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Janus: Twin Spacecraft to Study Binary Asteroids

11 Sep 2020, 18:24 UTC
Janus: Twin Spacecraft to Study Binary Asteroids
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

When we looked earlier this week at the Solaris mission, a concept designed to study the Sun’s polar regions, I commented on another early concept called the Auroral Reconstruction CubeSwarm (ARCS). The mission intrigued me because it consisted of CubeSats in swarm formation, working together with numerous ground observatories, to study the Earth’s auroras. The paradigm of miniaturization, low cost and creative design surfaces yet again in Janus, a proposal out of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Lockheed Martin that would involve twin spacecraft studying twin targets, the binary asteroids 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH.
Daniel Scheeres (CU-Boulder) is principal investigator for Janus, the plan being for the university to handle the analysis of data and images from the mission, with Lockheed Martin building and operating the two spacecraft. It should be a familiar role for both entities, as Lockheed Martin supports operations for OSIRIS-REx at asteroid Bennu, while Scheeres leads the radio science team for that mission. Each Janus spacecraft is roughly the size of a suitcase, a carry-on at that, echoing the theme of keeping spacecraft small and straightforward.
Lockheed Martin’s Josh Wood is project manager for Janus:
“We see an advantage to be able to ...

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