Print Friendly, PDF & Email

NASA’s new spacecraft NEA Scout

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

NASA’s new spacecraft NEA Scout:


Context:

NEA Scout is one of several payloads that will hitch a ride on Artemis I, which is expected to be launched in November.

 

What is Artemis I?

  • It is an uncrewed testflight of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket.
  • Under the Artemis programme, NASA has aimed to land the first woman on the Moon in 2024 and also establish sustainable lunar exploration programs by 2030.

 

What is NEA Scout?

  • NEA stands for Near-Earth Asteroid.
  • NEA Scout is a small spacecraft, about the size of a big shoebox.
  • Its main mission is to fly by and collect data from a near-Earth asteroid.
  • It will also be America’s first interplanetary mission using a special solar sail propulsion.

 

How will it use sunlight to sail?

  • The CubeSat will use stainless steel alloy booms to deploy an aluminum-coated plastic film sail – thinner than a human hair and about the size of a racquetball court.
  • The large-area sail will generate thrust by reflecting sunlight.
  • Energetic particles of sunlight, called photons, bounce off the solar sail to give it a gentle yet constant push.
  • Over time, this constant thrust can accelerate the spacecraft to very high speeds, allowing it to navigate through space and catch up to its target asteroid.

 

Significance of the mission:

  • NEA Scout will begin an approximate two-year journey to fly by a near-Earth asteroid.
  • Once it reaches its destination, the spacecraft will capture images of the asteroid which scientists will then study to further our understanding of these small but important solar system neighbors.
  • Understanding their properties could help us develop strategies for reducing the potential damage caused in the event of an impact.

 

Insta Curious:

Have you heard of NASA’s solar sail mission, Solar Cruiser? What are solar sails and how do they work? Reference: nasa.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About the mission.
  2. Objectives.
  3. About Artemis’ mission.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of the mission.

Sources: the Hindu.