The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun to organize a flight to an asteroid pair as part of a European-American project to develop a technique to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, the head of the ESA office in Moscow said on Wednesday.
The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft is due to take off for the Didymos asteroid, which has a diameter of 800 meters, and its satellite Didymoon with a diameter of 180 meters in October 2020, Rene Pichel told Interfax-AVN.
According to ESA, Didymos and Didymoon will approach Earth at a distance of about 11 million kilometers by 2022. The AIM orbiter would fly around Didymoon, take high resolution pictures of the satellite in the visible and infrared bands and with radar, and land a module on its surface, Pichel said.
The orbiter vehicle would insert two or more smaller CubeSat satellites into Didymoon orbit to collect other data.
The data would be transmitted through a laser link to an ESA station in Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Later in 2022, AIM would overlap with the United States' Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. The two missions are components of the planned Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission.
The DART rocket would crash into Didymoon at a speed of 6 kilometers per second. The European orbiter would evaluate the impact and make clear whether this would be an effective deflection method.
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