High-resolution photos for the Italian MicroSat, built by Argotec and ASI, that will be on NASA’s asteroid mission
Turin/Rome, 12 July 2021 – LICIACube, a microsatellite built entirely in the Argotec laboratories in Turin for, and in collaboration with, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) is ready for shipping. It will be delivered to its integration site in the United States in the coming weeks in preparation for the year-end launch of the first planetary defence mission against potential future asteroid threats.
The Italian microsatellite will participate in NASA’s DART mission, which aims to determine whether it is technically possible to change the orbit of the smallest asteroid in the Didymos binary asteroid system. DART will impact the asteroid at a speed of about 21,000 km/h, 11 million kilometres from Earth. LICIACube, after an 11-month voyage on board DART, will be deployed from the NASA spacecraft a few days before DART’s impact and will acquire high-resolution images of the crater and debris generated by the collision. All the data produced during this stage of the mission will be crucial in verifying the effectiveness of the shifting an asteroid’s orbit using this technique. In addition, the Italian and American science teams will use the data acquired by DART and LICIACube to study both the nature and composition of the asteroid.
The small Italian satellite platform, measuring just 30x20x10cm, with powerful optics and artificial intelligence-based software, will be able to recognise celestial objects in the camera’s range, autonomously perform orbital manoeuvres and capture images and scientific data. The data will be indispensable for validating this technique to defend the Earth from potential threats such as asteroids. The LICIACube mission will be one of the most challenging ever carried out by a microsatellite in the harsh conditions of deep space, due in part to the high speed at which the satellite will travel past the DART impact site. This project will set a new technological benchmark for the future of small satellite missions that can support space exploration.
At the moment, there is no threat of an immediate asteroid impact with the Earth, but the risk of an asteroid collision should not be neglected. This mission represents the first step towards a new planetary defence system, so it is of vital importance that Italy plays a decisive role together with its LICIACube.
For more information:
Press release – Italian version: LICIACUBE E’ PRONTO PER LA PRIMA MISSIONE DI DIFESA INTERPLANETARIA
Press release – English version: LICIACUBE IS READY FOR THE FIRST PLANETARY DEFENCE MISSION