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New SIMPLEx Mission to Send SmallSats on Longest Deep Space Journey to Date

15 Sep 2020, 09:29 UTC
New SIMPLEx Mission to Send SmallSats on Longest Deep Space Journey to Date
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NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — A small satellite mission that will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids has received NASA approval to proceed to the next phase of its development.

On Sept. 3, the dual-spacecraft Janus project successfully passed the important Key Decision Point-C milestone. It’s the first concept study from the current round of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx-2) program to do so.

Two other SIMPLEx-2 concepts, Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE) and Lunar Trailblazer, are still in formulation. Lunar Trailblazer’s KDP-C is scheduled for this November, and EscaPADE’s is scheduled for April 2021.

Passing KDP-C means that the mission received agency-level approval for the Janus team to begin final design of hardware. The decision point also establishes the mission’s official schedule and budget. The mission will cost less than $55 million.

Janus’ twin spacecraft are designed to be small and agile, each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase. Shrinking the spacecraft brings an advantage, said Lockheed Martin’s Janus Program Manager Josh Wood. He explained that innovative technologies allow us to ...

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