clear of the spectacular breakup of the bus. After the bus had disintegrated (showing many phenomena in the disintegration process), the capsule continued to create a wake, before reaching peak heating and then fading gradually. The video is awesome. Spectroscopic data was obtained on all interesting phenomena. High-def video will be posted on the Ames website later today. More details of the airborne observation will follow in the coming days, after we have recovered from the shock of seeing such a magnificent display. The video, and the still photograph below, were taken by the Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield Schools team onboard NASA"s DC-8 Airborne Laboratory, comprised of Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal, Birgitte Berman, and James Brietmeyer.

Screen shots from the full resolution CCO team video:

Hayabusa Reentry (Click image for larger version)

Hayabusa Reentry (Click image for larger version)

June 13, 2010 - Click here to view DC8 aircraft position in Google Earth (kml file)

An attempt will be made to provide a live video feed of the Hayabusa Re-Entry in the minutes around the re-entry at 13:51 UT, Sunday June 13. The video will be chosen from cameras operated onboard NASA's DC-8 Airborne Laboratory by Jesse Carpenter and Greg Merkes of NASA Ames Research Center, or those operated by Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal, James Brietmeyer and Brigitte Berman of Clay Center Observatory, or those operated by Mike Taylor and Jonathan Snively of Utah State University. Please note that such downlinks have proven very difficult in past missions. The Hayabusa re-entry will be fainter than that of ATV-1 "Jules Verne" in 2008. Also, the video feed will be transmitted by the DC-8 aircraft via INMARSAT and may not be of high quality. Large volumes of traffic on this website may hinder watching this live feed. For that reason, shortly after the re-entry, we plan to upload higher quality video, first via the INMARSAT uplink on our way back, and later, after we land at Melbourne, via an internet communication.

June 12, 2010 - This afternoon, participants Jim Albers and Alan Cassell (photo) were working hard to process the latest post TCM-4 trajectory updates. Star charts were prepared to help the researchers find the approaching Hayabusa in the sky. In the evening, we did our dry-run to Woomera, following the same flight path as we will follow tomorrow night. From our perspective,we expect to see Hayabusa first towards the constellation of Coma Berenices,a nice background of stars to help our targeting. It was incredible to see the constellation this evening, and know that this is where JAXA's Hayabusa will emerge tomorrow.


June 12, 2010 - Peter gave a public talk at the Victorian Space Science Education Center. More information can be found in this announcement. The Center features a domed room with a Mars landscape, red sand and all. The center also has a laboratory and a mission control center to educate primary school classes on space science

June 11, 2010 - We're on YouTube! NASA's DC-8 Lab Heads to Record Hayabusa Re-entry

Woomera meeting June 11, 2010 - Eighteen observers have travelled to Australia to provide stereoscopic imaging in support of the Hayabusa Re-Entry MAC mission, weather permitting. Ground-based observers met at Woomera for a briefing just before noon today, to coordinate the ground team effort at Tarcoola West, Coober Pedy, and Kingoonya. They were graciously hosted by Woomera Test Range operations manager John McKevett and rocket scientist Dr. Ian Tuohy. The ground-based teams are from the University of Southern Queensland, University of Queensland, University of New South Wales, the SETI Institute, the University of Stuttgart, Clay Center Observatory, and NASA Ames Research Center. USQ members brought tents and supplies and the groups divided and travelled to their respective observing sites following the brief. All were in good spirits (photo).

June 11, 2010 - Our "first light" image is a stunning spectrum of the center of our milky way. It was taken by Ron Dantowitz of Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield Schools and Erin Leidy of the SETI Institute during our transit flight from Honolulu to Melbourne. Over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far from city lights, the milky way was bright and its eerie combined glow from thousands of stars in our galaxy added to the spectra of the nearby stars. Note how the star Antares has a much redder spectrum than others. The photo also shows an unusual emission line spectrum of M8, the Lagoon nebula. We passed the international time line, skipped a day, and landed in Melbourne this morning. It is raining here. The weather over Woomera looks dicey. We got reports that our ground crew completed their brief and are on their way to the various observing sites.

First Light

First Light - High Resolution

June 09, 2010 - Scientists stepped from a cold aircraft interior into a warm Hawaiian evening, following the 5.7 hour transit flight. The moment of takeoff (photo, courtesy Stefan Loehle) was very exciting, the photo showing the mission P.I., Peter Jenniskens (center) and SETI Institute team members Erin Leidy (left) and Mike Koop. In order to prevent ice forming on the windows, the in-cabin temperature was lowered to 48 F during flight. Each window was covered by curtains behind which there was a brisk flow of cold air from the moment of takeoff. The result was very positive: no ice. We also solved problems with the operation of TERAS: other cameras would trip the circuit causing hard disk disruptions. Those cameras were now put on a separate electric circuit. Three of the four TERAS cameras now function nominally. The SLIT spectrometer shelf has been stiffened and did no longer vibrate. Three hours in flight, the aircraft turned briefly back on its tracks and provided us a 5-minute view of Venus. All instruments captured its light.


June 09, 2010 - JPL issues a press release about our mission.

June 09, 2010 - NASA Ames issues a press release about our mission.

June 07, 2010 - NASA Dryden issues a press release about our mission. The release includes images of researchers setting up on the DC-8 aircraft. More here.

June 08, 2010 - We are taking off for Melbourne, via Hawaii! Our departure from Palmdale is scheduled for 8:30 this evening. We are as ready as can be at this time, looking forward to the opportunity to further practice operating our cameras during the transit flights, which will all be at night. Here, Jonathan Sniveley of Utah State University is loading his bags on the aircraft. Photo: Tom Schida of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's Photo department (Tom has many other photos available for media).

June 8

June 07, 2010 - Instruments were calibrated against the brightness of known lamps this evening. This involved raising continuum and wavelength calibration lamps to above the aircraft wing on a platform outside on the tarmac. Michael Winter and Alan Cassell of NASA Ames Research Center provided the calibration lamps. Erin Leidy of the SETI Institute REU program assisted in their operation. Inside the aircraft, Clay Center Observatory students Brigitte Berman and Yannis Karavas were among others who aimed at the lights and recorded their spectra.

June 7

June 04, 2010 - Today was our most exciting day so far. We had our first flight. We also learned that TCM-3 was completed successfully. In the afternoon, the aircraft was a hustle of instrument parts and people, getting ready for the instrument shakedown flight. At the time of the crew brief at 6:30 pm (photo), everything was stowed for takeoff and the aircraft interior looked surprisingly organized. Liftoff was at 8:28 pm, a moment full of anticipation. As soon as the fasten-your-seatbelt sign came off, and in the light of a glorious sunset, the instruments were unpacked and their setup in flight was practiced. We received praise from the aircraft operators in how well organized the process was. With the last rays of the sun disappearing, the DC8 aircraft settled in a racetrack over the Salton Sea and the planet Venus was put center stage out of our windows. Spectra showed the familiar rainbow colors of reflected sunlight. About 90 percent of instruments operated as expected in actual flight conditions. Significant vibrations were noticed in the SLIT setup (photo), which also faced problems with the tracking cameras. The TERAS cameras were not well aligned, waiting tarmac tests this coming Monday, and software problems led to the decision to dismount the computer and attempt a fix over the weekend (photo). Our biggest problem was the formation of ice on the windows. The windows soon became opaque for NIRSPEC, TERAS, ASTRO, SLIT, and HFRS. We will attempt to solve this problem by adjusting the airflow at the windows. Our next opportunity to see if this works will be on our transit flight to Hawaii.

Test Flight

June 03, 2010 - The important Trajectory Correction Maneuver TCM-3 is in progress. The trajectory has already changed so much that the spacecraft will enter Earth's atmosphere. The trajectory is gradually being adjusted for a landing at Woomera. In Palmdale, the DC-8 aircraft shakedown flight and a pilot night-time flight certification flight were performed today. While our DC-8 aircraft was in the air, Hayabusa Re-Entry MAC participants were given a guided tour of the SOFIA aircraft, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. SOFIA is operated from the same hangar as is the DC-8 (photo courtesy of Stefan Loehle). Our tour guide was no other than SOFIA Chief Scientist Prof. Eric Becklin.


June 02, 2010 - The day started with our first crew brief. DC-8 Mission manager Frank Cutler explained the schedule for the next few days. The aircraft underwent weight/balance and pressure checks. Starting at 5 pm in the evening, the final cameras were installed. The photo insert shows Mike Dearborn and Geoff McHarg of the USAF Academy with their high framerate spectrograph. The camera tally is now around 36, including pointing cameras. Twilight arrived with a beautiful sun dog scattered from cirrus clouds low over the municipal airport of Palmdale. When the instruments were turned on for the first time, few worked as intended. The rest of the night was spend with fixing cables, adjusting mounting brackets, and re-installing software. The bright lights of the airfield served as surrogate Hayabusas. By the end of the night, about 80 percent of the cameras were in good working condition. The cameras were stored for the aircraft test flights tomorrow and the instrument test flight scheduled for Friday. By then, we hope to also have the remainder of the cameras operational.

Crew Briefing

June 01, 2010 - Impressions from the first day in which most of the participating researchers completed their instrument installation. From left to right: Dr. Imada (foreground) and Dr. Tanno of JAXA in the process of setting up their instruments; Alan Cassell of NASA Ames Research Center installing the DIM camera; Yannis Karavas (front) and James Brietmeyer adjusting the RED1 camera of Clay Center Observatory; Brigitte Berman adjusting the monitors of the CCO camera equipment; Erin Leidy of the SETI REU program installing cameras in the high port; and Jonathan Sniveley of Utah State University completing the installation of NIRSPEC. Tomorrow, all instruments will be switched on and tested in night time conditions.

June 01

May 28, 2010 - Six out of eight boxes arrived at DAOF with instruments and mounts from the Clay Center Observatory (CCO). The camera mounts were installed in the aircraft by the DAOF technical support team led by NASA's Mike Bereda (right in photo) and NSERC's Adam Webster (left in photo). Webster and Niquette installed one 16-inch fused silica optical window and two improved optical quality acrylic windows for the CCO setup.

CCO setup

May 25, 2010 - Some 140 meteor astronomers are meeting at the Meteoroids 2010 conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. Organized by Diego Janches and colleagues of NorthWest Research Associates, the conference featured a special session on artificial meteors. Former Stardust Re-Entry MAC participant Masa-yuki Yamamoto (photo) introduced the upcoming Hayabusa re-entry and discussed the planned ground-based observations. The TCM-2 maneuver is currently being executed.

Meteoroids 2010 conference

May 25, 2010 - The Hayabusa Re-Entry MAC mission project passed the flight Technical Brief and Operations Readiness Review at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility. FIPS instrument P.I. Stefan Loehle has installed the FIPS instrument (photo below).

FIPS setup

SETI Institute Science Day

May 22, 2010 - The SETI Institute hosted a Science Appriciation day. Here, Principal Investigator Dr. Peter Jenniskens explains the function of a thermal protection system to future scientists.

TERAS setup

May 19, 2010 - The Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, experiment "TERAS" arrived at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility on Monday and was successfully installed in the racks. Teras, greek for "Monster", consists of a series of high frame-rate cameras that prevent motion blurring during manual tracking, and record fast events in great detail. Instrument Principal Investigator is Prof. Christina Giannopapa.

May 19, 2010 - Our diplomatic clearances for visiting Australia have been approved.

May 17, 2010 - The DC-8 aircraft is being prepared for our mission. The optical windows have been installed. Seats have been installed on the right side of the aircraft, leaving most of the left side open for instrument racks and camera stations.

SETI Institute tests

May 15, 2010 - Rick Nolthenius, Julie Bellerose, and Chris Kitting visited the SETI Institute for instrument checkout and calibration tests this afternoon.

May 15, 2010 - loading van Hundreds of meters of video cable, curtains and black foil, velcro, camera stands, ball mounts, instrument mounting brackets, instruments ECHELLE, ASTRO, ALLSKY, and INT, and much more are being loaded by Dr. Peter Jenniskens at the SETI Institute, ready for transport to the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility.

USQ tests

May 14, 2010 - University of Southern Queensland's David Buttsworth poses with Carolyn Jacobs and Troy Eichmann (from right to left) with the completed AUS instrument. Buttsworth reports that the 45 degree fused silica prism arrived in Toowoomba today so instrument tests are planned early next week. Jacobs and Eichmann are part of the USQ ground-observing team at Coober Pedy.

CCO tests

May 14, 2010 - Clay Center Observatory students Breitmeyer, Karavas, and Berman (from left to right), under the guidance of CCO director Ron Dantowitz, continued weeks of long, challenging training sessions with the RED1 and other instruments this week. Indoor sessions tracking a moving target- a planet orrery - across the Space Science Lab helped the Clay Center team to further develop effective techniques for tracking spacecraft with a 400-mm focal length camera from a moving aircraft. This was especially challenging given the camera's 5.4 micron pixels- without the benefit of in-camera image stabilization. The RED1 instrument offers extremely high spatial resolution, and delivers crisp images at a scale of 2.8 meters per pixel at a range of 200 kilometers. At this resolution, the capsule and its wake should be well sampled for meter-scale resolution imagery of the flow field immediately in front of and surrounding the Hayabusa sample return capsule and for more than 15 kilometers behind it. The RED1 captures 4520 x 2540 color video at 30 frames/second, stored directly on a hard drive. RED1 is carried on a custom CNC machined payload carrier with digital encoders on both axes. This mount allows a heavy payload to be precisely positioned and to track a reentering spacecraft at 12 kilometers/second, and enables the operator to record the exact pointing position of the cameras and spectrographs on the mount as a function of time.

May 13, 2010 - Instrument P.I. Michael Winter speaks at the NASA Ames Research Center Instrumentation workshop.

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