NASA has begun construction of an asteroid hunter

NASA engineers have begun manufacturing the first components of the NEO Surveyor space observatory. It will search for potentially dangerous asteroids.

A hunter for potentially dangerous asteroids

In November 2022, NASA finally approved the NEO Surveyor mission project. A specialized telescope designed to search for potentially dangerous celestial bodies will be built. Its working position will be located at a distance of 1.5 million km from our planet at the L1 Lagrangian point of the Earth-Sun system, where it will be able to scan large areas of the sky.
NEO Surveyor infrared telescope (concept) Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NEO Surveyor will conduct observations in the infrared range (from 4 to 10 μm). Thanks to this, he will be able to detect the so-called dark asteroids, as well as burnt-out comets. They have a very low surface albedo, which makes it difficult for ground-based observatories to find such objects. However, due to the strong heating of the surface by sunlight, they are clearly visible in the infrared range, which will allow NEO Surveyor to easily identify them. Also, the telescope will be able to detect asteroids that are moving towards the Earth from the Sun, which are practically invisible to ground-based observatories.

The first components of NEO Surveyor

After NASA gave the final green light to the project, engineers began manufacturing the first components of the telescope. Among them are radiators that will be used for its passive cooling. In addition, the construction of composite racks has begun. They are needed to isolate the NEO Surveyor science payload from the spacecraft body and its sun shield.

Near-Earth Object Surveyor
NEO Surveyor telescope (concept). Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Progress has also been made as to development of NEO Surveyor’s infrared detectors and a number of electronic components. Work has begun on the 50-centimeter mirror of the telescope. It will be made of a single block of aluminum and machined with a specially made diamond lathe.

As for now, the launch of NEO Surveyor is scheduled for 2028. The total budget of the mission is estimated at 1.2 billion dollars.

You can also read about ESA’s tests of the antenna that will be installed on the Hera interplanetary probe.

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