Lockheed Martin has partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder to launch twin spacecraft that will rendezvous with binary asteroids for a NASA mission in 2022.
Lockheed said Thursday the team will launch identical spacecraft and use camera systems to study two pairs of asteroids and their orbital patterns as part of the Janus mission under NASA's Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration program.
The small satellites will fly near the “rubble pile“ asteroids named 1991 VH and 1996 FG3 that are known for their unpredictable orbital patterns.
The management, operation and construction of the spacecraft will fall under Lockheed's operations while CU Boulder will lead the effort and oversee analysis activities.
Josh Wood, Janus project manager at Lockheed, said the twin spacecraft will weigh around 80 pounds and work to travel beyond the current limit for smallsats.
The Janus mission will first orbit around the sun following its launch in 2022 before traversing a path towards Earth and beyond the Martian orbit.