The operations team at work
The JAXA Hayabusa2 project team consists of JAXA and Japanese companies, universities and related organizations. Mainly JAXA and NEC, and other member companies work closely together on the operation of the asteroid explorer. According to project engineer Takanao Saiki, in the case whereby operations do not require being close to asteroids to conduct large scale missions, a team consists of the operations team leader from JAXA, referred to as the supervisor who is responsible for the operation of that day, and a staff from NEC whose job is to send commands to the explorer, referred to as the commander.
In the case of a particularly critical operation such as touchdown on the asteroid, a full team is put together with staff from all branches of the mission. Personnel responsible for each aspect of the mission — the explorer’s systems, heat control, attitude control, image navigation, and so forth — monitor operations in their own field of specialization. From NEC, a team of seven experts oversees critical missions in two or three shifts around the clock, making sure that everything proceeds safely according to the manual.
The system managers on the team are responsible for keeping an eye on the spacecraft as a whole. They perform the vital task of ensuring that everything happens on schedule and, if something goes wrong, addressing the problem. When the first touchdown was initiated on February 21, 2019, a malfunction of the asteroid’s sequence caused the operation to fall five hours behind schedule. During that emergency the JAXA and NEC system managers worked together on troubleshooting the problem and fixing the software, and the mission was safely completed. Dealing with crises like these are all part of the operations team’s job.
Watching the separation of Hayabusa2’s Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) from earth. (April 5, 2019)
Interview and article by Ayano Akiyama
Published March 30, 2020