Lockheed Martin to Design Spacecraft for NASA SIMPLEx Program
Lockheed Martin was selected to design dual small deep space spacecraft to visit near-earth asteroids in a mission called Janus, led by the University of Colorado Boulder. One of NASA‘s Small Innovative Mission for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) finalists, Janus is designed to fly by two binary asteroids, or asteroids orbiting a common center of mass, to image the system using both visible and infrared cameras. These small satellites will launch in 2022 to reach the asteroid system in 2026.
Downselected for this next phase of NASA’s SIMPLEx program, Lockheed Martin will be working toward preliminary design review. SIMPLEx is a cost-capped program focusing science investigations on any Solar System body, except for the Earth and the Sun, using small spacecraft lighter than 180 kg (kilograms). The Janus mission is designed to meet these requirements. The mission will investigate how binary asteroids form and evaluate existing theories of how these constantly changing systems evolve.
“We are excited to partner with University of Colorado on this challenging mission to be among the first small sats to return science data from beyond Earth orbit,” said Chris McCaa, Janus program manager at Lockheed Martin Space. “Janus will provide the opportunity to blend our long heritage of mission success in deep space with the small sat paradigm, helping to pave the way for a new generation of deep space explorers. Combining our track record of delivering on principal investigator-led missions and the caliber of this science team will give us all a greater understanding of the working of our Solar System.”