New Small Satellite Mission to Rendezvous with Binary Asteroids

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These bodies are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other in space, much like the Earth and Moon. In a project review on Sept. 3, NASA gave the official go-ahead to the Janus mission, named after the two-faced Roman god. The mission will study these asteroid couplets in never-before-seen detail. Known as Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C), this review and approval from NASA allows for the project to begin implementation, and baselines +the project’s official schedule and budget.

It will be a moment for twos: In 2022, the Janus team will launch two identical spacecraft that will travel millions of miles to individually fly close to two pairs of binary asteroids. Their observations could open up a new window into how these diverse bodies evolve and even burst apart over time, said Daniel Scheeres, the principle investigator for Janus.  
“Binary asteroids are one class of objects for which we don’t have high-resolution scientific data,” said Scheeres, distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. “Everything we have on them is based on ground observations, which don’t give you as much detail as being up close.”The mission, which will cost less than $55 million …

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