American startup will launch a mission to the asteroid Apophis

California startup ExLabs (Exploration Labs) has announced its intention to send a mission to the 320-meter asteroid Apophis. It will be launched in 2028.

Asteroid Apophis in the artist’s impression. Source: Unistellar

Apophis was discovered in 2004. At the time of its discovery, it was considered the most dangerous asteroid in history. Preliminary calculations have shown that there is a small probability that after approaching the Earth in 2029, the orbit of Apophis may change in such a way that in 2036 it will fall on our planet. 

Subsequently, astronomers managed to eliminate the possibility of Apophis colliding with the Earth in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, its upcoming rendezvous with Earth is still of great interest. The fact is that Apophis will pass at a distance of only 31 thousand km from the surface of our planet. This is closer than the orbits of geostationary satellites.

Of course, scientists want to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more about the small body and how the rendezvous with our planet will affect it. In particular, the OSIRIS-APEX mission will be sent to Apophis. And recently, NASA invited private companies to participate in asteroid exploration projects. And at least one company was interested in this opportunity.

ExLabs was founded in 2023. The main purpose of its activity is to capture and “drag” near-Earth asteroids into stable orbits for the purpose of subsequent extraction of resources on them. According to ExLabs, it plans to launch three cubesats into orbit around Apophis in 2028. They will study the small body, as well as test systems and software that are planned to be used in future missions to capture and move asteroids.

Earlier, we talked about how volunteers helped NASA find 15 active asteroids.

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