Arrival and handover of the scientific instrument MEGANE for MMX!

On March 14, 2024, the flight model of the “MEGANE” scientific instrument that will be onboard the MMX spacecraft was officially handed over from NASA/APL, where MEGANE was developed, to JAXA.

MEGANE is one of the 13 mission instruments that will be onboard the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft. The instrument is a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer that can probe the composition of celestial bodies such as moons and planets. The name (meaning “glasses” in Japanese) is an acronym standing for “Mars-moon Exploration with GAmma-rays and NEutrons”.

The MEGANE gamma ray sensor (GRS) with (from left) Leonard Dudzinski (NASA), Kawakatsu Yasuhiro (JAXA), Uehara Akinari (MELCO).

Gamma ray and neutron radiation is emitted from the surface of celestial bodies without atmospheres, including Mars’s moon, Phobos. This occurs when atoms on the surface of the moon, such as silicon and iron, are struck by the high-energy galactic cosmic rays that fly through space and our Solar System. The amount of energy carried by the emitted gamma rays and neutrons depends on the types of atoms (the chemical elements) that make up the moon surface, and so reveals the composition of the rock. MEGANE will detect and measure the energy of the gamma rays and neutrons emitted from Phobos to decipher which chemical elements produced the radiation. This will determine what elements form the Phobos surface, and their distribution.

MEGANE was developed at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) and is one of several collaboration points that began in 2017 between JAXA and NASA for the MMX mission. The Announcement of Opportunity (AO) was initially announced in the USA by NASA, and APL was then selected to develop the instrument. After the design and engineering model (EM) were developed in the US, the flight model (FM) for MEGANE was constructed and completed in August 2023. The MEGANE FM underwent a final inspection, and passed the Pre-Ship Review (PSR).

MEGANE was then on its way to Japan! After arrival, the final functional performance was confirmed and the instrument was officially handed over from NASA/APL to JAXA and the spacecraft manufacturer, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO).

MEGANE is now installed on the MXM spacecraft’s exploration module, and will take part in the comprehensive system tests that are run across the entire spacecraft.

JAXA will continue to do our best with preparations to ensure that MEGANE, entrusted to us by NASA and APL, can complete the exciting scientific program at the Martian moons.

Group photo of MEGANE officials when the handover documents were officially signed. Front row from left: Leonard Dudzinki, Kawakatsu Yasuhiro. Back row from left: Erin Hoffer (APL), John Stinchomb (APL), Dennis Harris (NASA), Ogawa Kazunori (JAXA), Kusano Hiroki (National Institute for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology), Yanagisawa Takuya (JAXA), Sato Yuhei (MELCO), Machimoto Eru (JAXA).

NASA Program Executive MEGANE Instrument Project Leonard Dudzinski
Supporting the JAXA MMX Mission Planetary Science Division

We’ve now delivered the MEGANE instrument to JAXA and the MELCO team for integration. NASA is very pleased on this day. The MEGANE instrument is going to be the highest performance gamma ray and neutron spectrometer flown to-date, and we’re very happy with the APL team that developed the instrument. And we’re also very excited for the JAXA MMX mission that will uncover the origins of the Martian moons. We’re grateful that the MEGANE instrument can be part of this.

MEGANE Principal Investigator (PI) David Lawrence
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL)

The entire MEGANE team is very pleased to have accomplished this milestone of completing the official handover of the MEGANE hardware.  And even more importantly, we are glad to have successfully installed the GRS, NS, and DPU onto the spacecraft, and are appreciative of all the hard work and dedication of our colleagues at JAXA and MELCO to make this installation happen in a smooth manner.  Finally, we are looking forward to the next phase of the preparation for launch.

JAXA MMX Project Manager Kawakatsu Yasuhirio

When we began the MMX Project, we knew that we would be exploring the Martian moons, which have been called the most important unexplored peaks in the Solar System. We therefore wanted to assemble the world’s best observation equipment. So we requested the US gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer technology, and asked if we could collaborate for this mission. Today, that collaboration reached a major milestone and we successfully received MEGANE. I would like to thank NASA and JHU/APL for their development of MEGANE, and my colleagues at JAXA and MELCO for their efforts in the interface coordination. The hand-over of equipment also means the hand-over of responsibility. We will install MEGANE on the MMX spacecraft, test, launch and deliver the instrument to the Martian moons. I would like to firmly fulfil this responsibility so that MEGANE can produce excellent observation results.

JAXA MMX Project MEGANE Team Ogawa Kazunori

I have been in charge of coordinating the technical interface between MEGANE and the spacecraft, placed between the MEGANE development team in the US and the Japan project. We faced a number of extra challenges and difficulties due to differences in the culture for development between Japan and the US, but the MEGANE development team is extremely talented and we overcame these together! I am delighted that we were able to safely complete the handover.

More information:

MMX News: The PSR (Pre-Shipment Review) of MEGANE is complete