The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) is a candidate mission currently undergoing preliminary design work (phase B1). The mission concept is being consolidated in view of a potential discussion at ESA’s Council of Ministers in December 2016 for approval. Assuming success, the mission concept will then become an actual ESA mission and work can begin at once on translating computer-aided design drawings into bent metal and cast composite.
ESA considers AIM to be a small mission of opportunity to demonstrate technologies mainly in the telecommunications domain, but as its Proba family of missions has demonstrated, the best way to prove new technologies is to achieve valuable scientific return.
Launched in October 2020, AIM would travel to a binary asteroid system – the paired Didymos asteroids, which will come a comparatively close 16 million km to Earth in 2022. The 800 m-diameter main body is orbited by a 170 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’.
This smaller body is AIM’s focus: the spacecraft would perform high-resolution visual, thermal and radar mapping of the moon to build detailed maps of its surface and interior structure.
The main AIM spacecraft is planned to carry at least three smaller spacecraft – the Mascot-2 asteroid lander, being provided by DLR (Mascot-1 is already flying on JAXA’s Hayabusa-2), as well as two or more CubeSats.
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