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Janus Satellite to Explore Binary Asteroid

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 2, 2020
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NASA rendering of a Janus satellite rendezvousing with a binary asteroid. (Credit: NASA)

Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)


Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass.

The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.


Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

Janus will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

3 responses to “Janus Satellite to Explore Binary Asteroid”

  1. therealdmt says:

    Interesting – looks like Janus will do flybys of two different binary asteroid pairs, specifically, 1991 VH (a non-synchronous binary, the primary being an S-type) and 1996 FG3 (a stable synchronous binary pair, the primary being a C-type). 1991 Van Halen is currently in an evolving chaotic state (true, from what I remember), so these two examples should provide some interesting contrasts

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