CubeSat will sift asteroid secrets from reflected sunshine

CubeSat will sift asteroid secrets from reflected sunshine

As ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence probes the Didymos twin asteroid system, it will be joined by a pioneering pair of breadbox-sized ‘CubeSats’. Juventas will perform radar soundings while Milani will image the bodies in a wider range of colours than the human eye can see, prospecting the mineral makeup of individual asteroid boulders.

Hera will reach the Didymos system in 2027, to survey the aftermath of a collision by NASA’s DART spacecraft with the smaller of the two asteroids, Dimorphos. Hera will carry with it two ‘CubeSats’ – nanosatellite-class missions based on standardised 10-cm boxes, making maximum use of commercial off the shelf systems.

Milani, like Juventas, will be a ‘6-unit’ CubeSat. Named after the pioneer of asteroid risk analysis who came up with the original double-spacecraft DART-Hera concept, Milani’s main instrument will be the ASPECT hyperspectral imager, combining visible and near infrared wavelengths to survey the surface down to a maximum spatial resolution of 1 m.

ASPECT will sift through sunlight reflected from Dimorphos as well as its bigger companion Didymos, looking for distinctive mineral “fingerprint’ absorptions” explains Tomas Kohout of Helsinki University in Finland and the Czech Academy of Sciences. “By obtaining a full spectrum for each pixel we can identify variations in surface composition, including DART’s crater and its ejecta, and link these to known meteorite samples and minerals.”

Margherita Cardi of Tyvak International in Italy is managing Milani development on the industrial side: “The main objective of Milani, along with its consortium partners, is to enhance Hera’s overall science return and demonstrate CubeSats technology use in the deep-space environment.

“The satellite navigation signals that most CubeSats rely on in Earth orbit will not be available, so we needed to come up with other methods of navigating around the asteroids, comprising optical cameras, inertial measurement units, Sun sensors and star trackers as well as ranging performed through our inter-satellite link with the Hera mothercraft.

“Another aspect to be considered is that direct communication with Milani CubeSat will not be possible – we are reliant on Hera itself as a relay spacecraft. This means Milani needs a high level of onboard autonomy, and also onboard data processing, to reduce the spacecraft data volume to be downloaded.”

Simply to fit all necessary subsystems within 6U CubeSat means swapping traditional space-qualified parts for the latest miniaturised commercial-off-the-shelf items. These offer enhanced performance, at the cost of potentially greater vulnerability to space radiation. The Politecnico di Torino,a mission partner, is performing radiation analyses on candidate avionics batches.

After two years of cruising to the Didymos system, Milani, as the other cubesat Juventas, will be deployed from its mothercraft in a cautious manner, Margherita explains: “It will be partially deployed, exposed to outer space while still interfacing with its deployer, for a period which is in the order of days during which a complete system checkout is performed.”

Upon successful checkout completion, release will follow, at a maximum velocity of 5 cm/s. Any faster ejection would expose Milani to the risks of leaving the Didymos system before the initial, critical propulsive maneoeuvre is executed.

Milani will fly a set of complex trajectories about Dydimos asteroids, with range to the main bodies reduced progressively from 10 down to 2 km. The rationale is to hover on the asteroids in order to keep their sunlit face in view, and to maintain this geometry with a number of maneuvers using cold-gas thrusters.

Milani will fly in an inclined orbit, 20 degrees off the poles, at roughly airliner altitude – a maximum 11.7 km above Dimorphos, allowing ASPECT to keep the entire asteroid within its field of view. Its working orbit is planned to keep the sunlit face of the asteroid in view, maintained with regular orbital manoeuvres using cold-gas thrusters.

The CubeSat is also designed to perform ‘corrective action manoeuvres’ if it risks heading into ‘risk tubes’ surrounding either asteroid, Juventas or Hera itself.

Along with ASPECT, Milani’s secondary payload is called VISTA (Volatile In-Situ Thermogravimetre Analyser) ,an Italian-built dust detector. The instrument is devoted to detect the presence of dust particles smaller than 5-10 micrometres (thousandths of a millimetre) to detect volatiles such as water, characterise light organics and to monitor molecular contamination surrounding the CubeSat.

Milani will be launched aboard Hera in 2024 and the baseline mission duration is 12 weeks, after which comes the question of its final fate. It could be despatched into a graveyard orbit, or else – in a higher-risk move – put down on the surface of Dimorphos.

The overall Milani consortium is made up of 12 companies and research institutes in Italy, the Czech Republic and Finland, as follows: Tyvak International (Italy); Politecnico di Torino (Italy); Politecnico di Milano (Italy); Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali, CIRA (Italy); Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, INAF-IAPS (Italy); Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company, ALTEC (Italy); VTT Technical Research Center of Finland (Finland); University of Helsinki (Finland); Institute of Geology of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic), Reaktor Space Lab (Finland), Brno University of Technology (Czech Republic); HULD (Czech Republic).

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Space Babes

Houston, we have a problem! Love and sex need to happen in space if we hope to travel long distances and become an interplanetary species, but space organizations are not ... Read more »

Two astronauts return to ISS after 7-Hour Spacewalk

Two international astronauts, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and France’s Thomas Pesquet have returned safely to the International Space Station (ISS) after completing a spacewalk that spanned nearly seven hours, NASA said. ... Read more »

Better weather forecasting through satellite isotope data assimilation

As the global climate continues to change and extreme weather events increasingly threaten regions all over the world, accurate weather forecasting is becoming more important than ever. In a new ... Read more »

Quasars as Cosmic Standard Candles

In 1929, Edwin Hubble published observations that galaxies’ distances and velocities are correlated, with the distances determined using their Cepheid stars. Harvard astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt had discovered that a ... Read more »

Adaptable optical communications to facilitate future low-earth orbit networks

As government and commercial small-satellite constellations continue to proliferate in low-earth orbit (LEO), DARPA has unveiled a new effort to create a novel optical communications terminal to interconnect diverse constellations ... Read more »

New ocean temperature data help scientists make their hot predictions

We’ve heard that rising temperatures will lead to rising sea levels, but what many may not realise is that most of the increase in energy in the climate system is ... Read more »

A gem of a lab will bring the world of quantum physics into the light

The novel design for a next-generation diamond sensor with capabilities that range from producing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of single molecules to detecting slight anomalies in the Earth’s magnetic field ... Read more »

Modern snakes evolved from a few survivors of dino-killing asteroid

A new study suggests that all living snakes evolved from a handful of species that survived the giant asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other living things ... Read more »

Scientists explore method to produce composites with 'shape memory'

Skoltech researchers have investigated a promising type of composite materials in terms of their shape memory behavior: how they resume their original shape following deformation if exposed to the right ... Read more »

Jet stream changes could amplify weather extremes by 2060s

New research provides insights into how the position and intensity of the North Atlantic jet stream has changed during the past 1,250 years. The findings suggest that the position of ... Read more »

TROPICS pathfinder satellite produces global first light images and captures Hurricane Ida

On August 8, NASA’s TROPICS Pathfinder satellite captured global first light images as well as a look inside the structure of Hurricane Ida before and after it made landfall. The ... Read more »

New research takes us closer to figuring out supermassive black holes

Galaxies host supermassive black holes, which weigh millions to billions times more than our Sun. When galaxies collide, pairs of supermassive black holes at their centres also lie on the ... Read more »

Rerun of supernova blast expected to appear in 2037

It’s challenging to make predictions, especially in astronomy. There are however, a few forecasts astronomers can depend on, such as the timing of upcoming lunar and solar eclipses and the ... Read more »

SpaceX launches Starlink satellites into orbit from West Coast

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched a stack of Starlink satellites into space Monday night, the first such launch since May. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off through a cloud of ... Read more »

Ballistic air guns and mock moon rocks aid in search for durable space fabrics

The surface of the Moon is a harsh environment with no air, low gravity, dust, and micrometeorites-tiny rocks or metal particles-flying faster than 22,000 mph. These conditions can pose a ... Read more »

CuPID CubeSat will get new perspective on Sun-Earth boundary

When you help build a satellite the size of a shoebox, you learn pretty much everything about it, says Emil Atz, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. ... Read more »

TPY-4 Radar earns official US Government Designation

As the world’s most capable and flexible ground based multi-function long-range radar, Lockheed Martin’s TPY-4 has received its official U.S. Government nomenclature – AN/TPY-4(V)1 – officially marking the radar’s maturity ... Read more »

China launches Zhongxing-9B satellite

China successfully launched a new direct broadcast satellite (DBS) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province Thursday. The satellite, Zhongxing-9B, was launched at 7:50 p.m. (Beijing ... Read more »

DLR agrees cooperation with Spanish start-up Pangea Aerospace

The German Federal Government is turning to efficient start-ups in its quest to ensure independent and competitive access to space for Europe. With their ideas and vision, they can accelerate ... Read more »

Winds delay South Australian launch attempt

UPDATE: Friday’s launch attempt was delayed due to strong upper winds. The Australian Government has given regulatory approval for a commercial rocket launch to take place from a newly licensed ... Read more »

SpaceX to raise bar for space tourism with Inspiration4 launch

SpaceX plans to reach new heights, literally, for space tourism Wednesday by launching the Inspiration4 mission from Florida — the first all-private spaceflight to orbit the Earth. Two men and ... Read more »

Next generation of Orion spacecraft in production for future Artemis missions

Over the next decade, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts during Artemis missions to the Moon to help prepare for human missions to Mars. Work on the spacecraft for Artemis ... Read more »

Orbit MPT30-Ku 12" Airborne SATCOM Terminal receives Intelsat FlexAir for government qualification

Orbit Communication Systems Ltd. reports that the Orbit MPT-30-Ku multi-purpose terminal (MPT) has received full qualification for use with the Intelsat FlexAir for Government service offering. FlexAir is a global ... Read more »

The beach is back: French Riviera marsh ditches seawalls for sand

To save one of the last wetlands on the French Riviera from rising sea levels, conservationists have taken the unusual step of removing its protective seawalls. Instead, they have let ... Read more »

Hughes and OneWeb announce agreements for low earth Orbit satellite service in US and India

Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, and OneWeb, the low Earth orbit satellite communications company, has announced that they ... Read more »

Groundbreaking technique yields important new details on possible 'fifth force'

A group of researchers have used a groundbreaking new technique to reveal previously unrecognized properties of technologically crucial silicon crystals and uncovered new information about an important subatomic particle and ... Read more »

Dates set for Space Station change of command as Franco-German relations awarded Media prize

The dates have been set for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s upcoming command of the International Space Station, as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer prepares to join him on board. Thomas, who ... Read more »

Allen Coral Atlas completes map of the world's coral reefs using satellite imagery

The Allen Coral Atlas partners has announced that after three years, 450+ research teams and counting, and two million satellite images, the habitat mapping of the world’s shallow coral reefs ... Read more »

Some coral reefs are keeping pace with ocean warming

Some coral communities are becoming more heat tolerant as ocean temperatures rise, offering hope for corals in a changing climate. After a series of marine heatwaves hit the Phoenix Islands ... Read more »

Researchers reveal a novel metal where electrons flow with fluid-like dynamics

A team of researchers from Boston College has created a new metallic specimen where the motion of electrons flows in the same way water flows in a pipe – fundamentally ... Read more »

Space junk traffic dangers to be tackled by first-of-its-kind research centre in UK

New ways of tackling the threat that space junk in our skies poses are being explored by University of Warwick scientists, as they pioneer new research that could help the ... Read more »

Milky Way is not homogeneous

In order to better understand the history and evolution of the Milky Way, astronomers are studying the composition of the gases and metals that make up an important part of ... Read more »

Safeguarding clean water for spaceflight missions

By all appearances, the universe beyond Earth is a vast, lonely, and sterile space. Yet, wherever humans may travel, an abundance of microbial life will follow. In a first study ... Read more »

China develops sustainable development satellite

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has developed a satellite for pursuing sustainable development. The satellite, SDGSAT-1, has already passed the round-the-clock and multi-load coordinated observation. It is expected to ... Read more »

Space industry grapples with COVID-19-related oxygen fuel shortage

A pandemic-related shortage of a key rocket propellant, liquid oxygen, could force rocket launches to be postponed in coming months, possibly delaying important scientific and national defense missions, industry observers ... Read more »

Gaofen 5-02 satellite launched from Taiyuan

China launched the Gaofen 5-02 Earth-observation satellite on Tuesday morning at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province, according to the China National Space Administration. The administration said the ... Read more »

Largest virtual universe free for anyone to explore

Forget about online games that promise you a “whole world” to explore. An international team of researchers has generated an entire virtual UNIVERSE, and made it freely available on the ... Read more »

Laser solid-phase synthesis of single atom catalysts

Laser fabrication of nanoparticles offers a powerful and flexible alternative to the purely chemical approaches. In recent years, laser synthesized precious metal nanoparticles are becoming increasingly important in catalysis due ... Read more »

Kleos secures A$12.6 million to grow constellation

Kleos Space S.A, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a- service (DaaS) company, has secured A$12.6 million (equivalent to 9.3 million USD) from new and existing institutional and sophisticated investors in ... Read more »

Eutelsat completes OneWeb equity investment

Eutelsat Communications confirms the closing of its $550m equity investment in OneWeb announced on April 27, 2021. Subject to completion of the subsequently announced investments in OneWeb by Bharti and ... Read more »