This merged session welcomes a broad range of presentations about future missions and instrumentation, and has a particular focus on small satellites. Recent advances in small platforms make it possible for small satellites, including CubeSats, to be considered as independent or complementary elements in planetary exploration missions, for example the small probes as part of the Hayabusa 2, DART and Hera mission. Presentations on Deep Space Planetary CubeSats, e.g. the small satellites accompanying the F-class ESA mission Comet Interceptor and those selected or proposed for the NASA SIMPLEX program are welcomed. Concepts for future mission may either be an augmentation to larger missions or as stand-alone missions of their own. We encourage presentations on new Planetary science mission architectures and associated technologies, as well as dedicated instrumentation that can be developed for these applications.
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Oral and Poster presentations and abstracts
Besides being objects of great scientific interest, Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) also represent a potential threat to human life and civilization. Several space mission concepts have been proposed to prevent the collision of a NEA on course towards Earth, most of them aiming to slightly deflect it from its catastrophic orbit. Among them, the so-called “kinetic impactor” is currently considered the most mature one. This technique is based on a momentum transfer imparted via an impactor spacecraft launched into an interplanetary intercept trajectory that crashes onto the asteroid at high velocity, changing its orbit. DART will be the first test in real scale of this technique. With a mass of 650 kg and an impact velocity of about 6.6 km/s, DART is expected to change the binary orbital period of Dimorphos, the 160-m moon of Didymos (780-m in size), by about 10 min, an effect that can be easily measured by ground-based telescopes (Rivkin et al. 2021; Cheng et al. 2018).
LICIACube is the first purely Italian spacecraft to be operated in deep space, it is managed by ASI and it is under development by a large team of engineers and scientists, with the aim to contribute in the NASA DART Planetary Defence objective (Dotto et al. 2021).
LICIACube Mission Scenario
LICIACube will be launched with DART, hosted as a piggyback and released 10 days before the DART impact and autonomously guided along its fly-by trajectory (see Fig. 1). The aim of this mission is to testify the DART impact and obtain multiple images of the ejecta plume, of the impact site and of the nonimpact hemisphere.
After commissioning phase and braking and correction maneuvers LICIACube will approach the target at a minimum distance of about 55 km, and will perform the scientific phase during the asteroid’s fly-by (Capannolo et al. 2021).
After that, LICIACube will downlink the obtained images directly to Earth. The architecture of the LICIACube Ground Segment is based on the Argotec Mission Control Centre, antennas of the NASA Deep Space Network and data archiving and processing, managed at the ASI Space Science Data Center where images are planned to be integrated in the MATISSE tool (Zinzi et al, 2016; 2019) for visualization and analysis.
The LICIACube payload and observing strategy
The LICIACube mass is about 13 kg: it is developed by Argotec and equipped with two different payloads named LEIA and LUKE (Fig. 2).
LEIA (Liciacube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid) is a narrow FoV camera able to acquire images with a spatial scale close to 1.4 m/px at the minimum distance of about 55 km, while LUKE (Liciacube Unit Key Explorer) is a wide FoV imager with an RGB Bayer pattern filter.
LEIA and LUKE will offer the opportunity to obtain a unique science return, investigating for the first time the nature of a binary NEA. Comparing the impact and non-impact regions, as well as studying the nature and the evolution of the produced dust plume, will allow us to deeply investigate the composition and the structure of the material composing a small double NEA.
As a general approach each planned observation will be formed by a sequence of different images acquired at the maximum frame rate possible and possibly with different integration times.
Starting from about 45 s before T0, the nominal DART impact time, five different acquisition phases have been foreseen (Fig. 3). DART impact observation (red); Ejecta observation (yellow); High resolution observation of the surface properties and the crater (blue); Non-impact hemisphere observation (green); Plume evolution in forward scattering (purple).
The navigation radiometric data acquired during the scheduled tracking passes, along with the images collected before and during the encounter, will be used for an opportunity radio science experiment, to put constraints on the gravity of Didymos.
Images acquired by LEIA and LUKE will allow us to constrain the shape and volume of Dimorphos as well as its physical properties.
High-resolution images, obtained by LEIA at the closest approach, will allow us to study the surface morphology of Dimorphos and the presence of boulders/large blocks on its surface. By comparing pre- and post-impact surface areas we will have the unique opportunity to witness how the boulders size-frequency distribution and density changed as a result of the DART impact.
The LUKE data will give us also the opportunity to investigate the composition of Dimorphos throughout spectrophotometric analyses. So we will be able to map the surface composition of the object and to derive the surface heterogeneity at the observed scale.
The images of the plume, compared with numerical models of dust dynamics, will allow us to have measurements of the motion of the slow ejecta and to estimate the structure of the plume.
Capannolo A., et al. (2021), Acta Astronautica, Volume 182, p. 208.
Cheng A. F., et al. (2018) PSS, 157, 104.
Dotto E., et al. (2021) PSS, 199, id. 105185
Rivkin A.S., et al. (2021) Planetary Science Journal, in press.
Zinzi A. et al. (2016) Astron. Comput., 15, 16-28.
Zinzi A. et al. (2019) EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019, id. EPSC-DPS2019-1272.
Acknowledgements. The LICIACube team acknowledges financial support from Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI, contract No. 2019-31-HH.0 CUP F84I190012600).
How to cite: Dotto, E., Della Corte, V., Amoroso, M., Bertini, I., Brucato, J. R., Capannolo, A., Cotugno, B., Cremonese, G., Di Tana, V., Gai, I., Ieva, S., Impresario, G., Ivanovski, S. L., Lavagna, M., Lucchetti, A., Mazzotta Epifani, E., Meneghin, A., Miglioretti, F., Modenini, D., and Pajola, M. and the LICIACube team: LICIACube – the Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroid onboad DART, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-160, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-160, 2021.
Abstract -The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been at the forefront of finding ways to deliver big science returns in small packages. This talk will describe the current state of missions and capabilities across the mission lifecycle from early concept formulation and implementation through on-orbit operations. From examining how we use concurrent engineering tools, processes and teams for the development of small instruments as well as complete missions, this talk will focus on expanding the capabilities of science using small spacecraft to enable missions for Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics and Earth Science. Highlighted key technologies and science measurements will be described.
How to cite: Kahn, P.: The Current Status of JPL’s SmallSat Developments, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-872, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-872, 2021.
In order to increase the scientific and technological return of the Artemis I mission, NASA has directed the SLS Program to accommodate Secondary Payloads on board of the Space Launch System (SLS), to be deployed with the Orion capsule; among them, ArgoMoon cubesat has been selected as European contribution. It is a 6U platform designed by Argotec on behalf of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and will be released from the launch vehicle Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS). The main objectives of the satellite are: i) taking photographs to document the ICPS after the deployment of the Orion capsule and the deployment of the other secondary payloads mounted on-board; ii) taking photographs of the Earth and the Moon; iii) validate guidance and autonomous targeting technology and iv) verifying a new technology for power distribution, satellite data acquisition and processing suitable for nanosatellite volume. In fact, the cubesat will be the first national spacecraft working in near Deep Space and operated through a Ground Segment mainly based in Italy.
ArgoMoon design is based on the HAWK platform, designed by Argotec following an “all in-house” concept. Some of the main features of this platform are the focus on rad-hard subsystem components, a high level of autonomy capability supported by artificial intelligence, and the scalability towards larger bus sizes.
Early after deployment, ArgoMoon will be able to operate autonomously and perform SLS tracking and proximity flight navigation, making use of a complex image recognition algorithm based on artificial intelligence. These operations are carried out by two optical payloads and the obtained photography will be used to support the NASA and payload communities in providing information regarding the status of their deployment and the condition of the second stage as it completes the final phase of its mission. After that, ArgoMoon will be operative for another six months for technological validation and Moon observation purposes.
During the communication windows throughout the entire satellite lifetime, ArgoMoon will be operated and monitored entirely by the Argotec Mission Control Centre, connected to the Deep Space Network (DSN). The Flight Control Team (FCT) will follow the flight operations with in-house developed software able to plan and validate in orbit activities, verifying the on-board.
After a successfully integration and test campaign, the cubesat has been shipped to USA for the filling activities on the propulsion tanks and the final delivery to NASA for the integration in the SLS, expected in July 2021.
The results of this mission will strongly contribute to future of Space Exploration based on small satellite platforms in Deep Space.
How to cite: Pirrotta, S., Cotugno, B., di Tana, V., Patruno, S., Ingiosi, F., and Simonetti, S.: ArgoMoon: the Italian cubesat for Artemis1 mission, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-879, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-879, 2021.
Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary field covered by only a few CubeSat missions so far. Moreover, no CubeSat mission has ever mounted miniaturized technology for the purpose of searching for molecular evidences of life in space.
AstroBio CubeSat (ABCS) is a 3U CubeSat selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to be launched in spring 2022 with the Vega C maiden flight, as piggy back passenger of the ASI LARES2 mission. ABCS will host a payload assembly based on Lab-on-Chip (LoC) technology for biomarkers detection and will be deployed along a circular orbit with altitude of about 5900 km and inclination of 7°, therefore crossing the inner Van Allen belt where the radiation flux is close to its maximum. Due to the harsh environment, ABCS payload and subsystems will be likely exposed to damages and degradations of electronics and performances, thus the payload assembly and the operational architecture were designed to be as much dependable as possible. This approach should constitute the first step to implement a mature technology with the aim to check the stability of chemicals and biomolecules involved in space experiments.
This work reports an overview of ABCS architecture and the approach chosen for its operational design.
ABCS objective is to test in space an automatic in-situ multiparameter LoC , which exploits luminol injection and enzymatic bio-mimicking assays on a functionalized 3D wax-printed origami. Luminol will be transported by capillarity to reaction sites with immobilized biomolecules targets where the reactions will trigger chemiluminescence, detected by means of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) photodiodes deposited on a borosilicate glass substrate and connected to a photocurrent readout board . The described payload consists in an experiment board hosting the LoC and a support board containing peristaltic pumps for luminol injection, drivers for pumps, radiation field effect transistors (RADFETs) and pressure/temperature sensors. The LoC architecture allows to repeat the experiment up to six times.
In addition to RADFETs, ABCS mounts an ancillary radiation dose sensor (ARDS), developed by Thales Alenia Space, with the aim to assess the radiation effects. The ARDS is able to measure different amounts of current, until its failure, depending on the dose acquired.
To mitigate the effects of the expected very high flux of charged particles, an extra tungsten layer shielding was mounted on each side panel and all the main subsystems (experiment and support board, batteries and EPS board, on-board computer (OBC), telemetry, tracking and control board), were placed inside a 5 mm thick aluminium box. At the same time, to keep the temperature range (from 4°C to 20°C) and operative pressure (about 1 atm) required to allow the LoC capillarity effect and to prevent reagents degradation, the box was sealed and a thermal control system, composed by a multi-layer insulation and an active heather mounted inside the box, was implemented.
ABCS Mission Design
ABCS will be deployed in an approximately circular orbit at about 5900 km altitude and 70° of inclination, spending a significant amount of the orbital period within the inner Van Allen belt, very close to its radiation peak point.
ABCS ground operations will be mainly performed from the School of Aerospace Engineering (SIA) Ground Station. Simulations show that SIA will have access to ABCS 4 times a day, with an average duration of about 65 minutes. For this reason, a network of radioamateurs and third part ground stations will be involved for supporting the collection of the telemetry and science data packages and possibly uplink commands.
The assumption we made is that ABCS should be able to perform the payload operations in a completely autonomous manner. As we know, radiation flux will most likely induce several errors on electronics and performances, causing potential mission failure due to the fact that payload operations may not start because the OBC fails to send the command to start the experiment. A possible way to reduce failure is to perform ABCS experiments where the proton flux is lower. Simulations shows that this happens when ABCS is at polar latitudes, namely outside the range [-60°; 60°]. For this reason, the payload operations, based on redundant checks and triggers, were implemented accordingly. The purpose is to automatically determine if ABCS is at a latitude useful to perform the experiments and verifying this condition by means of multiple triggers, time or position based. Each trigger is used for scheduling purposes only if the ones with higher priority are unreliable. If all the triggers are not reliable, payload operations are forced to begin, as it is better to perform eventually degraded payload operations rather than performing no payload operations at all.
ABCS is required to operate in an extremely harsh environment where radiation fluxes are likely to degrade the electronic devices. Operations should be scheduled in order to reduce the time needed to perform all the experiments. The chosen approach will lead ABCS to complete the payload operations in three orbital periods, reducing the total ionizing dose absorbed and guaranteeing the higher system reliability.
ABCS AstroBio-CubeSat is supported by ASI - Italian Space Agency ASI/INAF Agreement n. 2019-30-HH.0.
 Iannascoli, L. et al. 2020, "Astrobio cubesat: Enabling technologies for astrobiology research in space", Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC.
 Mirasoli M, et al. 2014. Multiwell cartridge with integrated array of amorphous silicon photosensors for chemiluminescence detection: development, characterization and comparison with cooled-CCD luminograph. Anal Bioanal Chem. Sep;406(23):5645-56.
How to cite: Meneghin, A., Brucato, J. R., Paglialunga, D., Nascetti, A., Iannascoli, L., Poggiali, G., Carletta, S., Schirone, L., Pirrotta, S., Impresario, G., Pacelli, C., Anfossi, L., Mirasoli, M., Trozzi, I., Calabria, D., Popova, L., Bardi, A., and Balsamo, M.: AstroBio CubeSat: operational design of a CubeSat for astrobiological purposes in radiative environment, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-174, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-174, 2021.
During its evolution, the Sun and its protective magnetic bubble – the heliosphere - has completed nearly twenty revolutions around the Galactic Core. During this “Solar Journey” it has plowed through widely different interstellar environments that have all shaped the system we live in today. The orders-of-magnitude differences in interstellar properties have had dramatic consequences for the penetration of interstellar material and have affected elemental and isotopic abundances, atmospheric evolution and perhaps even conditions for habitability. As far as we know, only some 60, 000 years ago, the Sun entered what we call the Local Interstellar Cloud (LIC), and in less than 1,900 years the Sun will be entering a very different interstellar environment that will continue to shape its evolution and fate.
The Interstellar Probe is a pragmatic mission with a possible launch already in the next decade that would explore the heliospheric boundary and how it interacts with the Very Local Interstellar Medium (VLISM) to understand the current state along this Solar Journey and, ultimately understand where our home came from, and where we are going. During its 50-year nominal design life, it would go far beyond where the Voyager missions have gone, out to about 400 astronomical units (au) and likely survive out to 1000 au. Therefore, the Interstellar Probe mission would represent humanity’s first explicit step in to the galaxy and become NASA's boldest step in space exploration.
When the Voyager missions traversed the heliospheric boundary with their very limited payload it became clear that we are faced with a whole new regime of space physics that is not only decisive for our own heliosphere, but also for understanding the physics of other astrospheres as well. Today we still do not understand the force that is upholding the magnetic shell (the heliosheath) around our heliosphere, or the mechanisms that shield the solar system from galactic cosmic rays, and many other mysteries. Once beyond where the furthest Voyager spacecraft will cease operations (likely at ~170 au), Interstellar Probe would step in to the unknown, traverse the hydrogen wall and the complex magnetic topology at the very edge of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and then directly sample for the first time the interstellar material that has made all of us. There, measurements of the unperturbed gas, plasma, and fields would allow accurate determination of the current state of the LIC and how it affects the global heliosphere. Measurements of unshielded interstellar dust and galactic cosmic rays would provide unprecedented information on stellar and galactic evolution. The physical processes that occur as the solar wind and magnetic field interact with VLISM would also provide the only directly measurable prototypes for understanding the astrospheres surrounding other stars that control the atmospheres and habitability of their exoplanets. All this newly acquired knowledge would then enable an understanding of the current state of the heliosphere and the VLISM, and how they interact, which ultimately can be used to extrapolate the understanding of our system back to the past and into the future.
At the same time, the outward trajectory is a natural opportunity for exploring one of the ~4,000 Kuiper Belt Objects or ~130 dwarf planets similar to and beyond Pluto and determine the large-scale structure of the circum-solar dust disk to provide the ground truth for planetary system formation in general. Once beyond the obscuring dust, the infrared sky would open a window to early galaxy formation.
An Interstellar Probe has been discussed and studied since 1960, but the stumbling block has always been propulsion. Now this hurdle has been overcome by the availability of new and larger launch vehicles. An international team of scientists and experts are now in the final year of a NASA-funded study led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to develop pragmatic example mission concepts for Interstellar Probe with a nominal design lifetime of 50 years. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the team has analyzed dozens of launch configurations and demonstrated that asymptotic speeds in excess of 7.5 au per year can be achieved using existing or near-term propulsion stages with a powered or passive Jupiter Gravity Assist (JGA). These speeds are more than twice that of the fastest escaping man-made spacecraft to date, which is Voyager 1 currently at 3.59 au/year. Launching near the nose direction of the heliosphere, Interstellar Probe would therefore reach the Termination Shock (TS) in less than 12 years and cross the Heliopause into the VLISM after about 16 years from launch.
In this presentation we provide an overview and update of the study, the science mission concept, the compelling discoveries that await, and the associated example science payload, measurements and operations ensuring a historic data return that would push the boundaries of space exploration by going where no one has gone before.
How to cite: Brandt, P., McNutt, R., Provornikova, E., Kinnison, J., Lisse, C., Runyon, K., Rymer, A., Turner, D., Hill, M., Mostafavi, P., Cocoros, A., Mandt, K., Bale, S., Galli, A., DeMajistre, R., and Paul, M. and the The Interstellar Probe Study Team: Interstellar Probe: A Mission to Explore the Heliospheric Boundary and Interstellar Medium, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-266, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-266, 2021.
Vast amounts of meteoroids and micrometeoroids continuously enter the Earth–Moon system and consequently become a potential threat. Lunar meteoroid impacts have caused a substantial change in the lunar surface and its properties. The Moon having no atmospheric blanket to protect itself, it is subjected to impacts from meteoroids ranging from a few kilograms to 10’s of grams each day. The high impact rate on the lunar surface has important implications for future human and robotic assets that will inhabit the Moon for significant periods of time. Therefore, a greater understanding of the meteoroid population in the cislunar environment is required for future exploration of the Moon.
Moreover, refining current meteoroid models is of paramount importance for many applications. For instance, since meteoroids may travel dispersed along the orbit of their parent body, understanding meteoroids and associated phenomena can be valuable for the study of asteroids and comets themselves. Studying meteoroid impacts can help deepening the understanding of the spatial distribution of near-Earth objects in the Solar system. The study of dust particles can be also of interest because, together with the solar wind, they determine the space weather. Finally, it is critical to be able to predict impacts by relying on accurate impact flux models. That because the impact of small asteroids with Earth, even slightly larger than meteoroids, can cause severe damage.
In this context, the Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (LUMIO) is a CubeSat mission to observe, quantify, and characterise the meteoroid impacts by detecting their flashes on the lunar far-side. This complements the knowledge gathered by Earth-based observations of the lunar nearside, thus synthesising a global information on the lunar meteoroid environment. LUMIO envisages a 12U CubeSat form-factor placed in a halo orbit at Earth-Moon L2. The mission employs the LUMIO-Cam, an optical instrument capable of detecting light flashes in the visible spectrum. LUMIO is one of the two winner of ESA’s LUCE (Lunar CubeSat for Exploration) SysNova competition, and as such it is being considered by ESA for implementation in the near future. The Phase A study has been conducted in 2020 under ESA's General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) and successfully completed at the beginning of 2021, after an independent mission assessment performed by ESA’s CDF team.
In this work, the latest results of the Phase A study of the LUMIO lunar CubeSat will be shown. An overview of the present-day LUMIO CubeSat A design will be given, with a focus on the latest developments. An overview on how LUMIO will impact the currently existing knowledge of meteoroid models will be given supported by high-fidelity simulated data.
How to cite: Merisio, G., Franzese, V., Giordano, C., Massari, M., Di Lizia, P., Topputo, F., Labate, D., Pilato, G., Cervone, A., Speretta, S., Menicucci, A., Bertels, E., Woroniak, K., Kukharenka, A., Thorvaldsen, A., Koschny, D., Vennekens, J., and Walker, R.: LUMIO: a CubeSat to monitor the lunar farside, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-282, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-282, 2021.
Deimos and Phobos are considered primary targets of investigation to understand the origin and evolution of Mars and more in general the terrestrial planets of the Solar System.
TASTE mission aims complementing MMX investigation by focusing on Deimos surface, combining both global remote sensing observations from a close orbit and direct in-situ analyses of the surface thanks to a lander release on Deimos. With a synergy between orbital and in-situ investigations, the proposed mission will contribute to the Deimos global morphology understanding; its global elemental abundance; landing site morphology and texture; landing site organic content and surface composition. TASTE is conceived as a Cubesat-in-Cubesat mission: a 12U space asset composed by a 9U orbiter and a 3U lander. The former embarks an X-gamma ray spectrometer developed by OAT and a multispectral camera, the second is equipped with a miniaturized Surface Sample Analyser (SSA), composed by a new Sample Acquisition Mechanism (SAM), conceived by PoliMi and a Surface Analytical Laboratory (SAL) developed by INAF OAA.
The mission is conceived to keep the orbiter on a QSO nearby Deimos to facilitate the lander release and the scientific operations in synergy with the lander itself. Details on science, space assets sizing and design and mission science operations will be discussed in deep.
How to cite: Lavagna, M., Brucato, J., Prinetto, J., Capannolo, A., Bechini, M., Zanotti, G., Fiore, F., Meneghin, A., Fornaro, T., Paglialunga, D., and Piazzolla, R.: the TASTE mission: In situ DEIMOS terrain analyzer with smalls and miniturized lander, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-461, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-461, 2021.