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Icarus: In-situ monitoring of the surface degradation on a near-Sun asteroid

Presentation #412.05 in the session “Future Instruments, Missions and Facilities”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Icarus: In-situ monitoring of the surface degradation on a near-Sun asteroid

Icarus is a mission concept designed to record the activity of an asteroid during a close encounter with the Sun. The primary science goal of the mission is to unravel the nontrivial mechanism(s) that destroy asteroids on orbits with small perihelion distances. Understanding the destruction mechanism(s) allows us to constrain the bulk composition and interior structure of asteroids in general. The Icarus mission does not only aim to achieve its science goals but also functions as a technical demonstration of what a low-cost space mission can do. The proposed space segment will include a single spacecraft capable of surviving and operating in the harsh environment near the Sun. The spacecraft design relies on the heritage of missions such as Rosetta, MESSENGER, Parker Solar Probe, BepiColombo, and Solar Orbiter. The spacecraft will rendezvous with an asteroid during its perihelion passage and records the changes taking place on the asteroid’s surface. The primary scientific payload has to be capable of imaging the asteroid’s surface in high resolution using visual and near-infrared channels as well as collecting and analyzing particles that are ejected from the asteroid. The payload bay also allows for additional payloads relating to, for example, solar research. The Icarus spacecraft and the planned payloads have high technology readiness levels and the mission is aimed to fit the programmatic and cost constraints of the F1 mission (Comet Interceptor) by the European Space Agency (ESA). Considering the challenging nature of the Icarus trajectory and the fact that the next F-class mission opportunity (F2) is yet to be announced, we conclude that Icarus is feasible as an F-class mission when certain constraints such as a suitable launch configuration are met (e.g., if EnVision is selected as ESA M5). A larger mission class, such as the M class by the European Space Agency, would be feasible in all circumstances. Further details about Icarus can be found in Lehtinen et al. (2021, Acta Astronautica 186, 98-108).

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