Hiten spacecraft
NamesMUSES-A (before launch)
COSPAR ID1990-007A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.20448
WebsiteISAS Hiten page
Mission duration3 years, 2 months and 17 days
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass197 kg[1]
Start of mission
Launch date11:46, January 24, 1990 (UTC) (1990-01-24T11:46Z)
RocketMu-3S-II (no. 5)
Launch siteUchinoura Space Center
End of mission
Decay date18:03:25.7, April 10, 1993 (UTC) (1993-04-10T18:03:25.7Z)
Flyby of Moon
Closest approach20:04:09, March 18, 1990
Distance16,472.4 km (10,235.5 mi)
Moon orbiter
Orbital insertion13:33, February 15, 1993
Orbital parameters
Periselene altitude6.52 Lunar radii
Aposelene altitude29.42 Lunar radii
Moon impactor
Impact date18:03:25.7, April 10, 1993
Impact site34°18′S 55°36′E / 34.3°S 55.6°E / -34.3; 55.6

The Hiten spacecraft (ひてん, Japanese pronunciation: [çiteɴ]), given the English name Celestial Maiden[2] and known before launch as MUSES-A (Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft A), part of the MUSES Program, was built by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan and launched on January 24, 1990.[3] It was Japan's first lunar probe, the first robotic lunar probe since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976, and the first lunar probe launched by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States.[4][5] The spacecraft was named after flying heavenly beings in Buddhism.[6]

Hiten was to be placed into a highly elliptical Earth orbit with an apogee of 476,000 km, which would swing past the Moon. However, the injection took place with a delta-v deficit of 50 m/s, resulting in an apogee of only 290,000 km.[3] The deficiency was corrected and the probe continued on its mission.

On the first lunar swing-by, Hiten released a small orbiter, Hagoromo (はごろも, named after the feather mantle of Hiten), into lunar orbit. The transmitter on Hagoromo failed, and even though ignition of Hagoromo's deceleration rockets was confirmed by ground observation, it could never be confirmed if the spacecraft had successfully inserted itself into lunar orbit or failed to capture, entering a heliocentric orbit.[7] After the eighth swing-by, Hiten successfully demonstrated the aerobraking technique on March 19, 1991, flying by the Earth at an altitude of 125.5 km over the Pacific at 11.0 km/s. Atmospheric drag lowered the velocity by 1.712 m/s and the apogee altitude by 8665 km.[8] This was the first aerobraking maneuver by a deep space probe.[9]: 2  After the ninth lunar swing-by and second aerobraking maneuver on March 30, 1991, the primary mission of the probe was concluded.

First ballistic capture into lunar orbit

Edward Belbruno and James Miller of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory heard of the failure of the Hagoromo orbiter and helped to salvage the mission by developing a so-called ballistic capture trajectory that would enable the main Hiten probe to enter lunar orbit. Belbruno had been working on numerically modelling low-energy trajectories, and heard of the probe's problems. He developed a trajectory solution[10] and on June 22, 1990, sent an unsolicited proposal to the Japanese space agency. They responded favorably, and later implemented a version of the proposal.[11]

The trajectory Belbruno and Miller developed for Hiten used Weak Stability Boundary Theory and required only a small perturbation to the elliptical swing-by orbit, sufficiently small to be achievable by the spacecraft's thrusters.[12] This course would result in the probe being captured into temporary lunar orbit using zero delta-v (called a ballistic transfer), but required five months instead of the usual three days for a Hohmann transfer orbit.[13] This was the first time a satellite had used low-energy transfer to transfer to a Moon orbit.[3] On October 2, 1991, Hiten was captured temporarily into lunar orbit.

After that, Hiten was put into a looping orbit which passed through the L4 and L5 Lagrange points to look for trapped dust particles: the then-tentatively observed Kordylewski clouds. The only scientific instrument on Hiten was the Munich Dust Counter (MDC); no increase over background levels was observed. On February 15, 1993, Hiten was placed into a permanent lunar orbit, where it remained until it was deliberately crashed into the lunar surface on April 10, 1993 at 34°18′S 55°36′E / 34.3°S 55.6°E / -34.3; 55.6, between the craters Stevinus and Furnerius.[5][14] Because the orbit was unstable and would have resulted in the spacecraft crashing into the far side of the Moon, it was decided to use the last fuel to move the impact location to the front side of the Moon so that it could be observed.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Hiten". NASA's Solar System Exploration website. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  2. ^ Uesugi, K. T. (2003). "Space Engineering Spacecraft (MUSES) Program in ISAS Featuring Its Latest Mission 'HAYABUSA'". International Conference on Recent Advances in Space Technologies, 2003. pp. 464–471. doi:10.1109/RAST.2003.1303961. ISBN 0-7803-8142-4. S2CID 37293909.
  3. ^ a b c "Hiten". NASA. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  4. ^ "Hiten". NASA NSSDCA. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Hiten/Hagoromo". NASA. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  6. ^ "Hiten". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "Hagoromo". NASA. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  8. ^ "Muses A (Hiten)". space.skyrocket.de.
  9. ^ "Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958–2000" Archived September 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24.
  10. ^ Foust, Jeff (March 6, 2006). "From chaos, a new order". The Space Review. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  11. ^ Belbruno, Edward (2007). Fly me to the moon: an insider's guide to the new science of space travel. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12822-1.
  12. ^ Belbruno, Edward (2004). Capture Dynamics and Chaotic Motions in Celestial Mechanics: With Applications to the Construction of Low Energy Transfers. Princeton University Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-691-09480-9.
  13. ^ Frank, Adam (September 1994). "Gravity's Rim". Discover.
  14. ^ Hall, James A. III (September 19, 2015). Moons of the Solar System: From Giant Ganymede to Dainty Dactyl. Springer. p. 267. ISBN 978-3-319-20636-3. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  15. ^ Uesugi, K. (1996). "Results of the MUSES-A "HITEN" mission". Advances in Space Research. 18 (11): 69–72. Bibcode:1996AdSpR..18k..69U. doi:10.1016/0273-1177(96)00090-7. Retrieved December 17, 2021.