It was a late night in 2003 when the culmination of NEC Space Systems’ hard work was sent away. And not just away to college…but to go collect some rocks on an asteroid and come back home. Sound like the plot from a certain Bruce Willis movie???
NEC acted as the systems integrator in conjunction with JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, in the development of Hyabusa. Hyabusa is an ion engine powered space probe with some advanced technology driving it.
The probe successfully made it to the asteroid, collected the material and shot back to earth. Of course, like any good space story plot, there was drama. On its way back to earth Hyabusa lost attitude control due to a fuel leak. With the support of NEC, JAXA completed a work around and 2 years later the probe made it safely back to its home.
There is a great movie at the website link below that details the story.