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Lockheed Martin to Build Smallsats for Far-Off Binary Asteroid Mission 

By Rachel Jewett | September 11, 2020

The twin-spacecraft Janus project will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” binary asteroids. Photo: Lockheed Martin

The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin are working on a smallsat mission called Janus to capture the first-ever closeup look at binary asteroids. 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, which are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other. The mission is under NASA‘s SIMPLEx program. 

Lockheed Martin Janus Project Manager Josh Wood said that the spacecraft are designed to be small and nimble. Each one is about 80 pounds, the size of a carry-on suitcase, and will travel farther than any small satellite to date.

“We see an advantage to be able to shrink our spacecraft,” said Wood. “With technology advancements, we can now explore our solar system and address important science questions with smaller spacecraft.”

Janus is led by the University of Colorado Boulder, which will also undertake the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission. Lockheed Martin will manage, build and operate the spacecraft.