World's first cis-lunar aerobrake experiment preliminary report of the results

T. Abe, J. Kawaguchi, S. Saito, T. Ichikawa, K. Uesugi

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


At 00:43 (UTC) on 19 March, 1991, the spacecraft HITEN passed its perigee at an altitude of 125 km and conducted the world's first cis-lunar aerobrake experiment. During the next perigee passage on 30 March, 1991, HITEN carried out another aerobrake experiment at an altitude of 120 km, which was 5 km lower than at the first experiment. HITEN is a small spacecraft that weighs about 197 kg, which was launched on January 24, 1990. The HITEN primary mission goals were to verify technologies and techniques required for future planetary or lunar missions. This included orbit control of HITEN utilizing gravity assist swingbys of the moon. So far, HITEN has successfully carried out lunar swingbys eight times just as planned and inserted a tiny lunar orbiter named HAGOROMO into an orbit around the moon at the first lunar swingby on 18 March, 1990. After HITEN's eighth lunar swingby on March 3, 1991, a trajectory control maneuver to reduce its next perigee altitude was executed on March 12, 1991. With the tracking and navigation support by Deep Space Network (DSN) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), HITEN passed through the earth's upper atmosphere at a speed of 11 km/s and was decelerated by 1.71 m/s which resulted in reduction of the subsequent apogee height by about 9,000 km. The second aerobrake experiment was conducted through the similar procedure as the first one, and the next projected apogee height was reduced by about 14,000 km. A number of valuable data such as deceleration, heat flux, temperature rising at many points of the spacecraft, were obtained. These are quite close to the values predicted prior to the experiments and it was demonstrated that the aerobrake technique would be encouraging in the future planetary missions. In this paper, the preliminary results of HITEN's aerobrake experiment are presented with the brief description of the spacecraft and its mission operations.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of the 47th Annual Meeting on Navigation and Exploration - Williamsburg, VA, USA
Duration: 1991 Jun 101991 Jun 12


ConferenceProceedings of the 47th Annual Meeting on Navigation and Exploration
CityWilliamsburg, VA, USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Aerospace Engineering


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