NEA Scout: NASA’s New Spacecraft
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III- Science & Technology
In News: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that its new spacecraft, named Near-Earth Asteroid Scout or NEA Scout, has completed all required tests and has been safely tucked inside the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
About NEA Scout
- It is a miniaturized spacecraft, known as a CubeSat.
- Its main mission is to fly by and collect data from a near-Earth asteroid.
- It will take about two years to cruise to the asteroid and will be about 93 million miles away from Earth during the asteroid encounter.
- It is one of several payloads that will hitch a ride on Artemis I, which is expected to be launched in November, 2021.
- Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
- NEA Scout launches to the Moon in 2021 with a fleet of other small satellites aboard Artemis 1.
- At the Moon, NEA Scout will deploy its 86-square-meter solar sail and slowly spiral out of lunar orbit.
- It will travel to a near-Earth asteroid and perform a slow fly-by, capturing up-close images of the surface.
- The images gathered by NEA Scout will provide critical information on the asteroid’s physical properties such as orbit, shape, volume, rotation, the dust and debris field surrounding it, plus its surface properties.
What is unique about NEA Scout?
- It will also be America’s first interplanetary mission using a special solar sail propulsion.
- So far, spacecraft have been using solar energy to power them and execute critical functions. This will be the first time that a spacecraft uses solar energy as wind to generate thrust and move forward.
- The spacecraft will pave the way for the Solar Cruiser, which will use a sail 16 times larger when it flies in 2025.