The cube sat Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) explorer was part of 10 cubes who had been launched simultaneously with the Artemis 1 mission. The latter took off on November 16 by rocket NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). NEA Scout strives for it fly over asteroid 2020 GE in a year, but the particularity of this mission goes the device use a shade sail to succeed. Currently the cubesat looks like a Technical issue.
In a statement, U.S. space agency officials said that after the successful separation and deployment on Nov. 16, the team behind the NEA Scout project has not yet been able to establish communication with the spacecraft. Engineers are working on a way to solve the problem.
The scientists responsible for NEA Scout hope the cubesat’s unusual propulsion system will allow them to spot it. NEA Scout is indeed equipped a silver sun sail with a surface of 86 m².
An emergency call
Normally, the NEA Scout probe should deploy its sail around early December. Then she will have to using solar radiation to propel itself to the asteroid. On Monday, November 21, when the cubesat was not reachable, the technicians sent a command twice put out the sail quickly. They hope that this will make the vessel more visible.
According to NASA, if the probe manages to receive the distress signal and open its sail, it could be seen using terrestrial telescopes. Several terrestrial observatories are currently looking for NEA Scout as they share data. These will be crucial in learning more about the condition of the spacecraft.
The other cubesats were launched with Artemis 1
A total of ten cubesats were launched with the Artemis 1 mission. Like NEA Scout, some also experienced problems. For example, there is OMOTENASHI, a small Japanese lunar lander. According to reports, the small device missed its appointment with the moon. There is also the cubesat NASA’s LunaH Map who failed to perform a crucial ignition of his main engine.
According to NASA, they added cubesats to the Artemis 1 mission, knowing that smaller missions involved more risk than larger craft that were built more durable and with more redundancy.
Among the cubesats of Artemis 1 there are also those that are in good condition. The Italian cubesat ArgoMoon for example, sent pictures of the Earth and the Moon. Another Japanese mission called EQUALUS also managed to make its first flyby of the moon.
So let’s wait for news from NEA Scout, which should be NASA’s first solar-powered sailing probe to leave Earth orbit. If the mission goes according to plan, the cubesat will perform the slowest flyby of an asteroid ever, and asteroid 2020 GE will become the smallest asteroid ever visited.
SOURCE: Space. com