Space 2023: NASA’s Two Asteroid Missions, ESA’s Jupiter Mission & Multiple Space Telescopes on the Manifest

This illustration depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Part 4 of a Series

NASA will received a sample from one asteroid and launch a mission to another, ESA will send a probe to study Jupiter and its icy moons, and multiple space telescopes are on launch manifests this year.

With the caveat that launch schedules are notoriously unreliable, and that delays are inevitable, let’s take a look at these upcoming exploration and science missions.

NASA ASTEROID MISSIONS

OSIRIS-REx collects a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA)

OSIRIS-REx
Capsule Landing: Sept. 24, 2023

OSIRIS-REx’s seven-year primary mission will come to a close on Sept. 24 when a capsule delivers a soil sample from the Bennu asteroid. The spacecraft reached Bennu in December 2018, collected a soil sample in October 2020, and departed for Earth in May 2021.

The spacecraft’s voyage in not over, however. NASA will send the spacecraft, which will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX, on an extended mission to explore the 99942 Apophis asteroid in 2029.

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

Psyche
Destination: 16 Psyche asteroid
Launch Date: Oct. 10, 2023
Arrival: August 2029
Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy

NASA is sending the Psyche spacecraft to orbit the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. The spacecraft includes the following instruments:

  • high-resolution multispectral imager that will use filters to discriminate between metallic and silicate constituents,
  • gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to analyze and map the asteroid’s composition,
  • magnetometer to measure and map the asteroid’s remnant magnetic field, and
  • X-band Gravity Science Investigation that will use an X-band radio system to measure the asteroid’s gravity field and analyze its interior structure.

Psyche, which was built by Maxar Technologies, will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

JUICE ORBITER

JUICE wants to determine what is under the ice of Jupiter’s moons. (Source: Airbus)

Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) Orbiter
Agency: ESA
Launch Date: April 14-30, 2023
Arrival: July 2031
Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5

JUICE will explore the Solar System’s largest planet and its ice-covered moons of Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. Instruments aboard the spacecraft include:

  • Jovis, Amorum ac Natorum Undique Scrutator (JANUS): Stereo-imaging camera system to image Ganymede and Callisto at between 2.4-400 m/pixel.
  • Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer (MAJIS): Visible and infrared imager that will investigate Jupiter’s clouds and minor gases, and the composition of ices and minerals on the surfaces of the icy moons.
  • Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS): Instrument will characterize exospheres and aurorae of the icy moons, search for plumes on Europa, and study Jupiter’s upper atmosphere and aurorae.
  • Sub-millimeter Wave Instrument (SWI): A spectrometer that will study Jupiter’s stratosphere and troposphere, and the exospheres and surfaces of the icy moons.
  • Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA): The altimeter will study the topography of the icy moons and the tidal deformations of Ganymede.
  • Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME): An ice-penetrating radar designed to study the subsurface structure of Jovian moons down to a depth of 9 km (5.6 mi).
  • JUICE-Magnetometer (J-MAG): The magnetometer will study the subsurface oceans of the moons and how the magnetic fields of Jupiter and Ganymede interact.
  • Particle Environment Package (PEP): Six sensors that will study Jupiter’s magnetosphere and how it interacts with the planet’s moons.
  • Radio and Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI): Four experiments that will characterize the plasma environment and radio emissions around the spacecraft.
  • Gravity and Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons (3GM): A radio science package that will study the gravity field at Ganymede and internal oceans on the icy moons.
  • Planetary Radio Interferometer and Doppler Experiment (PRIDE): An experiment that will use signals transmitted by JUICE’s antenna to perform precision measurements of the gravity fields of Jupiter and its icy moons.

SPACE TELESCOPES & SCIENCE MISSIONS

Xuntian (“Heavenly Cruiser”) space telescope. (Credit: Jaimito130805)

Xuntian Space Telescope
Agency: China National Space Administration
Destination: Low Earth orbit
Launch Date: December 2023
Launch Vehicle: Long March 5B

The Xuntian (“Heavenly Cruiser”) space telescope will co-orbit with the Tiangong space station and dock with the station periodically. Xuntian’s primary mirror will have diameter of 2 meters and a field of view 300–350 times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Rendering of the Euclid space observatory. (Credit: ESA)

Euclid Space Telescope
Agency: ESA
Destination: Lissajous orbit
Launch Date: Q3 2023
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9

Euclid is a visible to near-infrared space telescope whose objective is to better understand dark energy and dark matter and measure the acceleration of the universe.

Euclid will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 instead of the planned Russian Soyuz booster. ESA canceled the Soyuz launch following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.

XRISM space telescope (Credit: NASA)

X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM)
Agencies: JAXA/NASA
Destination: Earth Orbit
Launch Date: 2023
Launch Vehicle: H-IIA

The astronomy satellite is designed to collect data on the structure of the universe, dark matter and outflows from galaxy nuclei.

Aditya L1 spacecraft (By Debapratim and Chinakpradhan – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=127200866)

Aditya L1
Agency: ISRO
Destination: Lagrange point L1
Launch Date: March 2023
Launch Vehicle: PSLV-XL

Aditya L1 will study the Sun by providing measurements of coronal heating, solar atmosphere, solar wind acceleration, magnetic storms and near-UV solar radiation.