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Hiten (originally called Muses-A) was an ISAS (Japanese Space Agency) Earth orbiting satellite designed primarily to test and verify technologies for future lunar and planetary missions. The spacecraft carried a small satellite named Hagoromo which was released in the vicinity of the Moon. Hiten itself was put into a highly elliptical Earth orbit which passed by the Moon ten times during the mission, which ended when Hiten was intentionally crashed into the Moon on 10 April 1993. The primary objectives of the mission were to: 1) test trajectory control utilizing gravity assist double lunar swingbys; 2) insert a sub-satellite into lunar orbit; 3) conduct optical navigation experiments on a spin-stabilized spacecraft; 4) test fault tolerant onboard computer and packet telemetry; 5) conduct cis-lunar aerobraking experiments; and 6) detect and measure mass and velocity of micro-meteorite particles. Three follow-on objectives were also added later in the mission: excursion to the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points of the Earth-Moon system, orbit of the Hiten spacecraft around the Moon, and hard landing on the lunar surface. Hiten was named after a flying, music-playing Buddhist angel. Hagoromo was named for the veil worn by Hiten. This mission included Japan's first-ever lunar flyby, lunar orbiter, and lunar surface impact, making Japan only the third nation to achieve each of these goals.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Hiten was a cylindrically shaped spacecraft, 1.4 m in diameter and 0.8 m high. The small polyhedral-shaped Hagoromo lunar orbiter was mounted on top of the spacecraft. The fully fueled mass of Hiten was 197 kg, this included 42 kg of hydrazine fuel and the 12 kg Hagoromo orbiter. Solar cells on the cylindrical surface of the spacecraft supplied the power requirement of 110 W, backed up by a small onboard battery. The spacecraft was spin-stabilized at 10 - 20.5 rpm.

Spacecraft propulsion and attitude control was provided by eight 23-N and four 3-N hydrazine thrusters, two spin-type Sun aspect sensors, a star scanner, a steerable horizon crossing indicator, three accelerometers, a nutation damper, and control electronics including an onboard processor. An optical navigation subsystem, consisting of two CCD image detectors to detect the Moon and bright stars was also tested.

Communications were accomplished through a medium gain collinear array antenna in both X-band and S-band protruding from the bottom surface of the spacecraft and two cross dipole omni-directional low gain antennas in S-band only, one mounted on the top and one on the bottom. Downlink is via onboard X-band and S-band transmitters, each with two power levels. Two receivers are used for S-band uplink, one connected to the low-gain antennas and the other to the medium gain antenna. Commands were sent from ground stations at 1 kbps. The onboard command computer consists of three independent processor cells with a total of 2 Mbits ROM and 512 Kbits RAM.

Mission Profile

Hiten was launched into highly elliptical Earth orbit on a Mu-3SII-5 rocket from Kagoshima Space Center in Japan at 11:46:00 UT (20:46:00 JST) on 24 January 1990. Injection velocity was 50 m/s less than the nominal value, resulting in an apogee of only 290,000 km compared to the expected 476,000 km. A number of trajectory correction maneuvers were performed and Hiten was put back in a nominal orbit. At 19:37 UT on 18 March 1990 (04:37 19 March JST) as Hiten approached its first lunar flyby, the small Hagoromo spacecraft was released. Although the S-band transmitter aboard Hagoromo had failed on 21 February 1990, the ignition of the Hagoromo deceleration rocket was confirmed by ground observation at 20:04:03 UT, a lunar orbit of 7,400 x 20,000 km with a period of 2.01 days was estimated but never confirmed, so it is unknown if Hagoromo ever went into lunar orbit or escaped into heliocentric orbit. Six seconds later, at 20:04:09 UT (05:04:09 19 March JST) Hiten reached its closest flyby distance to the Moon of 16,472.4 km.

Further manuevers were made to have Hiten simulate the planned trajectory of the future Geotail spacecraft. Hiten completed seven more lunar swingbys by 4 March 1991 and then started the aerobraking portion of its mission. On 19 March at 00:43 UT Hiten flew into the Earth's upper atmosphere 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. This was the first time aerobraking was used to modify a spacecraft orbit at close to escape velocity. Another aerobraking maneuver was done at 11:36 UT on 30 March at 120 km altitude, reducing velocity by 2.8 m/s and apogee by 14,000 km. This concludied the primary mission and a follow-on mission was started. A ninth lunar swingby was used to increase the apogee to 1,532,000 km. This marked the first use of a low-energy (weak stability boundary) transfer to modify an orbit and the first use of a transfer to the Moon requiring no delta-V for capture. On 2 October 1991 Hiten was temporarily captured by the Moon and then put into a looping orbit which passed through the L4 and L5 stable libration points to look for trapped dust particles. No obvious increase was found. On 15 February 1992 at 13:33 UT (22:33 JST) at a closest approach of 422 km most of Hiten's remaining fuel was used to put it into lunar orbit. The very last fuel was used to have the spacecraft, whose orbit was decaying, crash into the lunar surface on 10 April 1993, although two different times and locations are given in Uesugi, 1996. One is 18:03:25.7 UT (11 April 03:03:25.7 JST)at 34.0 S, 55.3 E, and the other is 18:08:45 UT at 34.3 S, 55.6 E.

Hagoromo Orbiter

The Hagoromo orbiter was a 12 kg, 26-faced polyhedron, 36 cm between opposite faces. A solid propellant (KM-L) retrorocket with a mass of 4 kg was mounted inside the spacecraft for lunar orbit insertion. Sixteen of the surfaces were covered with 1000 sheets of indium-phosphorus solar cells which could generate about 10 W. Two way communications with a ground station were provided by an S-band transponder and an omni-directional cross-dipole antenna mounted on top of the orbiter. No scientific instrumentation was included, only housekeeping data such as temperature was transmitted. The transmitter malfunctioned on 21 February 1990, before the lunar orbit insertion attempt, and no data were transmitted after this time. It is not known whether Hagoromo impacted the Moon or escaped into a heliocentric orbit.

Spacecraft image for illustrative purposes - not necessarily in the public domain.

Alternate Names

  • 20448
  • Muses-A

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1990-01-24
Launch Vehicle: M-3SII
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan
Mass: 143 kg
Nominal Power: 110 W

Funding Agency

  • Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, U of Tokyo (Japan)


  • Planetary Science
  • Engineering

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Hardware for the coming age, Science and Technology in Japan, 8, No. 30, 19-44, April 1989.
  • Uesugi, K., Results of the MUSES-A "HITEN" mission, Adv. Space Res., 18, No. 11, (11)69-(11)72, doi:10.1016/0273-1177(96)00090-7, 1996.
  • Uesugi, K., et al., Japanese first double Lunar swingby mission "HITEN", Acta Astronaut., 25, No. 7, 347-355, doi:10.1016/0094-5765(91)90014-V, 1991.

Related Information at NSSDCA

Hagoromo (Hiten's small lunar orbiter)

Related Information Available Elsewhere

Hiten Page (ISAS/JAXA)

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